Smart Cover Returns in Saturday's Palm Beach Cabo Cat Tries Added Distance in Palm Beach
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL - Smart Cover, injured running second to stablemate Cleburne in the Iroquois (G3) at Churchill Downs last fall, returns to the races in Saturdayâ€™s $150,000 Palm Beach (G3) on the Gulfstream Park turf.
Trained by Dale Romans for Donegal Racing, Smart Cover drew post seven of 13 in the nine-furlong Palm Beach, and will be ridden for the first time by Corey Lanerie. On Wednesday, Lanerie was named winner of the George Woolf Memorial Award in a nationwide vote of his peers.
â€œHeâ€™s doing really good,â€ Romans said of Smart Cover, whose sire, Any Given Saturday, won three graded stakes including the 2007 Haskell Invitational (G1). â€œHeâ€™s made a huge change from his 2-year-old year to his 3-year-old year.â€
Fifth in his debut last June at Churchill, Smart Cover broke his maiden by a nose going a mile on the grass at Ellis Park in July. In what would be his final juvenile start, he returned to the dirt and closed fast on the outside but fell a neck short of Cleburne in the 1 1/16-mile Iroquois.
â€œHe got hurt in the stake,â€ Romans said. â€œWe had to take care of a shin, but heâ€™s all healed up. Heâ€™s training super, and heâ€™s really grown up into a bigger, stronger horse. Itâ€™s a tough place to come out for his first start of the year, but there arenâ€™t many options.â€
Romans hopes to use the Palm Beach to get Smart Cover back on the Triple Crown trail.
â€œHeâ€™ll go back to the dirt after this race,â€ he said. â€œI just wanted to get him started, and then weâ€™ll go look for one of those last-round 100-point preps [for the Kentucky Derby]. He fits with the best of them.â€
Smart Cover went off at 26-1 in the Iroquois, finishing a neck ahead of Tapiture in a three-horse photo finish. Tapiture has gone on to become a top contender for the Kentucky Derby (G1), going on to win the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) in November and the Southwest (G3) on Feb. 17.
Also owned by Donegal, Cleburne has not run since upsetting the Iroquois at 34-1. The Dixie Union colt had his first timed work since then on Feb. 22 at Gulfstream, going a half-mile in 49.40 seconds.
â€œTapiture has really flattered that whole field,â€ Romans said. â€œWeâ€™re getting Smart Cover and Cleburne back, and we need them.â€
Cabo Cat Tries Added Distance in Palm Beach
Gradually stretched out by trainer Mark Hennig, Cabo Cat will get his longest test yet in Saturdayâ€™s $150,000 Palm Beach (G3) on the Gulfstream Park turf.
The nine-furlong Palm Beach will be the third race at the Champions meet for Cabo Cat and first since closing to be third, beaten 1 Â¼ lengths by Storming Inti and Grade 1 winner We Miss Artie in the 1 1/16-mile Kittenâ€™s Joy on Jan. 19.
â€œHeâ€™s doing great,â€ Hennig said. â€œI felt like the added distance wasnâ€™t going to hurt him any, and if anything he would benefit from it. Iâ€™ve kind of been pointing for this race since his last one.â€
A 3-year-old chestnut son of Kittenâ€™s Joy, Cabo Cat rallied to be second at odds of 37-1 in the Dania Beach (G3) at Gulfstream on Dec. 21, 2 Â¾ lengths behind Mr Speaker, who returns to turf in the Palm Beach after finishing seventh in the $400,000 Miller Lite Holy Bull (G2) on dirt Jan. 25.
Cabo Cat was also a half-length ahead of Pleuven in the Dania Beach. Pleuven returns in the Palm Beach along with Chad Brown-trained stablemate Storming Inti, the likely favorite off four straight wins.
â€œIâ€™m really pleased with the progress heâ€™s made this winter. Hopefully, he takes another step forward,â€ Hennig said. â€œHe has really thrived since coming here. Heâ€™s one of those horses that has really turned the corner and done well down here.â€
Owned by Lee Lewis, Cabo Cat broke his maiden at first asking going seven furlongs on the Belmont Park turf last October. He returned 25 days later to finish sixth to Storming Inti in his stakes debut, the Awad.
â€œI thought his first race was very impressive. It wasnâ€™t the quickest race, but I was disappointed in his second race,â€ Hennig said. â€œNow that heâ€™s put together a string of good races, Iâ€™m very pleased. It wasnâ€™t like his last race unfolded perfectly for him, so I think thereâ€™s room for improvement.â€
War Dancer Returns in Tough Turf Allowance on Saturdayâ€™s Swale Undercard
War Dancer is scheduled to make his 2014 debut in a talent-laden turf allowance that will precede the $200,000 Swale (G2) and the $150,000 Palm Beach (G3) on Saturdayâ€™s program at Gulfstream Park.
The Ken McPeek-trained 4-year-old, who launched his career with a second-place finish and a victory on turf at Gulfstream last year, had a most successful 3-year campaign that was highlighted by a win in the $500,000 Virginia Derby (G2) at Colonial Downs.
â€œHeâ€™s been doing super. We stopped on him last fall. He had a fever at the end of the season, and we gave him a little time off for it,â€ said McPeek, whose colt last started in the Jamaica Handicap (G1) at Belmont in October. â€œHeâ€™s doing really, really well and weâ€™re kind of excited about his 4-year-old season.
â€œHe had some issues at 2 that kept him from racing, but heâ€™s done everything right from the beginning â€“ considering the fact that he didnâ€™t start until he was a 3-year-old and went on to win the Virginia Derby. We feel heâ€™ll probably be better as a 4-year-old.â€
War Dancer has been rated second at 4-1 in the morning line behind 3-1 favorite Newsdad in the 14-horse field. Newsdad, a multiple-stakes winner who will be returning from an 11-month layoff for Hall of Famer Bill Mott, is just one of six graded-stakes winners in the 1 1/16-mile turf stakes, and thatâ€™s not including Lochte, who captured the Gulfstream Park Turf (G1) last time out but only made it onto the also-eligible list.
â€œThings are never easy there. It probably should be a stake. We didnâ€™t have anything else timing wise that was right,â€ McPeek said. â€œHis dirt race last year in the Travers wasnâ€™t terrible, so we arenâ€™t going to rule out that heâ€™d like the dirt. Right now, this race, timing-wise, is a good start for the year.â€
Joel Rosario has been named to ride War Dancer, who finished sixth in last yearâ€™s Travers (G1) and finished fourth in one start on Gulfstream dirt last season, finishing behind three next-out winners.