10/30/2008 11:00PM

Smooth Air will point to Sunshine Millions


MIAMI - Smooth Air, who concluded his successful 3-year-old campaign with a seventh-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita, boarded a van from Calder bound for Ocala, Fla., on Friday morning and a month of rest and relaxation on the farm.

Trainer Benny Stutts Jr. confirmed that Smooth Air will race again as a 4-year-old, with his return likely to come in the Sunshine Millions Classic at Gulfstream Park in late January.

"He'll get the month of November off and come back to me here on December 1," said Stutts. "Hopefully that will give me enough time to have him ready for the Sunshine Millions. He came out of the Breeders' Cup in excellent condition, he's sound and his feet are good, but he was a tired horse when returning from his long trip home Tuesday night. He's a small horse and all that travelling and running on different surfaces this year took its toll a little bit."

Smooth Air ended his 3-year-old season with 3 wins from 8 starts and earnings of $661,000. A son of Smooth Jazz, he won the Grade 2 Hutcheson at Gulfstream Park, Grade 2 Ohio Derby at Thistledown, and the Needles over his home turf course at Calder. He was also second in the Grade 1 Florida Derby, third in the Grade 2 Pennsylvania Derby, and 11th following an eventful trip in the Kentucky Derby.

"I was so proud of him last Saturday," said Stutts. "I thought he ran terrific to finish seventh going up against the best horses in the world in a full field of 12. I use two words to describe him, professional and daisycutter. For a little horse he covers quite a bit of ground and has no wasted action when he runs. I knew he'd like the synthetic track after the way he handled the turf here at Calder. That's why I used the Needles as his final prep for the Breeders' Cup."

Stutts said he thinks Smooth Air's best race of the year came in the Florida Derby, when he finished second behind Big Brown.

"The Florida Derby was the race that got him to the Kentucky Derby," said Stutts. "He had to finish at least second in there to make the Derby, and he did. It was so exciting. The way he was passing those horses like they were standing still at the top of the stretch, I even thought he might win it when he got within a couple of lengths of Big Brown. Unfortunately, it was Big Brown."

Stutts said the main goal next year is to win a Grade 1 race with Smooth Air.

"Winning a Grade 1 somewhere would obviously enhance his value at stud," said Stutts. "And who knows, maybe we'll be able to make it back to the Classic at Santa Anita again with him next year too."

Two fill in for regular announcer

The unfamiliar voices fans have been hearing lately belong to Richard Grunder and Travis Stone, who have been filling in for regular announcer Bobby Neuman while the voice of Calder called races at Churchill Downs this past week.

Grunder is the regular announcer at Tampa Bay Downs, while Stone has been the racecaller at Louisiana Downs for the past two seasons.

Neuman is one of five guest announcers who will work the fall meet at Churchill Downs; one of them will be selected by track officials as the successor to Luke Kruytbosch, who died suddenly earlier this year. Stone is also among the candidates for that job, along with Larry Collmus, Michael Wrona, and Mark Johnson.