07/04/2008 12:00AM

Thor's Echo will skip Smile


MIAMI - A rematch between Benny the Bull, undisputed leader of the nation's sprint division, and 2006 sprint champion Thor's Echo will not take place, as originally expected, in next Saturday's Grade 2 Smile Sprint Handicap at Calder.

Trainer Doug O'Neill said he wants no part of Benny the Bull in the Smile after Thor's Echo finished fourth behind the multiple Grade 1 winner in Belmont's True North Handicap on June 7. The True North was Thor's Echo's first start since returning to O'Neill's barn following his sixth-place finish in the 2007 Dubai Golden Shaheen more than 14 months earlier.

"I just have too much respect for Benny the Bull at the moment to ship all the way down to Florida to hook up with him again," O'Neill said on Friday. "If he wasn't in the Smile, we'd have been there for sure. But we're going to try to avoid him for now, if we can."

O'Neill said Thor's Echo will likely make his next start in Saratoga's Vanderbilt Handicap on July 26.

"I thought my horse ran a great race for his first start off the layoff in the True North," said O'Neill. "But it was kind of frustrating at the same time to see him run that big and still finish fourth. The good news is he came out of the race great. Now we're just looking to find a spot somewhere that will give him his best chance of winning and to get going again."

O'Neill will still be a part of the 2008 Summit of Speed program with Mistical Plan pointing to the Grade 1 Princess Rooney Handicap. Mistical Plan, a 4-year-old daughter of Game Plan, set the pace before finishing third behind reigning champion older female Ginger Punch going 1 1/16 miles in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps Handicap at Belmont on June 14.

"She's versatile and I do think her better races are probably around one turn and on the dirt," O'Neill said of Mistical Plan. "And we'll be looking to bring her from off the pace turning back to six furlongs. She certainly should have the stamina after running longer in all her recent races, and she has the capability to track and pass horses at that distance."

Mistical Plan, who captured the six-furlong Sunshine Million Oaks at 3, is stabled at Delaware Park, where she will have her final work before shipping to south Florida later in the week.

O'Neill used a fourth-place finish by Maryfield in the 2007 Princess Rooney as a stepping-stone to victories in both the Grade 1 Ballerina and inaugural Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint. Those wins earned Maryfield an Eclipse Award as champion female sprinter.

Corey Nakatani will reunite with Mistical Plan in the Princess Rooney. Nakatani, who rode Mistical Plan to her most important victory in last year's Grade 2 Fair Ground Oaks, has also committed to ride Salute the Sarge for trainer Eric Guillot in the Grade 2 Carry Back here next Saturday.

Nakatani's only previous appearance in the Summit of Speed came in 2000, when he rode future sprint champion Caller One to an easy win in the Carry Back.