Updated on 09/17/2011 9:38PM

Smokin Forest must top More Smoke


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - The seemingly improving gets the first stern test of his career Monday, when he meets five 3-year-olds in the $75,000 Jimmy Winkfield Stakes at Aqueduct.

The six-furlong Winkfield, formerly the Best Turn, was renamed to honor the last African-American jockey to win the Kentucky Derby. Winkfield won the Derby in 1901 and 1902 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame last summer.

Smokin Forest, a son of Forestry, has won his last two starts, albeit out of town. In his lone New York start, Smokin Forest broke slowly, raced wide, and was beaten 4 1/2 lengths by fellow Winkfield starter Maddy's Lion.

In October, trainer Todd Pletcher shipped Smokin Forest to Delaware Park for a Virginia-bred stakes that Smokin Forest won by a neck. Last month, Smokin Forest shipped to Pimlico, where he won a 5 1/2-furlong allowance race by 3 1/2 lengths.

"He ran well that day, and hopefully that was a confidence-builder for him," said Seth Benzel, assistant to Pletcher. "He has natural speed, but if there's someone who wants the lead he could just as well sit just off it."

Richard Migliore, who won this race four times when it was the Best Turn, rides Smokin Forest from post 6.

may be the horse to beat. A son of Smoke Glacken, More Smoke won his maiden for a $25,000 claiming price, but has demonstrated to be a horse of better quality than that. He broke poorly when he was beaten in an allowance at Mountaineer, but has since returned with two straight wins, including a 3 3/4-length score in the Dancing Count at Pimlico. Rafael Bejarano rides for trainer John Zimmerman.

Maddy's Lion was effective from off the pace when he won an optional claiming race here by two lengths Jan. 5. Trainer John Pregman is wheeling him back quickly because he said he wants to get a race into Maddy's Lion before the Miracle Wood Stakes at Laurel on Feb. 5.

"He got a little tired the last part, but he came out of the race super," Pregman said of Maddy's Lion's last race. "I'd like it better if it was longer, but hopefully there's speed in there."

Primal Storm was impressive last spring, when he won his maiden and the Grade 3 Flash Stakes by open lengths. An injury sidelined him for four months, and his connections said he desperately needed his last race, a third-place finish behind More Smoke in the Dancing Count.

Gold Joy, another early stakes winner in New York, makes his second start since overcoming an eye injury.