04/10/2008 11:00PM

Smooth Air has Stutts smelling the roses


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Trainer Bennie Stutts Jr. has mapped out his training schedule to get the Florida Derby runner-up Smooth Air to the Kentucky Derby. The schedule begins with a one-mile work over his home base at Calder on Sunday morning.

"I prefer to work on Sunday rather than Saturday because the track is less crowded," said Stutts who will be participating in his first Kentucky Derby. "I've been doing that ever since I worked this horse one Saturday and he got carried to the outside fence by another worker."

Unfortunately, Stutts will be forced to chance a crowded racetrack the following Saturday because of the travel arrangements that have been arranged to fly Smooth Air to Louisville for the Derby.

"He's going out on a Tex Sutton charter early Sunday morning, the 20th, so we'll have to work him on Saturday next weekend," Stutts explained. "He's going into Dallas Stewart's barn at Churchill Downs and will have one work over the track on Sunday morning before the Derby."

Stutts continues to enjoy his whole Kentucky Derby experience.

"My phone has been ringing off the hook ever since the Florida Derby," Stutts said. "I've already had a couple of calls today, and it's beginning to cut into my nap time. Seriously, I'm on an emotional ride right now and enjoying every minute of this whole thing."

Smooth Air has $290,000 in graded earnings, which placed him 10th on the earnings list heading into this weekend's action. The position all but ensures him a spot in the starting gate on Derby Day. Along with his second-place finish behind Big Brown in the Grade 1 Florida Derby, Smooth Air also won the Grade 2 Hutcheson Stakes here earlier in the meet.

Smooth Air is one of three Calder-based horses who could end up competing in this year's Derby. Hey Byrn was to run in Saturday's Grade 3, $150,000 Holy Bull Stakes, and he needed to win to have a chance to make the starting lineup, while Golden Spikes was 25th on the graded earnings list entering the weekend's action.

"We will run in the Derby if we can get in," said Rob Murphy, spokesman for the group that owns Golden Spikes. "I like the way his Beyer numbers have increased with every start, especially the 95 he received for finishing second last weekend in the Illinois Derby. It looks like there might be enough speed in the Derby where we could be in position to have the first run at the leaders if we're able to get into the field."

Cicada closes out stakes schedule

Eleven fillies and mares have been nominated to the $75,000 Cicada Stakes, the final stakes race of the 2008 Gulfstream meet. The Cicada is restricted to Florida-breds and will be decided at 1 1/8 miles over the main track here Saturday.

Among the nominees is Prop Me Up, a three-time stakes winner in 2007. She finished sixth behind Eclipse Award champion Ginger Punch in the Sunshine Millions Distaff here Jan. 26. Trained by Joe Orseno, Prop Me Up posted a bullet five-furlong work in 59.60 seconds here Thursday.

Peach Flambe, runner-up to Ginger Punch after setting the pace in the Sunshine Millions Distaff, is among the other key contenders on the nomination list, along with stakes winners Can Can Do, Saffronista, and Sweet Exchange.

* The turf course will be put to good use during the final week of the meet, which ends on April 20. Six of the nine races on Sunday's card will be decided on the grass, weather permitting, including the featured eighth race, which goes at five furlongs for $50,000 claiming fillies and mares. Four of Monday's nine races are also scheduled for the turf.

* Jockey Jorge Chavez closed out his very successful 2008 Gulfstream meet by riding four winners on Friday. Chavez, who will ride Tomcito in the Kentucky Derby, also won three races on Monday and finished the session with 48 victories, which left him tied for fourth in the standings with Kent Desormeaux. Chavez was to begin riding regularly in New York on Saturday.