ARCADIA, CA – Cannon Thoroughbreds homebred Smooth Like Strait strongly stretched out to the longest distance of his career and won Sunday’s $200,000 Twilight Derby (G2) at Santa Anita Park.
Breaking well from post 6 as the 6/5 favorite under Umberto Rispoli, Smooth Like Strait sat in second and watched the 57/1 longshot Dominant Soul post opening fractions of :23.60, :47.84, and 1:11.74.
When the 3/1 second choice Field Pass made a wide, early move halfway down the backstretch, Rispoli responded by sending Smooth Like Strait between him and the weakening pacesetter as they entered the far turn.
Taking the lead midway through cornering, Smooth Like Strait straightened for home with a length advantage and drew off in the stretch under only mild urging.
The Michael McCarthy trainee crossed 1 1/2 lengths clear while completing the 1 1/8-mile firm turf route in 1:46.89.
“I studied the race yesterday and this morning because I really wanted to win,” Rispoli said. “The horse is actually really improving himself. 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 there, to be calm. Even when the horses reached me at the 3/8 pole, I thought about what to do: ‘Am I going to go or stay?’ I just put the gears in and then we went. At the top of the straight, I knew I had the race in my hand.”
Scarto rallied from mid-pack to take second by 3/4 of a length over Field Pass, who weakened in the late stages but still necked out third over Kiss Today Goodbye.
Farmington Road, K P All Systems Go, Margot’s Boy, Express Train, and Dominant Soul completed the order of finish in the race restricted to 3-year-olds.
Smooth Like Strait’s win was his third of the year and a return to his strong form after suffering a poor trip last time out in the American Turf Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs. The Midnight Lute colt’s fourth career stakes score improved his overall record to 10-5-1-1 with $397,823 earned.
“I was a little disappointed in the way he ran at Churchill Downs,” McCarthy said. “I didn’t think there was a horse around that could beat him that day. Things just didn’t unfold the way we would have liked. … I was a little skeptical about a mile and 1/8, but he won going a mile 1/16 in the La Jolla Handicap (G3) very well. All the stars aligned today. He brought his A-game. Umberto rode him like the leading rider he is.”
Smooth Like Strait returned $4.60 to win, $3.20 to place, and $2.40 to show. Scarto brought back $5.60 to place and $3.60 to show, while Field Pass paid $3.20 to show.