Monday, Smooth Like Strait broke through in his 4th attempt at winning a Grade I stakes, going gate to wire under Umberto Rispoli to take the $300,000 Shoemaker Mile at Santa Anita.
A 4-yr-old Midnight Lute colt, Smooth Like Strait came up a neck short in the Turf Classic at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby day and the Kilroe Mile at Santa Anita in his past 2 races. He lost the Hollywood Derby at Del Mar by a head in November.
But the 4th time was the charm for the horse and Rispoli, who has ridden Smooth Like Strait in his last 6 starts.
The victory gave Smooth Like Strait, who is not nominated to the Breeders’ Cup, an all-expenses-paid berth into the Breeders’ Cup Mile at Del Mar on November 6 provided the colt’s connections pay a $50,000 nomination fee by July 15 or $100,000 by Oct. 25.
Pressed early by Restrainedvengence and Whisper Not, Smooth Like Strait, the 3-5 favorite, put that pair away and then withstood a late bid by Say the Word to win by 1½ lengths and increase his career bankroll to $933,823 with the 1st-place check of $180,000.
The final time for the 1 mile over a firm turf course was 1:34.19.
“The horse responded beautifully to Umberto,” winning trainer Michael McCarthy said. “They have become quite the partnership. I’m super happy for the horse and the connections. I don’t think he was getting the respect he deserved earlier in the year, but he showed up and put together a nice campaign.
“He was so relaxed for Umberto out there today. I’ve had an immense amount of faith in this horse all along. I really believe that there are big things coming for him later in the year.”
Smooth Like Strait again displayed his fondness for the Santa Anita turf course, winning for the 4th time in 8ht starts with 2 seconds and a 3rd.
“I love the way he runs,” Mr. Rispoli said. “He puts himself in the race, he doesn’t cheat and he’s a fighter. That’s what we jockeys like, we fight with them and go down to the wire together and get the job done.”
Restrainedvengence hung around for 3rd, 1¾ lengths behind Say the Word and a neck in front of 4th-place finisher Next Shares.
Have a healthy week, Keep the Faith!