03/12/2008 12:00AM

Smooth Air heading to Florida Derby next


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Add Smooth Air to the growing list of prospective starters for the Grade 1 Florida Derby on March 29.

Trainer Benny Stutts said he will pass Saturday's Tampa Bay Derby to await the $1 million Florida Derby with Smooth Air, upset winner of the seven-furlong Hutcheson Stakes at Gulfstream Park earlier in the meet. Smooth Air finished a troubled third behind Fierce Wind and Big Truck in his two-turn debut in the Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs.

"I realize it will be six weeks between starts by waiting for the Florida Derby, but he's done this kind of thing before and it hasn't been a problem," said Stutts, who trains the homebred Smooth Air for the Mount Joy Stables.

Smooth Air worked a mile in 1:45.60 at Calder on Sunday.

"I worked him a slow mile this time, but I'll gradually work him up to the race," Stutts said. "He'll go a little shorter and a little faster next time. He got a little too far back and had to alter course and wasn't that badly beaten in the race at Tampa."

Smooth Air joins Elysium Fields, Hey Byrn, Big Brown, Golden Spikes, and Fierce Wind as the leading contenders for the 1 1/8-mile Florida Derby. Other prospective starters are Cool Gator, Tomcito, Nistle's Crunch, B.B. Frank, and Make Me Zach.

Only War Pass plus two in Tampa Derby

With Smooth Air out of Saturday's Tampa Bay Derby, only three horses remain as confirmed starters for the Grade 3 race, topped by Eclipse Award winner War Pass. The others expected to run are Big Truck, runner-up in the Sam Davis, and Atoned.

Robin Smullen, assistant to trainer Barclay Tagg, said having a race over the course could be a plus for Big Truck in his attempt to upset War Pass.

"Some horses don't handle that track the first time," said Smullen. "War Pass is probably not going to be one of them, because he has already shown he runs well anywhere he goes - although you never know. Our horse worked well here Sunday and he's ready to go."

Eibar Coa will ride Big Truck in the Tampa Bay Derby.

Hopes high for Song of Love

Smullen is also looking forward to watching Song of Love make her career debut in Wednesday's sixth race. Song of Love is a half-sister to Nobiz Like Shobiz by Changeintheweather.

"She's done everything well so far," said Smullen. "She might want to go a little farther and might even wind up being better on the turf, although she's been working well on the dirt. She's a beautiful filly but completely different from Nobiz when it comes to attitude. He's very laid-back, and she's more aggressive and on the muscle."

Gottcha Gold tops Skip Away cast

Gottcha Gold will be the starting highweight at 118 pounds in Saturday's $150,000 Skip Away Handicap. A. P. Arrow, runner-up in the Grade 1 Donn Handicap, was assigned high weight of 120 pounds, but will not start. Nor will stablemates Fairbanks and Magna Graduate, both of whom were assigned 118 pounds.

Expected to oppose Gottcha Gold, with weights, are: Hunting (117), Better Than Bonds (116), Frost Giant (116), Indy Wind (116), Delosvientos (115), and Dr. Pleasure (115).

Frost Giant tuned up for the Grade 3 Skip Away by working six furlongs in 1:13.80 at Palm Meadows on Monday.

I Lost My Choo rings up third straight win

Trainer Phil Serpe has a stakes prospect in I Lost My Choo, a game winner over Shes All Eltish in Sunday's sixth race. The win was the third in a row, all on the grass, for I Lost My Choo at the current meet.

"After she overcame trouble and a wide trip to win her first-level allowance condition, I was impressed," said Serpe. "And I knew the field she ran against today [Sunday] would be a good acid test to see if she might be a stakes type filly on grass.

"To win three in a row like that, for any horse, is an accomplishment - and it proves she has both the ability and mental drive to be a good filly."

I Lost My Choo, a New York-bred who is owned by the Flying Zee Stable, will likely make her stakes debut in Keeneland's Gradeo3 Appalachian Stakes on April 16, Serpe said.

Meanwhile, trainer Marty Wolfson said Shes All Eltish, one of the 23 separate betting interests in Pool 2 of the Kentucky Oaks Future Wager, will return to the dirt for the Grade 2 Bonnie Miss Stakes here on March 29.

Ortiz back after battling kidney cancer

When jockey Jose Ortiz rode Joyful Acres in Monday's opener, it marked the first mount the seven-pound apprentice accepted since undergoing surgery to have a cancerous kidney removed late last year.

"Since the surgery, he's feeling better and stronger than ever," said Joe Grande, who is handling riding engagements for Ortiz.

Ortiz won 36 races while riding almost exclusively at Calder in 2007.

* Eaton's Gift worked five furlongs in 59.60 seconds Monday and will likely make his next start in Keeneland's seven-furlong Lafayette Stakes on April 6. Trainer Dale Romans also had another of his top 3-year-olds, Massive Drama, breeze a half-mile in 47.80. Massive Drama was transferred from Bob Baffert to Romans after his third-place finish in the Grade 2 San Vincente Stakes.