07/01/2005 12:00AM

Smoke Smoke Smoke has tough foe

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Benoit & Associates
Smoke Smoke Smoke is the 122-pound highweight in Sunday's Beau Genius.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Churchill Downs is a massive place, and filling every nook and cranny would be virtually impossible.

Filling every niche in the track's stakes and overnight racing programs isn't easy either. In fact, since he was named Churchill racing secretary in 2002, Doug Bredar has sought to plug as many of those holes as possible, and the result has been five new stakes, each worth $100,000, as well as an ambitious overnight stakes program.

The latest of those $72,000 overnight handicaps, the Beau Genius on Sunday, is for 3-year-olds at five furlongs on the Churchill turf. With just six entries, the race was not the most popular of Bredar's new offerings, although it might be argued that the undertaking by itself partly offsets this initial lack of support.

Smoke Smoke Smoke, alternately based in Chicago and Minneapolis with the father-son team of Hugh and Mac Robertson, is the 122-pound highweight in the Beau Genius. Favoritism, though, could go to British Attitude, who gets in with just 113 pounds, fresh off a good-looking victory here June 23.

Smoke Smoke Smoke, with Robby Albarado named to ride, will start from the rail, and British Attitude, with Mark Guidry riding again for trainer Dale Romans, will start from post 4. The rest of the field is Silent Bid, Falcon's Peak, Captain Corelli, and Bruce on the Loose.

The Beau Genius occupies the usual race-nine feature slot on a 10-race Sunday card, which starts at 1:15 p.m. Eastern.

Stewards void Ramsey claim

In something of a racing rarity, the Churchill stewards have ordered a horse returned to its original owner and trainer more than a week after it was claimed away.

Ima Hogg, a 3-year-old filly, was claimed for $40,000 under the name of Ken Ramsey from the seventh race June 22. But Ramsey, who unfailingly runs horses under the names of him and his wife, Sarah, mistakenly filled out the claim slip in his name only. The mistake was discovered only after Ima Hogg was scheduled to race here Friday in the name of Ken Ramsey only.

"It's a technical violation that automatically voids the claim," said chief steward Mickey Sample. "There is no account with the horsemen's bookkeeper for Ken Ramsey only. It was an invalid claim from the start."

Although Ima Hogg had been trained by Romans since the June 22 race, in which the filly finished second, the stewards ordered the horse returned to owner Mike Rutherford and trainer Frank Brothers after the error was discovered. Sample said Rutherford informed him he has hired an attorney and will seek to have the decision overturned through legal means.

Ramsey frequently fills out and signs multiple claim slips at one sitting and said the mistake on the Ima Hogg slip must have been the result of simple carelessness.

Ima Hogg was scratched from the sixth race Friday. The stewards ruled on the matter Thursday.

This is not the first time in Kentucky that a horse has been ordered returned several days after being claimed. In March 2003 at Turfway Park, a filly named Fighting Skinny was returned to her original owner because of extenuating circumstances that led to a claim being declared invalid. Her owner, Will Wolford, did not fight the decision.

$118 winner highest of meet

A blanket finish in the sixth race here Thursday yielded the highest win mutuel of the meet and other boxcar exotic payoffs.

Second Shift, a 5-year-old mare trained by Jimmy Brewer, won by a head over Full Carat, who had a nose on Shesabrickhouse. Second Shift, ridden by apprentice Jordan Charkoudian, paid $118 to win. Full Carat, a 64-1 shot, helped fill out a $2 exacta worth $2,955.60 and a $2 trifecta of $32,522. The superfecta payoffs were reduced to an "all" in both the third and fourth slots.

The win payoff surpassed the $102.60 win payoff on Giacomo in the May 7 Kentucky Derby as the highest of the meet.

Also Thursday, Easy Grades ($4.20) won and was claimed for a career-low $10,000 tag in the third race. Easy Grades, now 6, ran 13th in the 2002 Derby.

Small field for Firecracker

Just five or six older horses are expected to oppose Kitten's Joy when the reigning turf champion makes his 4-year-old debut Monday in the $250,000 Firecracker Handicap, a Grade 2 race at one mile on the turf.

Kitten's Joy, with Edgar Prado to ride, will carry 124 pounds as highweight in a field also expected to include America Alive, Del Mar Show, Old Forester, Parker Run, and Senor Swinger.

Romans, Kitten's Joy's trainer, has said he is hoping to use the Firecracker as a prep for the Aug. 13 Arlington Million. Last year, Kitten's Joy won 6 of 8 starts and was voted the Eclipse Award for top turf horse.

Smith headed to Del Mar

Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith will ride at the Del Mar meet, which begins July 20, said his agent, Brad Pegram.

"We thought about Saratoga and were actually leaning that way," said Pegram. "But we finally decided on Del Mar.

After Churchill ends July 10, Smith will ride the final week at Hollywood Park before Del Mar starts, said Pegram.

Paulie Miller funeral Saturday

Funeral services were scheduled to be held Saturday for Paulie Miller, a local coaching and political legend who was a racing fan and horse owner. Miller died Tuesday at 86.

Miller's son, David, has been very active in recent years as a horse owner, and Thursday he was briefly in attendance to watch his Admiral Rudolph in the fifth race. Miller said his dad owned "a small piece" of Admiral Rudolph, who took a commanding lead into the stretch before fading to finish in a dead-heat for fourth.

"We got a thrill there for a minute," said Miller.

* Two Trail Sioux, wire-to-wire winner of the June 18 Fleur de Lis Handicap, will make her next start in the Delaware Handicap July 17, said trainer Wally Dollase.

* Turf races were rained off Friday because of excess moisture from heavy overnight rain.

* Because there will be racing here Monday, normally a dark day, Wednesday will be dark. The final four-day stretch of the meet starts Thursday.