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Mo Forza Nails Smooth Like Strait Again, Defends City Of Hope Mile Title
Credit: Ernie Belmonte

Mo Forza Nails Smooth Like Strait Again, Defends City Of Hope Mile Title

ARCADIA, CA – For the second straight race, Mo Forza nailed a too-good-to-lose Smooth Like Strait in the shadow of the wire to defend his title in Saturday’s $200,000 City of Hope Mile Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita Park.

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Mo Forza broke from post 2 under Flavien Prat as the 3/5 favorite in the field of five and was the only runner to not challenge for the early pace.

Jockey Umberto Rispoli guided Smooth Like Strait to the front from the far outside post as the field entered the clubhouse turn, then posted opening fractions of :22.61 and :46.66.

Pressing runner Red Storm Risen cranked up the heat halfway home, passing Smooth Like Strait for the lead heading into the far turn and forcing that rival to speed up.

Prat tipped Mo Forza out at the top of the stretch, and the bettors’ choice initially appeared to struggle to find his best footing while refusing to change leads.

Despite the errant running style, however, the Peter Miller trainee was able to grind his way up to take the lead 3 jumps from the wire, then crossed a 1/2-length the winner in 1:32.45 for the firm turf route.

“It was a bit of an awkward race,” Prat said. “First 1/4 was pretty fast, then we hit the first turn and slowed down a lot, then we got to the backside and took off again. After that, they all came up to me around the far turn. I was trying to get him together, to regroup and get a good run down the lane, and that’s what he did. He showed a lot of class today.”

Smooth Like Strait held off Grade 1 winner Hit the Road by a head for second. Further back came Red Storm Risen and Order and Law to complete the order of finish.

Mo Forza’s win was his fourth straight dating back to last year’s Del Mar Mile (G2) and City of Hope Mile, his final 2 starts before injuries kept him from the track until his Del Mar Mile title defense in late August. The 5-year-old son of Uncle Mo improved his overall record to 14-8-3-1 and became racing’s newest millionaire with now $1,034,460 earned for co-owners Bardy Farm (who also bred him) and OG Boss.

“I was very worried the first minute and 30 seconds; I felt a lot better the last 2 1/2 seconds,” said Miller, who celebrated his birthday Saturday. “I left the plans in Flavien’s hands. It is up to him. He knows the horse. If the pace is fast, he’ll lay back. If it’s a moderate pace, we’ll be up close. Our next stop is the Breeders’ Cup.”

Mo Forza returned $3.20 to win, $2.20 to place, and $2.10 to show. Smooth Like Strait brought back $2.40 to place and $2.10 to show. Hit the Road paid $2.10 to show.

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