by Frank Vespe
Sweet On Smokey — six months ago toiling for just $12,500 — took command leaving the quarter pole and surged to a 2 1/2 length victory in today’s 30th running of the $75,000 What A Summer Stakes at Laurel Park.
The win was the seventh of Sweet On Smokey’s 23-race career, first in stakes company, and upped her earnings to more than $210,000. The four-year-old daughter of Successful Appeal has posted four of those wins in eight starts since trainer Claudio Gonzalez claimed her for $12,500 in July.
“Before her last race, I was going to give her a break but she was doing so good,” Gonzalez said. “That’s why I didn’t.”
In the What A Summer, Sweet On Smokey quickly attained a comfortable stalking position a couple of lengths behind early pacesetter Raging Smoke, who took the field through comfortable fractions of 23.06 seconds for a quarter-mile and 46.68 for the half. Running time for the six furlongs was 1:11.05.
Under jockey Victory Carrasco, Sweet On Smokey, who went off the 2.30-1 favorite moved to virtually even terms entering the lane and then took charge. Raging Smoke held second, while E Dubai’s Humor, who loomed a threat outside the top pair, flattened out in the lane and ended up third, 1 1/4 lengths behind Raging Smoke.
Sweet On Smokey and E Dubai’s Humor had tangled previously, back in November. E Dubai’s Humor emerged with the win that day, while Sweet On Smokey finished third after a troubled trip.
“The last time when the seven [E Dubai’s Humor] beat me, she [Sweet On Smokey] had a lot of problems, she didn’t have room,” Gonzalez recalled. “And that was the one that looked tough today.”
Gonzalez attributed the horse’s improvement in his care — her career-best Beyer prior to his claim was 63, a number she has exceeded in every start for him — to her love of the Laurel Park dirt racing strip. She has never finished out of the money at the track and is now four-for-four at six furlongs.
“You know, she loves the track. When she started to run here, she started to run big,” the trainer explained. “It’s a little more soft.”
Gonzalez said that Sweet On Smokey, who has now started four times since November 20, will get a month or so off.