Monday, February 22, 2016


Smokey Image just seems to find trouble working recently in the mornings at Santa Anita Park, and although that might make trainer Carla Gaines uncomfortable in the moment, it may end up being a blessing in disguise.

Encountering traffic in training may prepare the son of Southern Image   for potential trouble on the Triple Crown trail.

The morning of Feb. 21, things didn't go quite as planned for the second week in a row. Irvin Racing Stable's chestnut colt was supposed to trail a workmate by two lengths on the outside, but jockey Victor Espinoza had to make a decision in the backstretch when some interference entered their path. The pair moved to the inside to avoid a potential collision and worked along the rail inside his workmate.

"It was so close," Espinoza said after the five-furlong drill in 1:00 2/5.

Smokey Image did just fine after that, though. He moved past his workmate with ease in the turn and cruised to the wire under no urging from Espinoza.

"The best part is having the right rider on the horse," Gaines said. "If things don't go the way they're supposed to, they can adjust. It was a good experience. I'm not worried about it. It won't hurt, will it?"

It was the colt's second timed workout in preparation for his graded debut in the San Felipe Stakes (gr. II) March 12 at Santa Anita. Gaines, who had her first Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) starter last year with Bolo, feels Smokey Image has shown the ability—most notably during his romp in the California Cup Derby—but it's still a question of whether he fits against top-level competition.

BALAN: Smokey Image Dominant in Cal Cup Derby

"There's been a lot of horses coming out of the woodwork and horses that have run way faster than him going two turns," Gaines said. "I guess we have to see what we have in that engine, because we didn't put the pedal to the metal (in the California Cup Derby)."

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