11/23/2009 12:00AM

Smokey Fire steals spotlight

Michael Burns
Smokey Fire, ridden for the first time by Emma-Jayne Wilson, wins his stakes debut in the Kennedy Road.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario -

Field Commission, a 4-year-old trained by Danny Vella, had won graded sprint stakes here on dirt and turf while El Brujo, a 3-year-old conditioned by Malcolm Pierce, had bagged four sprint stakes against his own age group, including back-to-back Grade 3's in Kentucky.

But when the air had cleared following the six-furlong Kennedy Road it was Smokey Fire, a 4-year-old gelding who was making his stakes debut, who emerged a three-quarter-length winner at 6-1 with Field Commission second and El Brujo 4 1/4 lengths back in seventh.

"This horse came up to this race good," said Sid Attard, trainer of Smokey Fire. "He's coming around."

His stakes appearance was not part of a master plan. Smokey Fire, as well as his stablemate and third-place Kennedy Road finisher Signature Red, had been entered in a third-level allowance that did not fill.

Chantal Sutherland, who had ridden Smokey Fire in his first seven starts, had made another commitment for the Kennedy Road so Emma-Jayne Wilson picked up the mount. Smokey Fire had won three races but had been stuck in the second-level allowance condition for four races before breaking through in his start prior to the Kennedy Road.

"In his last race he relaxed, and came off the pace," said Attard. "That helped him a lot. He's finishing strong."

Smokey Fire will be shipping out this week for Kentucky and Sunnyside Farm, where owner Mel Lawson lays up his horses.

Ghost Fleet, a homebred 2-year-old who won two stakes for Lawson and Attard here this year, already has been turned out there.

Signature Red outran his 20-1 odds when beaten two lengths under Sutherland, who picked up the mount after You Don't Pass was scratched.

"I always liked this horse," said Attard of Signature Red. "He always gives you what he's got, at the right distance. I was surprised he was up so close early."

Jungle Wave, who was the most fancied of the three Attard-trained Kennedy Road runners and could have stated his case for a Sovereign Award with a victory, finished sixth as the 7-2 second choice.

"I was a little surprised," said Attard, "He never broke at all."

Signature Red and Jungle Wave also were making their last starts of the season and will winter in Ontario.

Field Commission will head south for a break at majority owner Ed Seltzer's Solera Farm.

"My horse ran a great race," said Vella. "That other horse kind of got the jump on us turning for home."

El Brujo has gone to the nearby farm of his owners and breeders, Jeff and Annabel Begg, and will get a break there before joining Pierce at Fair Grounds.

"I was kind of disappointed; he seemed kind of flat," said Pierce, who watched the Kennedy Road from his off-season headquarters. "He didn't have the big kick like he had in his last couple. Maybe we went one race too long."

Apprentice will wait till next year

Caroline Duquet rode her fourth winner here last Saturday afternoon, guiding Miss Direct to her second straight score, and then promptly hung up her tack in order to preserve her apprentice allowance for next spring.

For Duquet, 27, who had her first mount July 25 here, the win produced mixed feelings.

"I love racing," said Duquet, on the backstretch here Monday morning. "I miss it already. Sunday I went back to the jocks' room. I just wanted to hang out."

Duquet, born in Quebec City, moved to Calgary at age 21 to join her sister Johanne, who rode for several seasons before packing it in this spring.

Although she had ridden in rodeo events in Quebec and Ontario, Duquet had no experience with Thoroughbred racehorses until she moved west.

"Johanne got me on my first Thoroughbred, out in a field, just to try it out," said Duquet. "I fell in love with it."

Duquet groomed horses at Calgary's Stampede Park the following winter and spring and then spent the season as a freelance exercise rider on Alberta's five-furlong ovals.

"On a bullring, you learn pretty fast," said Duquet. "The turns are tight, and it's really busy. You come over here and it's pretty much easier. There's plenty of room; it's wide open."

Duquet made that move a couple of Decembers ago, starting out with trainer Reade Baker and then galloping horses for Chiefswood Stable at Keeneland the following spring.

"I came back and started freelancing, all last summer," said Duquet, who began planning for a riding career under the watchful eye of her agent, Mike Luider, who also represents Emma-Jayne Wilson.

After taking out her license in July, Duquet did not make her first trip to the winner's circle until she clicked with her 64th mount, Honour Fulfilled, on Sept. 30.

Duquet, however, never was discouraged.

"I see it in a good light," said Duquet, whose fourth win came in her 119th race. "Having all these races has helped me learn more and more."

After visiting with family in Quebec, Duquet plans to further her riding education in California.

"I'm going to freelance down there," said Duquet, who will have fellow Woodbine rider Chantal Sutherland there to help her acclimatize. "I'll work as hard as I can, and come back strong. It's going to be a great place to improve. My goal is to be the leading bug rider here next year."

Rahy's Attorney preps for River City

Rahy's Attorney breezed four furlongs in 50.60 seconds under rider Robert Landry here Monday in preparation for Friday's River City Handicap at Churchill Downs.

"It was a nice, easy half," said Jeff Bowen, assistant to trainer Ian Black. "He basically just ran down the lane."

Landry will be in the irons Friday when Rahy's Attorney seeks his fourth stakes win of the season in the River City, a 1 1/8-mile turf race that offers Grade 3 status and a purse of $100,000.