LAUREL -- P.M. Spiff prepped for his win against $25,000 claimers yesterday in an unusual way.
He schooled over jumps on Saturday, and his trainer, versatile horseman Larry Smith, 26, has set a unique long-range goal: a start for the 4-year-old gelding in the Maryland Million Steeplechase.
Smith said the horse last had run nine days before the race, "so he didn't need a breeze [fast work]."
Instead, Smith said his work rider, Brooks Durkee, jumped him over fences.'
Not many money-making flat runners even would be considered for a jump career, but Smith is full of surprises.
His specialty is running his horses hard and often, sometimes with only five days between races.
Smith's theories are based partly from his days at Cornell University, where he majored in agricultural science, and partly from his experiences as an athlete. He played on Cornell's football team after earning letters in three sports at Friends School in Baltimore. Already, in a short training career, Smith has had plenty of success, not only with P.M. Spiff but also with other horses.
"It's a system I'm trying to perfect, based on studies that have been done on the recovery rate of horses after a race," Smith said. "It has to do with post-race glycogen levels. But it's difficult, because no one else trains this way, and there's no one to use as a model."
Sometimes Smith's methods work, sometimes they don't.
"The last time I ran P.M. Spiff, it was five days after he had run his guts out in an allowance race," he said. "It was too soon. He ran on empty. After that, my owners said, 'Don't you think he should have a month's rest?' I said I didn't think so. All a horse really needs is eight days to recover, as long as he's sound and eats well."
ZTC Yesterday's result spoke for itself: After a nine-day rest, P.M. Spiff bounced back from a 19-length loss. He came from next to last in an eight-horse sprint, and won by 1 1/2 lengths, paying $32.40 as the longest shot in the field.
Smith also likes to turn his horses out during the day and ships them to any track where there's a suitable race. Since he trains off the farm, he's not locked into running just at Laurel.
Smith already has picked out P.M. Spiff's next race: a 6 1/2 -furlong starter handicap Saturday night at Charles Town. "The purse is only $4,400. But it's a race we should be able to win," Smith said, "and that's what this game is all about."
NOTES: Joe Rocco won three races yesterday, including the feature on One Tuff Oop. . . . Larry Saumell has returned from a seven-day suspension. He won the Haddonfield Handicap on Gala Goldilocks at Garden State Park on Saturday and then won the sixth race yesterday at Laurel with Dame's Rocket. . . . Maryland Racing Ventures, a syndicated stable trained by Dale Capuano, has interesting colors -- the Maryland state flag fashioned on jockey silks. . . . Victor Stevens, a South African-born doctor from Chambersburg, Pa., won his first race yesterday as a thoroughbred owner. Stevens and his wife specialize in dressage horses, but recently decided to give racing a try. Their filly, Buffels, broke her maiden in the fifth race. . . . Louis Bosley is moving his racing stable from Green Bank Farm in Monkton to Spenrock Farm near Chesapeake City. Bosley trains for Elisabeth Todd and Peter Jay. . . Bob Beall, who briefly retired from training horses, is back in action. He particularly likes a young horse in his barn named Dave's Intentions. Beall formerly developed top sprinter Dave's Friend.