On the day all thoroughbreds turned a year older, More Smoke celebrated his third birthday in rousing fashion yesterday at Pimlico.
The son of Smoke Glacken, champion sprinter in 1997, sizzled to a 3 3/4 -length victory in the $50,000 Dancing Count Stakes, a six-furlong sprint for 3-year-olds. Stabled at Penn National, More Smoke stood out among his five rivals, and bettors noticed, sending him off as the 4-5 favorite.
Breaking from the inside, More Smoke whisked jockey Mario Pino into the lead, and once in front, Pino let the gray colt roll. This was More Smoke's third triumph in four starts.
"When he broke running," Pino said, "I just said, 'I'm going to let him go.' "
Timely Impulse, making his second start for Pimlico trainer Rodney Jenkins, settled for second at 6-1 odds. Timely Impulse finished 6 1/4 lengths ahead of the third-place finisher, Primal Storm, conditioned by Steve Asmussen in New York.
Winner of the Grade III Flash Stakes last summer at Belmont Park, Primal Storm went off at 9-2.
More Smoke paid $3.80 to win and topped an $18.60 exacta and $114.40 trifecta. He completed the six furlongs in 1 minute, 11.81 seconds.
Harry Nye, 59, is co-owner of More Smoke. Nye lives in Harrisburg, Pa., and sells heating, ventilation and air conditioning equipment. He's owned horses for less than four years, and this was his biggest victory.
"This is great for us," Nye said, speaking for his partner Thomas McClay, who was in Arizona, and his trainer, John Zimmerman, who was at Penn National. "We're going to savor this victory."
An owner with a hot 3-year-old, even on Jan. 1, can't help but look ahead. Nye said that he asked Pino after the race whether More Smoke could run farther, and that Pino said he could. Reminded that More Smoke is bred for sprinting, Nye said: "Then we'll take all the six-furlong races we can get."
Nye and his partner paid $30,000 for More Smoke last May at the Timonium auction. The colt is a Kentucky-bred, but Nye said more than half of his 24 horses are Pennsylvania-breds. He also owns a mare in foal to Matty G, and that mare will give birth in Pennsylvania, he said.
Nye said he's looking forward to the future of racing in Pennsylvania, where slot machines are expected to boost purses and breeding bonuses dramatically. As for the situation in Maryland, where tracks remain without slot machines, Nye said: "Unfortunately, I see what's going on down here. It's abysmal."
NOTE: The Maryland Stallion Station will hold its grand opening and inaugural stallion showing next Sunday at its recently completed facility in the heart of Worthington Valley in Baltimore County. Festivities will run from noon to 4 p.m., and the stallion showing will begin at 2 p.m.
Three days ago, the station's five stallions occupied their new stalls and paddocks overlooking Sagamore Farm. Bowman's Band, Jazz Club, Outflanker, Rock Slide and Seeking Daylight will begin breeding mares next month at Maryland's newest breeding farm.