July 31, 2021

Smooth Like Strait seeks Grade 1 title in Breeders’ Cup WAYI Shoemaker Mile

Smooth Like Strait
Smooth Like Strait wins the Mathis Brothers Mile (G2) © BENOIT PHOTO

Two Grade 1 turf tests bookend the Hollywood Gold Cup (G1) at Santa Anita on Monday, including the first stateside Breeders’ Cup Challenge event of the season. The $300,000 Shoemaker Mile (G1) serves as a “Win and You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1), and two races later, turf distaffers wrap up the Memorial Day program in the $300,000 Gamely S. (G1).

Shoemaker Mile (G1) – Race 7 (7 p.m. ET)

Trainer Michael McCarthy holds a strong hand with multiple Grade 2 winner Smooth Like Strait, who has been narrowly denied in his Grade 1 attempts, and the repatriated Crossfirehurricane.

Smooth Like Strait was edged by Hit the Road in the March 6 Frank E. Kilroe Mile (G1) at this course and distance, and in his other two top-level tries over 1 1/8 miles, he succumbed to top East Coast performers. Headed by Domestic Spending in last fall’s Hollywood Derby (G1) at Del Mar, Smooth Like Strait just missed in third in the Old Forester Bourbon Turf Classic (G1) to the same rival and dead-heating Colonel Liam.

Crossfirehurricane was previously based in Ireland with Joseph O’Brien. The winner of his first four career starts, including the 2020 Patton S. on the European Road to the Kentucky Derby and the Gallinule (G3) at the Curragh, he was unplaced in the Irish Derby (G1) and Diamond (G3) when last seen on Sept. 25. The well-bred son of Kitten’s Joy prefers a quicker surface, so it made sense for owner/co-breeder Heider Family Stables to send him out west.

Richard Baltas is also double-handed with the progressive British import Whisper Not and eight-year-old millionaire Next Shares. Whisper Not, who was third to Smooth Like Strait in the Dec. 26 Mathis Brothers Mile (G2), has captured his past two including the April 24 San Francisco Mile (G3) at Golden Gate Fields. Grade 1 veteran Next Shares hasn’t won since the 2019 Seabiscuit (G2), but he’s placed in both attempts at this race. In last year’s running, he got up for second despite being badly hampered and appearing to lose all chance at the start.

Phil D’Amato likewise has two, Say the Word and the mare Raymundos Secret (who is cross-entered to the Gamely). Say the Word’s signature wins have come over 1 1/2 miles. Voted Canada’s champion turf male after taking last year’s Northern Dancer Turf (G1) for Gail Cox, the Sam-Son blueblood added the April 17 Elkhorn (G2) in his latest. Yet he did well going shorter earlier in his career, notably finishing third in a fast-run King Edward (G2) in 2019.

Rounding out the septet is the Val Brinkerhoff-trained Restrainedvengence, most recently third in the San Francisco Mile.

Gamely S. (G1) – Race 9 (8 p.m. ET)

The streaking Charmaine’s Mia has gone 3-for-3 since switching to the Southern California circuit, and now the D’Amato trainee takes her stiffest test so far. Stepping up from the six-furlong Las Cienegas (G3) to the mile of the Buena Vista (G2) and Royal Heroine (G2) posed no difficulty, but the speedy mare faces an extra furlong plus fresh opposition.

The respective top two from last year’s Gamely, Keeper Ofthe Stars and Bodhicitta, renew rivalry. Keeper Ofthe Stars comes off a head loss to Shoemaker contender Whisper Not in the San Francisco Mile. Bodhicitta, winner of the Yellow Ribbon (G2) in her start after the Gamely, has not raced since trailing in the Nov. 29 Matriarch (G1). Irish Group 3 winner Stela Star resurfaces from a year-long layoff. The John Sadler filly has been sidelined since missing by a neck in last spring’s course-and-distance Honeymoon (G3).

Two exit the April 10 Jenny Wiley (G1) at a yielding Keeneland – third-placer La Signare and fifth Maxim Rate. Grade 3 vixen La Signare, the lone invader from outside California, ships in for Brendan Walsh. Simon Callaghan’s Maxim Rate, who scored in the Goldikova (G2) here last fall, is eligible to improve back at her home course.

The respective fourth and fifth behind Charmaine’s Mia in the Buena Vista, Going to Vegas and Red Lark, figure to appreciate the added distance. Going to Vegas, Bodhicitta’s stablemate from the Baltas barn, just wired the March 27 Santa Ana (G3). Red Lark was third that day, but the Del Mar Oaks (G1) upsetter could be happier back at the nine-furlong distance of her signature win. The aforementioned Raymundos Secret, sixth to stablemate Charmaine’s Mia in the Royal Heroine, also sports a career high at this trip in the 2020 John C. Mabee (G2).