Much new for Smokey Im­age

Daily Racing Form National Digital Edition - - News - By Brad Free

AR­CA­DIA, Calif. – Satur­day is a day of firsts for the un­beaten colt Smokey Im­age.

The $250,000 Cal­i­for­nia Cup Derby at Santa Anita is Smokey Im­age’s first start of the year, his first around two turns, his first for trainer Carla Gaines, and his first un­der jockey Vic­tor Espinoza.

The Cal Cup Derby also is the first leg of the Satur­day pick six (races 5-10), and though Smokey Im­age is the most ac­com­plished in the field, the 1 1/16-mile Derby is not a race he is re­quired to win.

“This is the first step­ping-stone,” Gaines said. “Is he com­pletely geared up? I’m go­ing to say no.”

Smokey Im­age won all five starts last year for North­ern Cal­i­for­nia-based trainer Greg James. By the end of the sea­son, he was among the most highly re­garded 2-year-olds in Cal­i­for­nia. At age 3, the com­pe­ti­tion gets tougher.

“The rea­son he ended up down here is be­cause the own­ers wanted to try him against open com­pany,” Gaines said. “The Cal-bred race is the start­ing point. Af­ter that, we’re go­ing to try open com­pany.”

If he runs well Satur­day, Smokey Im­age will be pointed to the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes on March 12.

CAL CUP DERBY, RACE 5

KEY CON­TENDERS

Smokey Im­age, by South­ern Im­age (Last 3 Bey­ers: 82-82-85)

◗ Smokey Im­age ar­rived in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia in Novem­ber and has trained for­wardly for Gaines. His first five starts were sprints. The ques­tion – can he run long?

“We think he’ll do it,” Gaines said. “His works, how well he gal­lops out, he has a real long two-turn stride. His pedi­gree says he will do it. He trains like he’ll do it. We think [two turns] is in his wheel­house.”

◗ Espinoza, who won Ken­tucky Derby in 2014 and 2015 with Cal­i­for­nia Chrome and Amer­i­can Pharoah, worked Smokey Im­age for the first time last Satur­day.

◗ Smokey Im­age is rac­ing for the first time since win­ning a stakes at Del Mar on Oct. 30.

Tough It Out, by Grazen (Last 3 Bey­ers: 70-69-53)

◗ Phil D’Amato trains Tough It Out, whose im­prove­ment co­in­cides with the ul­ti­mate equip­ment change.

“Ever since we gelded him, he made a dra­matic turn­around,” D’Amato said. “He’s got his mind on busi­ness all the time.”

◗ Tough It Out won a maiden turf route in his first start as a geld­ing Nov. 12, fol­lowed by a re­spectable third in a dirt stakes. He will race for the first time since Dec. 12.

Glory Bound, by Heat­seeker (Last 3 Bey­ers: 74-77-64)

◗ A can­di­date to set the pace, Glory Bound is trained by Craig Dol­lase. He has im­proved since stretch­ing out. His rider is Ed­win Mal­don­ado.

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