05/12/2004 12:00AM

Two Smarty victims figure in Penn Sprint


Four 3-year-olds who finished far behind Smarty Jones early in their careers face far easier competition in Friday night's $40,000 Danzig for Pennsylvania-breds, the first stakes of the season at Penn National.

Of the horses who chased Smarty Jones when he romped by 15 lengths in last November's Pennsylvania Nursery at Philadelphia Park, Salty Punch and Isle of Mirth appear to be the strongest contenders in the six-furlong Danzig.

Salty Punch, runner-up to Smarty Jones, also faced future stakes winner Frisky Spider in January at Gulfstream. Most recently, the John Zimmerman-trained Salty Punch finished third in a first-level allowance at Delaware Park, earning an 83 Beyer Speed Figure that tops the Danzig field.

Isle of Mirth, part of an entry for trainer Tim Kreiser, was third in the Pennsylvania Nursery and has been heavily supported since then, losing three times as a heavy favorite. He's eligible to improve making his second start on Lasix.

Isle of Mirth's stablemate, Hey Rube, is the only three-time winner in the Danzig field, and adds Lasix after stopping badly in a high-priced optional claimer at Pimlico.

Prince Joseph has won his last two races by a combined 14 lengths but could be a bounce candidate, returning 10 days after improving his Beyer from 65 to 81.

* The most popular 3-year-old in the country might be Smarty Jones, but Paula Magner of Freehold, N.J., holds a special place in her heart for a far more obscure 3-year-old named Gavins Wish.

Gavins Wish ($26.40), a bay gelding ridden by Chris Baker for trainer Mike Salvaggio, overtook Captain Sinclair in the final yards to upset last Saturday's ninth race, enabling Magner to clinch first place in Penn National's $7,000 Spring Handicappers' Challenge.

Magner, one of 70 contestants who began the night with a $100 real cash bankroll, earned the first prize of $3,505. Todd Mostoller, executive secretary of the Pennsylvania division of the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, wagered a smaller amount on Gavins Wish and won $1,400 for finishing second.

Larry Lego of Maugansville, Md., won $700 for third.

The track is planning to hold a Summer Handicapping Challenge on July 24.