LAUREL -- The second start in Smelly's comeback will be today at Laurel Race Course in the $50,000 Maryland City Handicap at seven furlongs.
The Maryland City abounds with good older horses, including Fire Plug, Jeweler's Choice and Jet Stream, so the action figures to be on them, plus 3-year-old Six Speed, who has won two in a row in New York.
But Smelly, age 3, has one bragging right, and that involves Unbridled, the Kentucky Derby and Breeders' Cup Classic champion.
After a good campaign as a 2-year-old, Smelly was sent to Florida during the winter to prepare for the Kentucky Derby.
He ran fourth in the Hutcheson Stakes, then finished second in the Fountain of Youth Stakes, beaten a half-length by Shot Gun Scott but a nose ahead of Unbridled, who ran third.
After that, owner Robert Watkins sent his colt to Pimlico Race Course for an easy triumph in the Federico Tesio Stakes, then to Garden State Park for a second-place finish to Dr. Bobby A in the Cherry Hill Stakes.
Trainer Craig Nicholson took Smelly to Keeneland for the Lexington Stakes, intending to use that race as a prep for the Derby. But Smelly was eased as the favorite, suffering knee-cartilage damage that was repaired by surgery.
Smelly's first start in the comeback was in the Pyrus Stakes at Philadelphia Park on Oct. 14. He got to third, then stopped to seventh.
"When we brought him back and ran him, he wasn't fit," Nicholson told a Laurel representative this week. "He isn't a good work horse. That last race helped, and he is training real good now."
Rick Wilson will ride the colt today, replacing Tony Black, who rode him in the Pyrus.
Fire Plug, oldest member of the field at age 7, carries top weight of 119 pounds, 3 more than Smelly gets.
Fire Plug's most recent victory came at the Meadowlands in the Skip Trial Stakes.
* The stewards suspended trainer Lou Nichols yesterday for 15 days and disqualified the colt, Never Count, trained by Nichols. Never Count finished first in the third race Oct. 14 but was found, as the result of a urinalysis, to have the drug, methocarbamol, or some derivative in his system.