DEL MAR, CA – Cannon Thoroughbreds homebred Smooth Like Strait looked like a winner every step of the way in Sunday’s $125,000 La Jolla Handicap (G3) at Del Mar.

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Sent from post 6 as the 4/5 favorite under Umberto Rispoli, Smooth Like Strait went right to the front and led solo early, but he came under fire on the backstretch and brielfy relented to Indian Peak along his outside. 

Reigniting as he entered the far turn, Smooth Like Strait separated himself and was clear of the field by the 1/4 pole.

Unleashed in the stretch, the Michael McCarthy trainee ran off before crossing 2 1/2 strong lengths clear in a final time of 1:40.29 for the 1 1/16-mile firm turf route.

Credit: Benoit Photo

“I knew I had the most speed,” Rispoli said. “Mike told me to ride like I was on the best horse. When you hear that, you have confidence. When (Indian Peak) came up outside me on the backstretch, that was OK. It wasn’t a worry. My horse was relaxed, so we were just helping each other. Then he had good speed at the end, and we were gone.”

The 2019 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) champion Storm the Court ran well in his turf debut, stalking early and holding onto second in the late stages over a fast-rallying K P All Systems Go.

Completing the order of finish came KanderelAzul CoastI’m Leaving YouAjourneytofreedom, and Indian Peak.

Jockey Umberto Rispoli celebrates aboard Smooth Like Strait after winning (Credit: Benoit Photo)

With two wins on the Sunday card, Rispoli took a 24-21 advantage over Flavien Prat for the Del Mar leading rider title. The Italian rider is enjoying tremendous success in his inagural Del Mar summer meet.

“I like this place and I like racing in California,” he said.” There’s good competition here. We go against each other and make each other better. It’s good.”

Smooth Like Strait’s win was his second at the graded stakes level, having won last December’s Cecil B. DeMille Stakes (G3) over this same course. The 3-year-old Midnight Lute colt improved his record to 8-4-1-1 with $253,323 earned.

“I thought Umberto did a wonderful job of getting him out in the clear on the first turn,” McCarthy said. “When that horse came up outside of him on the backside, it was something we’re not used to, but Umberto was very cool, didn’t panic, did the right thing, and knew he was on the best horse today. When the other horse went ahead, it didn’t bother me because I knew we were still travelling well in hand. When we re-engaged and got a 1/2 a length ahead, I was just happy to see no one was coming from behind.”

Smooth Like Strait returned $3.60 to win, $2.60 to place, and $2.20 to show. Storm the Court brought back $3.60 to place and $3 to show, while K P All Systems Go paid $4.80 to show.