07/27/2005 11:00PM

Smile pair meet again vs. lesser


MIAMI - The good news for the connections of Nightmare Affair and Mister Fotis is that there will be no Woke Up Dreamins or Toscanis in Saturday's 6 1/2-furlong Groomstick Handicap at Calder. The bad news is the reason for the competition being much softer: The race will be worth only $75,000, compared with the $500,000 in prize money those two locally based speedsters competed for when they last matched strides, in the Grade 2 Smile Sprint Handicap here three weeks earlier.

Nightmare Affair and Mister Fotis finished third and fourth after both encountered trouble leaving the starting gate in the Smile Sprint. Woke Up Dreamin, one of the premier sprinters in the country, rallied to a three-length victory over the pacesetting Toscani in the Smile.

Nightmare Affair took the worst of the trips after being bumped by Abbondanza leaving the starting gate in the Smile. A stretch-running son of Out of Place, Nightmare Affair raced at the rear of the field down the backstretch, then swung wide into the stretch before outfinishing Mister Fotis by a half-length for third.

Nightmare Affair already has two stakes victories - the Tampa Bay Sprint and Calder's Ponche Handicap - although he proved no match for Mister Fotis when they met under allowance conditions here New Year's Day.

While Mister Fotis received a ground-saving trip after being brushed leaving the gate in the Smile, the slow beginning took him out of his best game, which is to run on or with the lead. If he gets away cleanly in the Groomstick, he figures to find himself chasing the likely pace of Scrubs.

Mister Fotis, whose only previous stakes win came in the 1 1/16-mile Unbridled here during the spring of his 3-year-old campaign, is graded-stakes-placed, having finished second, less than two lengths behind Medallist, in Gulfstream Park's Grade 3 Deputy Minister Handicap on Feb. 5. The Smile was his first start since the Deputy Minister.

Scrubs, who can be dangerous when loose on the lead, figures to stand some catching again Saturday, although he may find the distance of the Groomstick a bit beyond his range at this level of competition. He captured the five-furlong Heckofaralph Stakes over a sloppy strip here June 11 but has yet to win in four previous starts at 6 1/2 furlongs.