December 3, 2023

Smooth Like Strait seeks BC berth in Shoemaker Mile; Going Global tops Gamely

Smooth Like Strait wins the 2021 Shoemaker Mile at Santa Anita (Benoit Photo)

After the Hollywood Gold Cup (G1), Santa Anita’s Grade 1 action on Memorial Day shifts to turf for the $500,000 Shoemaker Mile (G1), a “Win and You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1), and the $400,000 Gamely (G1) for turf distaffers.

Shoemaker Mile (G1) – Race 5 (6 p.m. ET)

Defending champion Smooth Like Strait booked his Breeders’ Cup ticket here a year ago, and went on to finish an excellent second to European shipper Space Blues in the Mile. Indeed, admirable defeat was the theme of Smooth Like Strait’s 2021 campaign, with near-misses in last season’s Frank E. Kilroe Mile (G1), Turf Classic (G1) at Churchill Downs, Eddie Read (G2), Del Mar Mile (G2), and City of Hope Mile (G2). The Michael McCarthy trainee added to that storyline in his reappearance in the April 15 Maker’s Mark Mile (G1) at Keeneland, where he was beaten all of a neck in third. Nevertheless, Smooth Like Strait likely has too much of a class edge with new pilot Flavien Prat.

Trainer Phil D’Amato has three of the six entrants, led by reigning Kilroe hero Count Again. The Ontario-bred has yet to beat Smooth Like Strait, however. Crossing the wire one spot behind him in four graded stakes last campaign, Count Again was most recently sixth in their latest bout in the Maker’s Mark Mile. He hopes that picking up Irad Ortiz Jr. can spark a form reversal.

New stablemate Masteroffoxhounds, a transfer from Richard Baltas, cuts back in trip following a runner-up effort in the April 30 Charles Whittingham (G2). Although his signature win came over the same 1 1/4-mile trip in the 2021 San Marcos (G2), Masteroffoxhounds nearly wired a one-mile allowance two starts back. With Juan Hernandez back aboard and a rail draw, the son of War Front could engage Smooth Like Strait early. Rounding out the D’Amato trio is Dance Some Mo, like Count Again a Sam-Son homebred campaigned in partnership with Agave Racing Stable. Unlike Count Again, Dance Some Mo has yet to shine on this circuit.

Heywoods Beach, unraced since a distant third in last July’s Cougar II (G3) on the Del Mar main track, had shown promise earlier in his career on turf. As a Speightstown half-brother to $4.2 million-earning turf star Stephanie’s Kitten, the John Sadler pupil could be rejuvenated by the surface switch. Note that he’s tended to run well over a grassy mile with Umberto Rispoli, who’s guided him to two scores as well as a near-miss in the 2020 Let It Ride S.

Millionaire Restrainedvengence, who’s earned seven figures the hard way through 37 career starts, adds blinkers in the wake of a belated eighth in the San Francisco Mile (G3). Third in the 2021 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1), the seven-year-old was also third to Smooth Like Strait in the Shoemaker.

Gamely (G1) – Race 10 (8:30 p.m.)

Going Global puts her perfect record over this course, and at this 1 1/8-mile distance, on the line in the Gamely. The winner of last season’s Providencia (G3) and Honeymoon (G3), the Mehmas filly made it 3-for-3 at the trip in the Del Mar Oaks (G1). Going Global beat older distaffers in the Goldikova (G2) back at the seaside track, and in her four-year-old bow in the April 9 Royal Heroine (G2), she extended her mark to 5-for-5 on the Santa Anita turf. The D’Amato trainee ranks as the one to beat with Prat in the saddle.

Yet the lone shipper, Ocean Road, has some appeal based on her old European form. Sixth in last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) in her final start for Hugo Palmer, the Qatar Racing runner was previously third in the Lingfield Oaks Trial and the Pride (G3), and a better-than-appears sixth in the Oaks (G1) at Epsom. In her first outing since joining Brendan Walsh stateside, Ocean Road got up in time in an April 15 Keeneland allowance. Rispoli picks up the mount on the up-and-coming daughter of Australia and half-sister to money-spinning globetrotter Wigmore Hall.

Two ex-Baltas residents, Rodeo Drive (G1) heroine Going to Vegas and Thrumps Dream, make their debuts for new barns. Going to Vegas has gone to D’Amato after her runner-up efforts in the Buena Vista (G2) and Santa Ana (G3), where she was trying to repeat. Fifth in the 2021 Gamely, Going to Vegas aims to bounce back with a rider switch to Ortiz. Thrumps Dream steps up in class from a pair of allowance wins. The Dark Angel filly out of a half-sister to 2007 Epsom Derby (G1) star Authorized, now in the care of George Papaprodromou, keeps Joe Bravo aboard.

Renewing rivalry over an extra furlong are the respective top three from the Wilshire (G3) – front-running Canoodling, Cal-bred Eddie’s New Dream, and slow-starting England’s Rose. The latter two are both proven over this distance, while Canoodling hopes to carry her speed in her first try beyond a mile.

Neige Blanche has excelled in longer turf events, as evidenced by her successful title defense in the 1 1/2-mile Santa Barbara (G3) last out. The Gamely would be a considerable cutback in trip, and trainer Leonard Powell told Daily Racing Form that the French import is an uncertain runner.