CLASSY SMOOTH LIKE STRAIT MUCH BEST IN GRADE II, $200,000 TWILIGHT DERBY AS HE STALKS PACE AND DRAWS OFF TO WIN BY 1 ½ LENGTHS; TRAINED BY MCCARTHY & RIDDEN BY RISPOLI, HE GETS 1 1/8 MILES ON TURF IN 1:46.89
ARCADIA, Calif. (Oct. 18, 2020)–In a dominant performance, heavily favored Smooth Like Strait sat a close second early, took command turning for home and drew off to an emphatic 1 ½ length victory in Sunday’s Grade II, $200,000 Twilight Derby at Santa Anita.
Trained by Michael McCarthy and ridden by Umberto Rispoli, the bay colt by Midnight Lute got a mile and one eighth on turf in 1:46.89.
With pacesetter Dominant Soul grudgingly giving way at the top of the lane, Smooth Like Strait shook loose of eventual third place finisher Field Pass in the final furlong to register his third graded stakes win and his third tally in his last four starts.
“I studied the race yesterday and this morning because I really wanted to win,” said Rispoli, who first rode him at Del Mar on Aug. 9. “We know how he could be keen in the first part of the race, but Michael does such an amazing job, he’s been relaxed. You can see him behind horses now and he really understands to be calm. Even when the horses reached me at the three eighths pole, I thought about what to do. ‘Am I going to go or stay?’ At the top of the straight I knew I had the race in my hand.”
Most recently fourth as the favorite in a Grade II, mile and one sixteenth turf stakes at Churchill Downs Sept. 5, Smooth Like Strait was off as the 6-5 favorite in a field of nine sophomores and paid $4.60, $3.20 and $2.40.
Owned and bred in Kentucky by Cannon Thoroughbreds, LLC, Smooth Like Strait picked up $120,000 for the win, increasing his earnings to $397,823. A winner of the Grade III La Jolla Handicap two starts back on Aug. 9, Smooth Like Strait, who is out of the Flower Alley mare Smooth as Usual, improved his overall mark to 10-5-1-1.
“I was a little disappointed in the way he ran at Churchill Downs,” said McCarthy. “I didn’t think there was a horse around that could beat him that day…This horse has come back, and he has not disappointed since we’ve been back (at Santa Anita). I was a little skeptical about a mile and one eighth, but he won going a mile and a sixteenth in the La Jolla Handicap very well.
“All the stars aligned today. He brought his A-game. Umberto rode him like the leading rider he is. I’m very happy for the Cannon’s and everybody involved, even my groom Mike Munoz and Cleo Thomas, they do an excellent job with this horse…”
Scarto, who was unhurried while shuffled back a bit around the far turn, put in a determined late bid and proved second best under Juan Hernandez, finishing second by three quarters of a length over Field Pass. Off at 7-1, Scarto paid $5.60 and $3.60.
Field Pass, with Drayden Van Dyke up, was off as the second choice at 3-1 and paid $3.20 to show.
Fractions on the race were 23.60, 47.84, 1:11.74 and 1:35.14.