December 2, 2023

Smooth Like Strait heads nine-horse Arlington Million

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

Grade 1 winner Smooth Like Strait, a close second in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) last fall, tops a field of nine entered for the $1 million Arlington Million (G1). Churchill Downs will take over as host of the 1 1/8-mile turf affair on a special one-day program under the Twin Spires.

The Arlington Million, which has produced Horse of the Year winners and numerous champions, was run at Arlington Park until the track closed last year. A total of 11 races, including the $500,000 Beverly D. (G1) for turf distaffers, will be offered Saturday.

Winner of the 2021 Shoemaker Turf Mile (G1) at Santa Anita, Smooth Like Strait exits a runner-up effort in a title defense. The five-year-old opened the season with a neck third in the Maker’s Mark Mile (G1) at Keeneland, and the earner of more than $1.5 million has recorded six stakes wins and six Grade 1 placings. Smooth Like Strait invades from Southern California, and John Velazquez takes over on the frontrunner for Michael McCarthy.

Chad Brown owns a record four Million wins, including three consecutive editions from 2017-19, and Sacred Life merits respect for the prominent conditioner following a comfortable win in the June 18 Monmouth (G3). Manny Franco will be back up on the seven-year-old late runner.

Santin notched his biggest victory on Churchill’s turf, winning the Old Forester Bourbon Turf Classic (G1) on the Kentucky Derby Day undercard, and the four-year-old lost a shoe in the paddock prior to a sixth in the Manhattan Turf Classic (G1) last out. Trained by Brendan Walsh, the early/presser will retain the services of Tyler Gaffalione.

Admission Office and Cellist have also run well locally. Multiple Grade 3 scorer Admission Office captured the Arlington S. (G3) in early June, and the seven-year-old gelding will be running late with Brian Hernandez Jr. Cellist rallied to take the 1 1/2-mile Louisville (G3) in late May, and the four-year-old gelding will cut back in distance for Rusty Arnold. Corey Lanerie rides.

Multiple Grade 2 victor Set Piece, winner of the Dinner Party (G2) on the Preakness undercard two back, will stretch out in distance for Brad Cox. Florent Geroux guides the dedicated closer.

Rounding out the field are Field Pass, who counts four graded tallies among his eight stakes wins; Fair Grounds S. (G3) upsetter Cavalry Charge; and Megacity, disqualified after finishing first in the Texas Turf Classic S. most recently.