LAUREL -- Mario Pino says he thinks six furlongs might not be far enough for Smart Alec, a maturing 4-year-old. But when the second Northern Wolf Handicap is run today at Laurel Race Course, Pino expects the colt to be moving best of all at the finish.
"I think 6 1/2 or maybe seven furlongs is his best distance," said Pino. "But if there's enough speed to set things up for him and they don't get too far in front of him, I expect him to be right there."
Pino regularly gets the call from trainer Richard Delp when Smart Alec goes to the races. The colt blossomed into a force last year, finishing first in five races and earning over $156,000.
"He's a gritty little horse," said Pino. "He's doing real good right now. I worked him [Wednesday] and he's ready."
Smart Alec squares off against seven other older sprinters in the $40,000-added, six-furlong race. Gallant Step, a New York invader, is the 117-pound high weight, with Smart Alec (115) next in line.
The Northern Wolf, named for the six-furlong record-holder at Laurel and Pimlico, is the 10th event on a 12-race program that concludes with the simulcast of the Creme Fraiche Handicap from Gulfstream Park. Bud Delp, Richard's brother, will be in Hallandale, Fla., to saddle Sunny Sunrise, the strong favorite in the Creme Fraiche.
Eleven races and a Gulfstream simulcast are also scheduled for tomorrow and Monday.
Jack Mobberley -- like Delp, a longtime client of Pino's -- gave the 30-year-old veteran the ride on Pink Hattab in yesterday's third race. When the filly rallied to win the $8,500 maiden-claiming race, Pino gave an uncharacteristic wave of his whip.
"Jack's always teasing me about waving my whip when I won a race back at Pimlico," said Pino, smiling. "I knew he would see me do it, so I went ahead and gave a little wave. It's always nice to win races for Jack."
5,8 NOTES: Frugal Doc, ridden by apprentice Charles Fenwick III, rallied to win yesterday's eighth-race feature at Laurel. . . . Edgar Prado and King Leatherbury continue to rule the Laurel jockey and trainer standings, respectively. . . . Former Maryland standouts Donnie Miller Jr. and Allen Stacy will be riding at the upcoming 63-day meeting at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark. . . . Apprentice Jesus Salinas, 21, is a recent arrival to the Maryland jockey colony. Salinas, a native of Peru, rode previously in New York and New Hampshire. Tom La Duca will handle his mounts.