09/27/2008 12:00AM

Smooth Air moving on to BC

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MIAMI - Smooth Air earned himself a trip to the Breeders' Cup next month at Santa Anita with an easy 3 3/4-length victory over Dynhocracy in Saturday's $100,000 Needles Stakes. The Needles highlighted Calder's Festival of the Sun Preview card that included three other stakes.

The Needles marked Smooth Air's first start on grass, although trainer Bennie Stutts Jr. indicated Smooth Air would return to the main track for the Breeders' Cup in either the Classic or Dirt Mile. Smooth Air is owned by Brian Burns's Mount Joy Stables.

"His next start will be in the Breeders' Cup, although I don't know what race yet," Stutts said. "That will be the owner's call. He'll tell me where to go, and then it's my job to get him prepared for it. This will be another chance of a lifetime for me and the owner."

Stutts and Mount Joy also took Smooth Air to the Kentucky Derby earlier this year, where he finished a troubled 11th behind Big Brown.

Smooth Air was the first to show in front in the 1 1/16-mile Needles, although jockey Manoel Cruz quickly took a hold of the 4-5 favorite and eased him back off the pace of Dubai Distinction. Smooth Air saved ground while kept within easy striking distance of the leaders, had to steady briefly lacking room around the second turn, but then was given a big hole to come through by the tiring leader turning into the stretch. Smooth Air accelerated suddenly once in the clear, quickly drew away, and then extended his advantage steadily through the final furlong.

Dynhocracy rallied three wide into the stretch but proved no match for the winner while easily second best. Atlantic Paws rallied from last to finish another 3 1/2 lengths further back in third.

Smooth Air paid $3.80. His final time of 1:41.92 over the firm course was .48 of a second slower than Ashley River covered the same distance when winning the $100,000 Judy's Red Shoes earlier on the card.

Ashley River set a fast pace but still had plenty left through the stretch to pull away to a 3 1/2-length triumph over 38-1 Zip Trick in the Judy's Red Shoes. Shes All Eltish, the even-money favorite, finished a disappointing and tiring third.

Breaking alertly from the rail, Ashley River posted fractions of 22.87 seconds, 47.57, and 1:11.51 for the opening six furlongs and then had enough in the tank to turn away bids from both Shes All Eltish and Mysterious Jule entering the stretch. Her final time of 1:41.44 was a new stakes record.

Zip Trick, never far back, angled to the inside for the stretch run and came up the hedge to best Shes All Eltish by a head for second.

Ashley River is trained by David Brownlee for her breeder, JD Farms. She returned $13.80.

"From the one post you have to go to the lead or else you get trapped in there," Brownlee said. "She went out fast but was loose on the lead and relaxed. And I was confident she would have enough left when they came to her."

Stately Character won his maiden in a stakes race here this month when wearing down the 6-5 This One's for Phil to post a 1 1/2-length victory in the $90,000 Foolish Pleasure Stakes. Stately Character, a son of Pleasant Tap, had been winless in three previous starts, including a third-place finish behind This One's for Phil three weeks earlier in the Seacliff Stakes.

Stately Character ($15.40), who lugged in repeatedly through the stretch before ultimately catching the leader, was ridden to victory by Herb McCauley for trainer Gerald Procino and the partnership of New Life Stable Inc. and Equus Racing.

Like Smooth Air, Renda ($7) also punched her ticket to the Breeders' Cup when returning home to register an easy 5 1/4-length decision over Sweet Repent in the $90,000 Brave Raj Stakes. Hopeful Image finished a distant third.

Got Clearance, the 9-5 favorite following the scratch of La Chica Sensual, got trapped extremely wide around the opening bend and was never a serious factor, finishing a well-beaten fifth in a field of eight juvenile fillies.

The Brave Raj was the second easy stakes win in succession for Renda, a daughter of Medaglia d'Oro, who is owned by Richard Rowan and trained by Juan Arias. She also dominated Monmouth Park's one-mile Junior Championship on Aug. 23. She was ridden to victory in both races by Sebastian Madrid.

"We're going to the Breeders' Cup with her, but I couldn't say whether it will be the Juvenile Fillies or the Turf Fillies," Arias said.