04/04/2007 11:00PM

Smokey Stover's main rival likely to scratch


ARCADIA, Calif. - Late last year, Smokey Stover was just a minor stakes winner from Northern California. Today, he is firmly entrenched at the top of the nation's sprint division.

"People weren't taking a whole lot of interest in Smokey Stover three months ago like they are this month," trainer Greg Gilchrist said.

Along with owner Harry Aleo, Gilchrist is hoping that Smokey Stover is still a subject of favorable conversation after Saturday's $200,000 Potrero Grande Breeders' Cup Handicap at Santa Anita.

Smokey Stover, 4, will attempt to stretch his 2007 winning streak to four in the Grade 2 Potrero Grande at 6 1/2 furlongs. The race has drawn a field of six, but Bordonaro, the winner of the Grade 1 Ancient Title Breeders' Cup Stakes here last October, is expected to be withdrawn and redirected to the Count Fleet Sprint Handicap at Oaklawn Park on April 13. Trainer Bill Spawr said on Wednesday that he was unhappy that Bordonaro drew the rail in the Potrero Grande.

Without Bordonaro, Smokey Stover is a standout in the Potrero Grande. He carries top weight of 122 pounds.

Smokey Stover is opposed by Greg's Gold, the winner of the Grade 1 Bing Crosby Handicap at Del Mar in 2005, and the outsiders Gotaghostofachance, My Guy, and Sailors Sunset.

Greg's Gold, the winner of an allowance race in February, is seeking his first stakes win since suffering a tendon injury in late 2005.

Gilchrist envisions Smokey Stover stalking a pace set by Sailors Sunset, the winner of the Grade 3 Vernon Underwood Stakes at Hollywood Park last December. Sailors Sunset has lost his last two starts, but he is the last horse to beat Smokey Stover. In the Saguaro Stakes at Turf Paradise last November, Sailors Sunset finished a half-length in front of Smokey Stover.

Since then, Smokey Stover has run the three best races of his career.

"My horse is better if he has a target," Gilchrist said. "He seems to relax a little better, but you don't want to get eight or nine lengths back."

Smokey Stover is making his first start at Santa Anita since winning the $300,000 Sunshine Millions Sprint for California-breds and Florida-breds at six furlongs on Jan. 27. He followed that performance with a one-length win in the Grade 3 Bay Meadows Breeders' Cup Sprint at six furlongs on March 11.

Saturday's Potrero Grande is likely to be his last start until the $500,000 Smile Sprint at Calder on July 7, Gilchrist said.

"I think I'll give him a little break," Gilchrist said. "You may see him show up at Calder. Everything is fine. Sometimes when everything is fine, we tend to maybe push things a little too long. I'd like to keep him pretty fresh.

"You can't expect to win everything," he added. "I think it's a lot like the rankings in college basketball or college football. If they get beat, it doesn't mean they're no good. Very few win every time."