LOUISVILLE, KY – Cannon Thoroughbreds homebred Smooth Like Strait applied early pressure to the pace, then drew off strongly in the stretch to cruise home victorious in Saturday’s inaugural running of the $100,000 War Chant Stakes at Churchill Downs.
Breaking strongly from post 9 under John Velazquez as the 5/1 third choice, Smooth Like Strait raced just outside of Island Commish, applying constant pressure as they headed into the clubhouse turn. Hieronymus gave closest chase as the front-runners ran heads apart through opening fractions of :23.90, :48.24, and 1:12.33.
The top pair separated themselves from the field heading into the far turn, and midway through, Smooth Like Straight began inching ahead. Straightening for home with a slight advantage, he stretched out his legs impressively, drawing away to an uncatchable distance.
Though he appeared to grow leg-weary in the final stages, Smooth Like Strait was never in doubt as he crossed the winner. The Michael McCarthy trainee completed the mile-long firm turf route in a final time of 1:36.77.
“The turf was really firm the entire day and I was really excited about my horse’s chances,” Velazquez said. “Then, right before the race, the rain started, but I’m really proud that he handled everything well. He ran a hard race.”
Pixelate rallied from near the rear up to second in mid-stretch, then held off a similarly-charging Field Pass by a 1/2-length. Hieronymous was fourth, 1 length ahead of a four-way photo for fifth that went to South Bend over Shared Sense, Street Ready, and Fenwick Station.
Completing the order of finish came Bame Breeze, Bodecream, Billy Batts, Island Commish, and Liam’s Pride. Vanzzy was a late scratch. Natural Power was scratched after failing to draw in as an Also Eligible entry.
Smooth Like Strait’s win was his second at the stakes level, following the Cecil B. DeMille Stakes (G3) last December, to improve his overall record to 7-3-1-1. The 3-year-old Midnight Lute colt has now earned $178,323.
Smooth Like Strait returned $12.20 to win, $7.20 to place, and $5.20 to show. Pixelate brought back $10.60 to place and $7 to show, while Field Pass paid $3.80 to show.