07/15/2008 11:00PM

Smooth Air's feet on the mend


MIAMI - Be it ever so humble, for the Grade 2-winning 3-year-old Smooth Air, there is no place like home.

Home for Smooth Air is Calder Race Course, a track neither Smooth Air nor his trainer, Bennie Stutts Jr., has seen much of since the pair first set out on the road in late April for Churchill Downs and a run at the Kentucky Derby. Now, Smooth Air is back at Calder for the first time since the middle of May.

Smooth Air finished 11th in the Derby after missing several days of training a little more than a week out from the race due to a minor ailment. Smooth Air returned briefly to Calder following the Derby before shipping back out to Arlington Park, where he continued preparations for his most recent start, an impressive four-length victory in the Grade 2 Ohio Derby on May 31 at Thistledown.

But shortly after returning to Chicago, Smooth Air began having foot problems, which Stutts said were caused by his training over the artificial surface at Arlington.

"The Polytrack messed his feet up big time, and as a result I've already had to miss two derbies with him," Stutts said. "I came back to Florida for six days after the Ohio Derby, and when I returned to Chicago I could see immediately he was not right by the way he was pointing his foot. When I touched his heel quarters I thought he was going to fall down."

Stutts, who kept the majority of his stable at Calder while spending much of his time this summer at Arlington overseeing the training of both Smooth Air and his 3-year-old turf specialist Cubs Fan, said he worked on Smooth Air's feet for a week upon his return to Illinois. He then tried galloping him over the dirt surface on Arlington's training track in hopes that would remedy the problem.

"Using the training track at Arlington didn't go well either, so the owner asked if I'd be willing to move him back to Churchill Downs," said Stutts. "We shipped him to Louisville and he galloped there one day when I heard about a plane coming out of Kentucky bringing horses down to Florida last week for the Summit of Speed. I asked the owner if we could just bring him home and get him back over the track he got good on in the first place here at Calder. And he agreed."

Smooth Air returned to Calder last Wednesday and has been galloping regularly here ever since, Stutts said.

"His feet are better, he's back galloping, and perhaps I might even be able to give him a little breeze this weekend," said Stutts. "If all goes well, our main goal now would be the Pennsylvania Derby at Philadelphia Park on Sept. 1."

Two-year-old sprints top card

Friday's 10-race twilight card will be highlighted by a pair of starter allowance dashes for 2-year-olds, the eighth for colts and geldings and the ninth for juvenile fillies. Both races will be decided at five furlongs for purses of $24,000.

Cinnamon Road will likely be favored in the open division, coming off an easy 3 1/4-length victory for a $32,000 claiming tag here July 4. A son of Delaware Township, Cinnamon Road raced with Lasix for the first time that afternoon.

Other key contenders include recent maiden claiming winners Brother Terry, Nana's Appeal, and Grand Cash.

Sarahthetiger, second behind the odds-on La Chica Sensual under slightly more expensive starter allowance conditions on June 26, and the impressive debut winner Jazz Her Up will likely vie for favoritism in the filly division.