12/29/2009 12:00AM

Speed edge to Smokin Hero


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - A perennial top trainer at Finger Lakes, Chris Englehart has had difficulty transferring that success to Aqueduct the last two winters, going 2 for 45. This year, he has brought down 20 horses and should find out this week whether this winter will be any different.

Two of Englehart's best horses are running at Aqueduct this week, including Smokin Hero, who could play out as the main speed in Wednesday's featured third-level optional $75,000 claiming race over the inner track. Smokin Hero is one of three horses Englehart has in Wednesday. On Thursday, Englehart runs Papa's Nice Cat, a New York-bred 2-year-old who won a maiden race over Aqueduct's main track in November.

"Most of the horses I have are Finger Lakes horses,'' said Englehart, who on Wednesday runs last-out second by a nose Ten Carrot Nikki in the fifth and Carmen Camacho in the fourth. "But in the winter-time [at Aqueduct], they're making it so you can at least try.''

Smokin Hero has already had success downstate. When in the barn of Allen Iwinski, Smokin Hero won a New York-bred maiden race over Aqueduct's main track and a first-level statebred allowance by 12 3/4 lengths over the inner track, albeit in the slop. He has won at Belmont and, most recently, he defeated open company rivals for the first time at the Meadowlands.

"He ran really well over there, it wasn't a real easy race, but I like the way he was drawing away at the finish,'' Englehart said.

Speed is Smokin Hero's best weapon, and he seems to have a field void of much early pace. With Chuck Lopez aboard, there's little doubt Smokin Hero will be hustled away from the gate. Samhoon and Mt. Glittermore have shown speed in the past, but their more recent races have come from just off the pace.

Neither Carbonite nor Forefathers had a smooth trip when they finished fourth and sixth, respectively, in this same condition Nov. 27. Carbonite raced between and behind horses for most of the way after breaking from the outside post and took up slightly entering the far turn, yet was only beaten 3 1/2 lengths. Forefathers bobbled at the start and was shut off, losing significant ground, although he did very little running after that.

Base Commander, in for the $75,000 tag, is coming off two wins against cheaper.