August 13, 2022

Duopoly monopolizes pace in American Oaks

Duopoly and jockey Flavien Prat win the American Oaks © Benoit Photo

Trainer Chad Brown engineered another successful invasion of the Southern California turf Saturday, this time with Duopoly in the $302,500 American Oaks (G1) at Santa Anita. Maximizing her potential as the controlling speed, jockey Flavien Prat judged the pace just right, and the Klaravich Stables runner kept on rolling to become the latest Grade 1-winning daughter of Animal Kingdom.

American Oaks

Duopoly brought a record, if not a running style, vaguely reminiscent of the same connections’ 2018 American Oaks heroine, Competitionofideas. Both were relatively unexposed types who came on in the second half of the season, and both used the Winter Memories at Aqueduct as their springboard to Santa Anita.

Unlike Competitionofideas, who was third in an off-the-turf Winter Memories in her stakes debut, Duopoly got to stay on the Aqueduct turf Nov. 15 and go wire to wire. She also had the benefit of a prior stakes attempt in the Oct. 16 Valley View (G3) at Keeneland, tiring to fifth after chasing a hot pace.

Duopoly was sent off at 6-1 in the American Oaks. Bettors kept faith with 8-5 favorite Sharing, and also preferred Duopoly’s stablemate, Capital Structure, at 3.80-1. But Capital Structure’s lack of experience might have told against her, and the pace scenario didn’t help either.

Striding straight to the lead, Duopoly soon secured a monopoly through fractions of :24.91, :49.67, and 1:14.89 on the firm course. Sharing, well placed in second, crept closer but had no answer when Duopoly upped the ante. After a mile in 1:38.98, the chestnut zipped her final quarter in :22.63 to become uncatchable. Duopoly negotiated 1 1/4 miles in 2:01.61 while holding sway by two lengths.

Going to Vegas, who had been third in the early going, wore down Sharing for second by three-quarters of a length. The favorite salvaged third in a three-way photo with Red Lark rallying on her outside and Capital Structure making good headway on the rail. Luck Money, Miss Addie Pray, Neige Blanche, California Kook, and Guitty rounded out the order under the wire.

“I thought on the backside someone was going to hook up with me,” Prat told Santa Anita publicity, “but lucky enough nobody did. We had a pretty nice trip.

“She was full of herself and traveling perfect. When I asked her she really kicked in. She never really ran the distance, but I guess Chad Brown doesn’t come down here just to race.”

Duopoly’s scorecard now stands at 6-4-0-0, $308,034. Unraced as a juvenile, she was never involved when eighth in her May 17 unveiling at Churchill Downs. A five-length romper on the lead in a Monmouth Park maiden, Duopoly made it two straight in a Saratoga allowance and graduated to stakes company.

Bred by Jamm Ltd. in Kentucky, Duopoly sold for $160,000 as a Keeneland September yearling. Her dam, the Grade 3-winning Justaroundmidnight, is a Danehill Dancer half-sister to the Group-placed duo of Boris Grigoriev and Aircraft Carrier. This is the family of several notable homebreds for Queen Elizabeth II, including Grade 1 victor Unknown Quantity, mother-and-daughter Group 2 winners Starlet and Interlude, and Royal Ascot scorer Free Agent.

Brown and Klaravich Stables nearly made it a double in the Lady of Shamrock nightcap, but Counterparty Risk flew a fraction too late, coming just short of nabbing pacesetter Nasty.

Mathis Brothers Mile

Earlier, 4-5 favorite Smooth Like Strait bested a game Storm the Court in the $201,000 Mathis Brothers Mile (G2), and reiterated his status as the circuit’s top turf sophomore. Trained by Mike McCarthy and piloted by Umberto Rispoli, the Cannon Thoroughbreds homebred stalked pacesetting Storm the Court through fractions of :23.02, :46.49, and 1:10.12, then pounced entering the stretch. The longtime leader refused to yield, but Smooth Like Strait had his measure by three-quarters of a length in 1:33.51.

Whisper Not, third at every call, had a more complex trip than that implies. Tugging early on the inside, the British-bred appeared to steady off heels turning for home, angled out for room, and outdueled Field Pass while gaining gradually late another half-length back. Field Pass was 1 1/2 lengths clear of Scarto, who was followed by Strongconstitution and the ever-trailing Heywoods Beach.

Smooth Like Strait’s fifth stakes victory improved his resume to 12-6-2-1, $577,823, reflecting wins in the 2019 Cecil B. DeMille (G3) as a juvenile and this season’s War Chant, La Jolla (G3), and Twilight Derby (G2). Just mugged by Domestic Spending in the Nov. 28 Hollywood Derby (G1) last out, the Midnight Lute colt will pursue Grade 1 laurels in next spring’s features over this course and distance. McCarthy mentioned the March 6 Frank E. Kilroe Mile (G1) and May 31 Shoemaker Mile (G1) as natural targets.

The Kentucky-bred is out of the Flower Alley mare Smooth as Usual, from the further family of Grade 1 scorers Laragh and Siphonic as well as Grade 2-winning millionaires Dixie Dot Com and Summer Front. Ironically, Dixie Dot Com was himself runner-up in his Hollywood Derby (1998). Smooth Like Strait will try to outstrip Summer Front, who played second fiddle in both the 2014 Shoemaker and 2015 Kilroe before becoming a promising young sire.