12/20/2012 1:09PM

Tampa Bay Downs: Hold On Smokey seeks third straight turf sprint victory

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OLDSMAR, Fla. – Hold On Smokey will shoot for his third straight win Saturday when he tops a solid field of 10 optional-claiming sprinters in the five-furlong headliner over the Tampa Bay Downs turf course.

A 7-year-old with 12 career wins, Hold On Smokey will be dropping back slightly in distance for Saturday’s sprint, having raced at 5 1/2 furlongs at Laurel in his last three starts.

Trained by Carlos Garcia, Hold On Smokey vied for the early lead in an optional-claiming turf sprint for $25,000-level sprinters last time out, then shook clear for a 1 1/2-length win as the betting choice in the 12-horse field. That was the second straight win at Laurel for Hold On Smokey, who had used similar tactics in his prior race against similar optional-claiming company.

A seven-time winner on the turf during his career, Hold On Smokey figures to be prominent from the start Saturday. He worked a half-mile in 49.20 seconds on Dec. 8 in preparation for his first race in six weeks.

In the Beat, an even fourth in the Pelican Stakes against odds-on Action Andy in his last start, drops a notch in class and switches to turf for trainer Carl Nafzger. If he comes close to his last performance he will be a major factor.

In the Beat made his turf debut in early November in an allowance going five furlongs at Churchill Downs. He turned in a strong race, challenging for the lead from just off the pace into the stretch and then continuing well to finish second behind runaway winner Go Blue or Go Home in a race with a final time of 56.77 seconds. In the Beat figures to race from just off the pace Saturday, and if a speed duel develops, his chances improve.

Thegames a Bustout has won five of his last six starts, and while he moves up a bit in class for Saturday’s race he still deserves a long look. Trained by Nabu Morales, Thegames a Bustout won last time out at Mountaineer, and that victory followed two straight wins at Thistledown. While Thegames a Bustout has never raced on turf, he has a pair of wins over the Tapeta surface at Presque Isle.

Omar’s Tiger and Texas Rustler both come up from Calder sporting a win sprinting on the turf in their last start and will no doubt garner their share of support.

An interesting entrant is Radiohead, who comes into this race off a win at Ocala Training Center over that facility’s synthetic surface. Radiohead was 5-2 in the 2010 Florida Derby and was claimed for $50,000 at Saratoga in August 2011.

◗ The six-furlong ninth race may well produce some candidates for the $100,000 Pasco and $250,000 Sam Davis Stakes.

Lucky Tiz, who won at first asking at Churchill this November, will make his first start for trainer Dennis Ward in the optional-claiming sprint for 2-year-olds, and jockey Kent Desormeaux is slated to be on hand to ride the colt. Desormeaux piloted Lucky Tiz in his maiden victory.

Another in the field worth a look is Smokin’inthemeadow, who won at first asking earlier this meeting for trainer Gerald Bennett.