09/13/2009 11:00PM

Smooth Performer leads Sise charge


POMONA, Calif. - Smooth Performer and trainer Cliff Sise have returned to form, just in time for the autumn racing season.

Sise won four races Saturday at Fairplex Park, the first four-bagger of his training career, capped by Smooth Performer's impressive victory in the $50,000 E.B. Johnston Stakes. And the best is yet to come.

The stakes was the sixth win on the card by jockey Martin Pedroza, and sets up Smooth Performer for the California Cup on Oct. 3, opening weekend of the Oak Tree meet at Santa Anita. The question is, which race.

The $100,000 California Cup Matron at 1 1/16 miles on Pro-Ride is one spot. Sise and owner-breeder Marty Wygod, however, believe the 4-year-old is less effective on synthetic.

"We know she likes turf," Sise said, suggesting the $75,000 California Cup Distance Handicap at 1 1/4 miles is another spot.

Smooth Performer, who earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 93 winning the Johnston by 1 3/4 lengths, will be a factor either race. It was the fourth win of her 13-start career. The four wins by Sise give the trainer a boost after going just 6 for 66 the first eight months of the year.

Pedroza rode all four winners for Sise, and finished opening week of the Los Angeles County Fair leading the standings with 12 wins from 35 mounts. Alonso Quinonez and Christian Santiago Reyes each won five opening week.

The race-3 debut victory Saturday by Sise-trained Maralago earned a mere 58 Beyer, but Sise said the 2-year-old filly will be considered for the Grade 1 Oak Leaf Stakes on Oct. 4. Maralago won the six-furlong race by five lengths, while wanting more ground.

"There was some pressure with her - we paid a lot of money for her," Sise said. Sired by Thunder Gulch, Maralago was purchased for $300,000 in March at Barretts. Steve Mills and Marjorie Dye own Maralago ($4.60). Two other Sise winners Saturday also were favored: Redorwhite ($3.40) and Stately Appeal ($4).

Sise did not expect the $12.60 win payoff Smooth Performer.

"I was a little surprised, especially when you make the front page," he said, referring to the top story on the front page of the West Coast edition of Daily Racing Form: "Smooth Performer gets dirt try."

Smooth Performer, who was off from August 2008 to June 2009 after surgery to remove a bone chip in a knee, won the 1 1/16-mile Johnston in 1:44.04. Completing the order of finish was runner-up Made for Magic, Magical Victory, Tidal Dance, 7-5 favorite Gambler's Justice, Spinning Yarns and Pams Pompallier.

The four wins by Sise ties the Fairplex single-day record shared by Doug O'Neill (2006), Jerry Fanning (1984) and Gordon Campbell (1967).

Pedroza, who won a record seven races on the Fairplex card twice in 2008, fell short of tying his record in the final race Saturday. He set the pace on front-runner Bubsy, who tired to second.

Pedroza passes Flores

Pedroza, the all-time leader in Fairplex wins by a jockey, tied David Flores for career stakes at Fairplex by guiding Fastongrass ($6.60) to an opening-day victory Sept. 10 in the $49,000 Beverly J. Lewis Stakes for 3-year-old fillies.

The stakes was the 63rd at Fairplex for Pedroza. Smooth Performer two days later gave Pedroza the lead with 64. Fastongrass, trained by Julio Canani, defeated favorite Dancing Erin by a half-length and earned a 78 Beyer winning for the fourth time in 10 starts.

All Saint bucks trend

While the five-eighth-mile dirt track at Fairplex is considered fair to all running styles, the first four days of the 15-day Fair meet produced only one front-running sprint winner beyond six furlongs. All Saint ($29.80) led gate to wire Friday in the $50,000 Jim Kostoff Stakes, a seven-furlong race for 3-years-olds, winning by 1 1/2 lengths under Felipe Valdez.

All Saint earned a 92 Beyer winning his first stakes since the $125,000 California Breeders' Champion Stakes on Dec. 26. He has won 3 of 13 for owner Eduardo Gamez and trainer Triphon Dahl.

Six of the 18 six-furlong races opening week were won by the pacesetter, but All Saint was the only front-running winner from 13 races at 6 1/2 or seven furlongs. All Saint will be nominated to the $75,000 Pomona Derby on Sept. 26 at 1 1/16 miles.

* Six and one-half furlongs proved too far Sunday for front-runner Coco Belle, the 9-10 favorite in the $50,000 Bangles and Beads Stakes. Coco Belle led to deep stretch but tired to second behind Ashley's Kitty ($4.60), the 2 1/4-length winner under Agapito Delgadillo. Ted H. West trains Ashley's Kitty.

* The $50,000 Phil D. Shepherd Stakes, scheduled for last Saturday, was canceled because of insufficient entries. Only four entered the 1 1/16-mile stakes for older horses. Racing secretary Tom Knust said the entrants would be invited to the $125,000 Ralph M. Hinds Pomona Invitational Handicap on Sept. 27.

* The $150.80 win payoff on El Mirage Ranger in the last race Sunday missed the track record of $182.20 set in 1976 by Uncle Fox. El Mirage Ranger won race 12, a $25,000 maiden claimer, by 5 3/4 lengths under Miguel Hernandez. In his previous two starts, which came during the spring-summer meet at Hollywood Park, El Mirage finished 10th by a combined 30 1/2 lengths while starting at 133-1 and 150-1.

* Mule racing returns to Fairplex on Wednesday. Red Rooster is the preliminary (before scratches) even-money favorite in race 1 at 350 yards.