Derek's Smile looks to rebound in turf stakes in Paradise Creek Saturday
by Brian Bohl
Derek's Smile will stretch out in distance in his New York debut, headlining a field of seven 3-year-olds in Saturday's $100,000 Paradise Creek at seven furlongs on the Belmont Park Widener turf.
Trained by Kelly Breen, Derek's Smile will be coming off a three-week turnaround after an eighth-place finish in the Grade 3 Turf Sprint on Kentucky Oaks Day, May 5, at Churchill Downs. Previously, the George Hall-owned dark bay colt was 2-for-2 on turf, including a win by three-quarters of a length in the Texas Glitter on February 25 at Gulfstream Park.
Derek's Smile broke his maiden on dirt in his debut before winning his second race on the turf. Breen says his success on both surfaces makes him versatile, though gaining class relief in the Paradise Creek means he will stay on the grass for the immediate future.
"There's only one way for me to find out, so we're running him on the turf," Breen said "He works pretty good on the dirt [too], so I don't know what to say about him, but we're keeping him on the turf for now."
Derek Smile's only previous start at seven furlongs was the Grade 2 Swale on dirt, where he did not finish on February 4 at Gulfstream Park. He has won at 4 ½ and five furlongs, respectively. He also will gain the services of jockey Jose Ortiz for the first time. The pair will break from the rail.
"He's doing well, we're just trying to see if he can go a little further," Breen added.
Stakes winner Harlan's Harmony will be making his 2017 debut for trainer John Terranova. Unraced since October 29, when he finished fifth in the Awad at one mile, Harlan's Harmony will cut back in distance. After winning his first two career starts, at six and 5 ½ furlongs, respectively, Harlan's Harmony will look to recapture his early form as a 2-year-old in exiting post 6 in tandem with Angel Arroyo.
Kitten's Cat, who won the Kitten's Joy on February 4 and the 2016 Juvenile Turf Sprint, will look to gain class relief after three straight graded stakes, including a second-place effort in the Grade 3 Palm Beach on March 4 at Gulfstream. Trained by Joe Sharp, Kitten's Cat has already earned $273,360. He will leave from post 4 with Hall of Famer John Velazquez.
Big Handsome will make his stakes debut after recording a 94 Beyer Speed Figure in winning against allowance company on April 30 at Belmont. The Tony Dutrow trainee has won back-to-back races, which marked his first two career turf starts. Javier Castellano, who won the Preakness Stakes aboard Cloud Computing last week, will ride in his first stakes at Belmont since that victory. Castellano, who piloted Big Handsome to those two wins on grass, will again ride from the outside post.
Small Bear will return to stakes competition after earning a personal-best 89 Beyer in a runner-up finish in an optional claimer last out on May 4 at Belmont. Trained by Gary Sciacca, Small Bear, who is 2-1-1 in six career starts, has finished on the board in every start since his debut except his eighth-place showing in the Grade 3 Withers on February 4 at Aqueduct Racetrack. Dylan Davis will ride from post 5.
Mongo Nation is 2-0-2 in five starts - all on turf - and will look to get in the starting gate after being scratched in the paddock on April 30. Trained by David Fawkes, Mongo Nation drew post 7 in his first stakes race. Luis Saez will be in the irons.
Have Another, who has a win and a pair of runner-up finishes in his last three starts, will also make his stakes debut in his eighth career race for trainer David Donk. The bay gelding, who ran five times on the Aqueduct inner track during the winter meet, will be making his second straight turf start. Manny Franco has the call out of post 2.
Line Judge, trained by Sharp, is entered for the main track only.