Irad Ortiz Jr. engineered There Goes Harvard’s Hollywood Gold Cup (G1) upset for Cannon Thoroughbreds and trainer Michael McCarthy. One race later in the $500,500 Shoemaker Mile (G1), Ortiz toppled their 2-5 favorite, defending champion Smooth Like Strait, aboard Count Again. By dethroning Smooth Like Strait in this Breeders’ Cup Challenge event, Count Again earned a free ticket to the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) at Keeneland.
Riding the 5-2 second choice for the first time, Ortiz was patient as the deep closer watched his best-case scenario unfold. Fellow Phil D’Amato trainee Dance Some Mo hustled to the front and set fast fractions of :22.54 and :45.58 on the firm Santa Anita turf. Smooth Like Strait was expending energy just a half-length off him.
When the 45-1 longshot was done by the far turn, the odds-on favorite surged ahead through six furlongs in 1:09.02. If Smooth Like Strait was trying to put the race away with an early move, it backfired because he had to maintain that ferocious gallop for another quarter-mile.
Count Again, on the other hand, was just beginning to uncork his late kick. Full of run down the lane, the Ontario-bred overpowered Smooth Like Strait by 2 1/4 lengths in 1:32.40. Masteroffoxhounds crossed the wire a further 3 1/2 lengths adrift in third, followed by Heywoods Beach, Restrainedvengence, and Dance Some Mo.
“I just followed instructions,” said Ortiz, who was winning his fourth race on the card. “Phil told me to let him do his thing and don’t rush him. He has a big turn of foot.
“They went a little fast, but I wasn’t too far (back). Honestly, I was happy where I was with my horse. Most of the time, he comes from off the pace. I just wanted to be in contact with the field and when he put me right there in the first turn…I said, ‘Why not’, let him be there and he responded really well.
“When I went through horses at the quarter-pole, Phil told me to make sure to keep him outside down the stretch, in the clear, and that’s what I did. When we were in the clear, I asked him and (he) took off.”
Campaigned by Agave Racing Stable and breeder Sam-Son Farm, Count Again is now a millionaire with $1,069,915 in earnings from a 17-7-1-4 line. The Shoemaker marks his second top-level win after the March 5 Frank E. Kilroe Mile (G1). His resume includes victories in the 2020 Singspiel (G3) and Seabiscuit (G2) as well as the Feb. 5 Thunder Road (G3) and placings in last season’s Kilroe Mile and Eddie Read (G2). The Awesome Again gelding was finally getting the better of Smooth Like Strait, who had finished ahead of them in their prior meetings. They were most recently third and sixth, respectively, in the April 15 Maker’s Mark Mile (G1).
Count Again is a half-brother to two-time Bing Crosby (G1) hero Ransom the Moon. Their dam, stakes victress Count to Three, is a daughter of Red Ransom and 1990 Matriarch (G1) winner Countus In, from the further family of Horse of the Year Knicks Go.