After a few tough beats at the top level, Smooth Like Strait finally won a deserved Grade 1 trophy in Monday’s $300,500 Shoemaker Mile (G1) at Santa Anita. In the process, the Michael McCarthy trainee secured a free ticket to the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) at Del Mar Nov. 6.
The one to beat as the 7-10 favorite, Smooth Like Strait went straight to the front with regular rider Umberto Rispoli. But the Cannon Thoroughbreds homebred had no easy time on the lead, for Restrainedvengence and Whisper Not applied pressure through fractions of :23.46 and :46.43 on the firm turf.
Smooth Like Strait was up to the challenge. Restrainedvengence was the first to back out rounding the far turn, and Whisper Not could not keep up when the favorite reached six furlongs in 1:10.09. Smooth Like Strait poached a decisive margin in the stretch before Say the Word rallied. With 1 1/2 lengths to spare at the wire, the winner clocked 1:34.19.
Say the Word drew 1 3/4 lengths clear of Restrainedvengence, who stuck to his task to save third by a neck from Next Shares. Whisper Not retreated to fifth. Smooth Like Strait’s stablemate, Crossfirehurricane, broke slowly in his U.S. debut and trailed throughout. Raymundos Secret was scratched.
Smooth Like Strait’s sixth stakes victory improved his resume to 15-7-3-2, $933,823. The winner of the 2019 Cecil B. DeMille (G3) and 2020 Mathis Brothers Mile (G2), Twilight Derby (G2), La Jolla (G3), and War Chant, he was just denied in the Hollywood Derby (G1) and March 6 Frank E. Kilroe Mile (G1). The bay was thwarted narrowly again when third to dead-heaters Colonel Liam and Domestic Spending in the May 1 Old Forester Bourbon Turf Classic (G1).
McCarthy was delighted that the consistent four-year-old might now get some more respect:
“Today feels very gratifying because the horse shows up and runs hard every time. 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.
“The horse responded beautifully to Umberto, they have become quite the partnership. I’m super happy for the horse and the connections.
“I’ve had an immense amount of faith in this horse all along, and I really believe that there are big things coming for him later in the year.”
The Kentucky-bred is by two-time Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) champion Midnight Lute and out of the Flower Alley mare Smooth as Usual. He hails from the further family of millionaires Dixie Dot Com and Summer Front as well as Grade 1 scorers Siphonic and Laragh.