01/15/2009 12:00AM

Smooth Air will skip Sunshine Millions

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - The Sunshine Millions Classic lost another key player this week when trainer Benny Stutts Jr. opted not to pre-enter his multiple graded stakes winner Smooth Air on Wednesday for the Jan. 24 race.

Smooth Air, who was given time off following his seventh-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Classic, had been pointing for the $1 million Classic but suffered a mild setback, which forced him to miss a work. And that was enough for Stutts to seek an alternate plan.

"He just wasn't ready to go a mile and one-eighth first time out against this type of competition," Stutts said. "He probably wouldn't have been ready even if he didn't miss a work. It just would have been pushing it a little too much. We want to do what's right by the horse, and in the long run this is the best thing to do."

Stutts said he is now eyeing a race at a mile on the turf in about two weeks for Smooth Air's 2009 debut.

"He loved the grass the first time," Stutts said, referring to Smooth Air's victory in his turf debut in Calder's Needles Stakes. "In fact he runs on just about everything. I'll work him a slow, useful mile this Sunday, then really set him down five-eighths the following week so he'll be ready to go a mile. He's got lots of things in front of him this year and we're hopeful that somewhere in the U.S. there's a Grade 1 race with his name on it."

The Sunshine Millions Classic lost its likely favorite when Go Between died Monday after a workout.

Grand Couturier getting ready

One of the premier grass horses on the grounds, Grand Couturier, may also be back in action over the local turf course before too long, according to trainer Robert Ribaudo.

Grand Couturier, winner of the Grade 1 Sword Dancer and Grade 1 Turf Classic Invitational in 2008 and an Eclipse Award finalist, has not started since finishing far back in the Breeders' Cup Turf.

"We gave him a month off following his disappointing effort in the Breeders' Cup, but he's been back to the track for a while now," Ribaudo said. "We had no game plan when we arrived in Florida, but he's doing so well right now we're entertaining plans to run him down here before heading back north. The Gulfstream Park Turf comes up too soon, but the Mac Diarmida could be on our radar screen. It's not a lot of money but the distance is ideal."

The Grade 2, 1 3/8-mile Mac Diarmida will be decided on Feb. 21.

Ribaudo said if things continue on schedule, Grand Couturier may have his first local work over the turf course next Sunday.

Action heats up on grass

The turf course, which has already seen plenty of action during the opening weeks of the meet, will be in full use again over the weekend with $100,000 stakes for both the boys and the girls scheduled Saturday and Sunday.

Saturday's one-mile Dania Beach lured a full field of 3-year-olds led by Kopitar, who has won both his starts, including a one-mile entry-level allowance race over the Churchill Downs turf in his 2-year-old finale on Nov. 8.

Aside from Kopitar, who figures to be a solid favorite, the Dania Beach is wide open. Other key contenders include Big Al Cordes, Duke of Homberg, Show Me the Cash, Cape Royale, and the stakes-placed pair of Smart Shot and Jack Spratt.

Sunday's filly counterpart, the Sweetest Chant, drew 11 3-year-old fillies topped by Sugar Mom, who finished seventh in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf. Also entered were stakes winners Exe, C Karma, and Oilgonewile.

The Sweetest Chant shares top billing Sunday with the Grade 3 First Lady Handicap at six furlongs for older fillies and mares. Graded stakes winners Any Limit and Game Face will be the highweights under 122 pounds.

McLaughlin group coming along

Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin couldn't have been more pleased with the performance of his promising Justenuffhumor, who registered an impressive maiden win on the turf here Wednesday. Jutenuffhumor is by Distored Humor and is a half-brother to the Grade 1 winner Dreaming of Anna and multiple Grade 2 winner Lewis Michael.

"He's very well bred and I'm happy he showed up on the turf," said McLaughlin. "And he should improve since he was blowing a little when he came back off this race. He was a little studdish when we first got him, but hopefully he'll settle down and have a big future on grass."

McLaughlin also reported that Charitable Man, one of the several top 3-year-old prospects under his guidance, continues to gallop on the farm in Ocala and is scheduled to join his stable at Palm Meadows "within the next week or two."

Charitable Man is undefeated in two starts but has not run since winning the Grade 2 Futurity at Belmont on Sept. 13.

McLaughlin also has the undefeated Mr. Fantasy, who is training in New York, and A. P. Cardinal, who finished second in a nine-furlong allowance race here last week.

* C.S. Silk, who won the Grade 3 Arlington-Washington Lassie before finishing seventh in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, worked a bullet five furlongs in 1:00 here Thursday. Trained by Dale Romans, she is scheduled to make her 3-year-old debut in the Grade 2, seven-furlong Forward Gal on Jan. 30.