Alexis Annechino



            2016 Ohio Champion Handicap Mare Justalittlesmoke kept burning her competition with a dominate win in the Michael G. Mackey Memorial-Angenora Stakes at Thistledown on June 3. Now a 5-year-old mare, she was never off the board in 2016 with four stakes victories and banked $236,990. The Belvedere homebred is now two-for-two this season and her win in the Mackey pushed her career earnings to $677,870.

T.D. Houghton cruises to victory aboard odds-on Justalittlesmoke. Photo courtesy of J.J. Zamaiko

Jockey T.D Houghton, who apparently has more lives that a cat, after a predicted career-ending brain injury, he has been a key part of the team that has led to her success. “Trainer Bob Gorham and I teamed up for many wins in Michigan but the program there was weakening at the same time Ohio was on an upswing,” said the 47-year-old Houghton after the odds-on win at Thistledown. “My agent Frank ‘The Greek’ Garoufalis who was my agent in Michigan called me and said that Mahoning Valley was just opening and Bob was going to be there and would ride me 1st call if I would come down. I was just getting healthy from breaking two vertebrae in my back. I picked up the mount on Justalittlesmoke when she was a 2-year-old and we have been a team ever since.”

“She’s such an amazing horse and Bob always has her ready for a top effort. She was so game while losing to the boys and sprint champion Rivers Run Deep by a nose in the Best of Ohio Sprint last year,” said Houghton. “It is great they kept her in training this season and she was so sharp going into that race. We broke on the lead and I was not moving on her at all. She dragged me around there without asking and won so impressively in 1:10. The sky is the limit with her and she has won stakes going long, so it will be an interesting season ahead.”

In the $75,000 Mackey, 27-1 longshot La Nina Bronca closed from 6th to pass the $100,000 mark finishing a clear second ahead of second favorite Proper Discretion who was bumped at the start but moved her earnings to $216,100.

As well as T.D. and Justalittlesmoke get along on the racetrack – he works her in the mornings, they are not warm and fuzzy back at the barn. “She doesn’t want you messing with her, you will usually find her in the back of her stall. But for some reason she loves my 15-year-old daughter Alyssa.” It is early in the season and it will be fun to see where this 14-race winning daughter of Smoke Glacken plans to burn the track in her next start.



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