12/27/2004 1:00AM

Second of June beaten by neck in comeback

Jim Lisa
Second of June (1), back from a 10-month layoff, finishes second by a neck to Smooth Lover on Monday at Calder.

MIAMI - Second of June did about everything trainer Bill Cesare could have hoped for when he returned from a 10-month layoff in Monday's - everything but win.

Making his first start since finishing second in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes on Feb. 14, Second of June was beaten a neck by the older, more experienced Smooth Lover after briefly overtaking the pacesetter between calls at midstretch in his 3-year-old finale.

"He got tired, but he ran well, and I'm not disappointed even though he got beat," said Cesare, who trains Second of June for his mother, Barbara Cesare.

Second of June was considered among the leading Kentucky Derby candidates after he won the Grade 3 Holy Bull Stakes and finished second to Read the Footnotes following a stretch-long battle in the Fountain of Youth last winter at Gulfstream Park. He came out of the Fountain of Youth with a non-displaced fracture of the cannon bone, which required surgery and plenty of time to heal properly.

"Give Dr. Selway a lot of credit," said Cesare, referring to Stephen Selway. "He did the surgery on this horse, and he's a big reason why he's back here and ran the way he did today."

Smooth Lover, a 5-year-old who has won 12 races, was allowed to set a relatively slow pace in the 1 1/16-mile optional claiming event. Second of June settled in right behind the leader after stumbling momentarily leaving the gate, was carried a bit wide while challenging in early stretch, then got his nose in front briefly near the sixteenth pole, but was outgamed to the wire. A claim of foul by jockey Cornelio Velasquez against Smooth Lover for alleged interference through the stretch was disallowed.

"He should get a lot out of this race," said Cesare. "No matter how well they train, the first one back is always tough. We'll see how he comes out of this race first before thinking about the next one, but if all goes well the Sunshine Millions is our next objective," he said. The $1 million Sunshine Millions Classic will be run at Gulfstream on Jan. 29.

Barry Rose, who trains Smooth Lover, was humble in victory.

"I don't think I can do that again," said Rose. "I caught the other horse on the right day."

All Hail Stormy upsets The Mint

Trainer Allen Jerkens continued his torrid streak at Calder when All Hail Stormy scored a mild upset in Wednesday's $40,000 The Mint Stakes. Jerkens, who won the Kenny Noe Jr. Handicap here the previous weekend with Medallist, has now won with four of the five horses he has saddled at the meet.

All Hail Stormy, who won the Bergen County Stakes on grass at The Meadowlands in October, led throughout, then withstood a final surge by Swift Replica to win the 5 1/2-furlong The Mint under jockey Eibar Coa. Weigelia, returning on just eight days' rest after finishing seventh as the even-money favorite in the Kenny Noe, again failed the chalkplayers when he tired in the final furlong to be third as the prohibitive 2-5 choice.

All Hail Stormy, a 3-year-old son of Stormy Atlantic, paid $6.40.

Castro wins five in finale

Eddie Castro Jr. already had the Tropical at Calder jockey title sewed up, but he put an exclamation mark on the meet after riding five winners on Sunday's card. Two of those victories came over the turf for trainer Christophe Clement.

"He's having a good meet, but a day like that gives him a little extra momentum going into the Gulfstream Park meeting," said Mike Gonzalez, Castro's agent. "We've already got calls from several northern trainers for Eddie at Gulfstream, including Clement and Nick Zito, so hopefully we'll be able to keep things going once we move across town."

Castro won the 2003 Eclipse Award as the nation's top apprentice rider.

Gimme the Willys wins final race

Gimme the Willys closed out her career in high style by capturing Monday's fifth race, a second-level allowance event on the grass. A 6-year-old mare, Gimme the Willys won her 14th race in 54 starts. She is scheduled to be retired to stud next season.

Joe Bravo rode Gimme the Willys to her seventh win of the season, swelling her career earnings to nearly $330,000. Gimme the Willys was claimed for $8,000 by trainer Francine Faraci-Walder at Gulfstream in May.

* Traveler, the white horse who serves as mascot for the USC Trojans football team, and his counterparts Boomer and Sooner, from the University of Oklahoma, will be stabled at Calder before the Orange Bowl, which will decide the college football national championship on Jan. 4.