The Grade 3 Smile Sprint is a race Drain the Clock needs right about now. A nice, low-pressure graded stakes race that should allow him to rebuild his confidence in familiar surroundings.

Drain the Clock-Smile Sprint
Drain the Clock hasn’t won a graded stakes since holding off Jackie’s Warrior in last June’s Grade 1 Woody Stephens. He can end that streak with a victory in Saturday’s Grade 3 Smile Sprint Stakes at Gulfstream Park. (Image: Coglianese Photos/Susie Raisher)

Those surroundings are Gulfstream Park, where the six-furlong Smile Sprint is one of the featured races on Gulfstream’s Summit of Speed card. The Grade 2 Princess Rooney Invitational, featuring Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint champion Ce Ce, headlines Saturday’s card.

As for Drain the Clock, he’s the expected favorite in the Smile Sprint. It’s his first race back in more than three months, and a race his connections hope makes his last race forgettable.

That race came on March 26 at the Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen on the Dubai World Cup undercard. Drain the Clock finished an uncharacteristic seventh in the 14-horse field. It was only the second time in 13 races the seven-time winner missed the board.

Joseph saw a shorter path in his colt’s future

Uncharacteristic for a converted router who was 3-2-0 in seven races since Saffie Joseph Jr. decided the son of Maclean’s Music was better over shorter distances. Joseph made the call after Drain the Clock finished second in last year’s Grade 2 Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream, one of Florida’s top Kentucky Derby trail stops.

Joseph pulled Drain the Clock off the Derby trail at a point where he was 4-1-0 in six races. Instead, Joseph sent him to the seven-furlong, Grade 3 Bay Shore Stakes at Aqueduct in early April, where he won by nearly two lengths.

From there, Joseph went all-in. He put Drain the Clock in the Grade 1 Woody Stephens on the Belmont Stakes undercard. There, he watched the colt beat eventual Eclipse Award-winning Male Sprinter Jackie’s Warrior by a neck to win his first Grade 1 at 7.50/1.

Drain the Clock found early stakes success

There was nothing to this graded stakes thing and more wins were expected. But Jackie’s Warrior turned the tables in the Grade 2 Amsterdam, beating Drain the Clock by 7 1/4 lengths. Joseph watched Drain the Clock’s Equibase Speed Figure drain from a 101 in the Woody Stephens to an 88 in the Amsterdam.

To date, those races remain Drain the Clock’s only graded stakes victories. He finished fourth to Jackie’s Warrior in the Grade 1 H. Allen Jerkens at Saratoga last August. Then, he closed his 3-year-old campaign in December with an allowance win at Gulfstream, the site of five of his seven victories.

He’s 0-for-2 in 2022, but ‘in good order’

Drain the Clock opened his 4-year-old season in February with a runner-up neck loss to Miles Ahead in the Listed Gulfstream Park Sprint Stakes. Then, he went to the Middle East and, well — here we are in rebound mode.

“He’s in good order,” Joseph told Gulfstream Park after his colt went three furlongs in 35.26 seconds Monday, That was the second-fastest of 20 at that distance.

“He’s coming into the race real fit. He’s healthy. Hopefully, he’ll have a big race on Saturday.”