05/11/2009 12:00AM

Smokey Lonesome keeps coming close

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Doggone it, Smokey Lonesome got beat again last month.

"He's run too good to keep beating beat," trainer Art Sherman said. "His last two starts have been tough beats."

Runner-up in consecutive stakes at Santa Anita, Smokey Lonesome dips into a first-level allowance for 3-year-olds Wednesday at Hollywood Park, and the 1-for-7 gelding should be favored to win race 7 at a mile on turf. It is not an easy spot.

The eight entrants include two from the productive Sunland Derby. Mark S the Cooler and Santamonicacanyon finished seventh and eighth in the Sunland Derby, a race that yielded four next-start stakes winners including Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird.

Santamonicacanyon will try to wire the field Wednesday, but if front-runner Back at You gets in his way, then Mark S the Cooler can win from behind. Other entrants include African Gray, Luckiest Man, Del Conte, and Dapper Gene. However, Smokey Lonesome is the horse to beat in an allowance that could set him up for a Grade 3 next month.

Although Smokey Lonesome's last two starts have been on grass, he also runs well on synthetic.

"He can go either way," Sherman said. "It gives me another dimension."

Sherman's options this meet include two $100,000 stakes for 3-year-olds - the 1 1/16-mile Affirmed Handicap on the main track June 20, or the 1 1/8-mile Cinema Handicap on grass June 21.

"He can run all day long, but he's not a real robust type of horse and I'd like to give him about six weeks between starts," Sherman said.

Victor Espinoza rides Smokey Lonesome, who made the lead in the stretch of the La Puente Stakes last out before Grade 3 winner Battle of Hastings ran by. One start back in the Pasadena Stakes, Smokey Lonesome was caught between horses in tight quarters at the top of the stretch, but bulled through and finished second.

"He lays his body down every time," Sherman said.

* The "key-race" theme applies to race 3. Mostacolli Mort drops into a $50,000 claiming race, his first start since finishing fifth Jan. 10 in the Grade 2 San Pasqual Handicap. That race has produced four stakes winners. The winner, Cowboy Cal, won the Strub; third-place Magnum won the San Antonio; fourth-place Well Armed finished second in the San Antonio, then won the Dubai World Cup; and last-place Ball Four won the Mervyn LeRoy.