Ortiz, Jr., gets back-to-back stakes wins; Shoe Mile Is A Breeders’ Cup ‘Win & You’re In’
ARCADIA, Calif.—Last early, trainer Phil D’Amato’s Count Again pounced like a big cat when it counted to take Monday’s Grade I, $500,000 Shoemaker Mile going away by 2 ¼ lengths, thus providing eastern kingpin Irad Ortiz, Jr. with his second consecutive Grade I stakes win on the Memorial Day card at Santa Anita. Owned by Agave Racing and Sam-Son Farm, Count Again got a mile on turf in a sizzling 1:32.40.
The Shoemaker Breeders’ Cup Mile is a Breeder’s Cup “Win & You’re In” Challenge Race Qualifier, with the winner earning a fees-paid berth into the Grade I, $2 million FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Mile at Keeneland on Nov. 5.
A troubled sixth, beaten 1 ¾ lengths in the Grade I Maker’s Mark Mile at Keeneland April 15, Count Again got a perfect trip today, slicing through the competition around the far turn and reeling in favored Smooth Like Strait a furlong out.
“He was in great position today and turning for home, he had the leader measured,” said D’Amato, who posted his fourth Shoe Mile win today. “He was sitting on a big race today. This puts him in a position to win the Breeders’ Cup Mile in November.”
A winner of the Grade I Kilroe Mile two starts back on March 5, Count Again was off as the 5-2 second choice and paid $7.00, $2.40 and $2.10.
A 7-year-old Ontario, Canadian-bred gelding by Awesome Again out of the Red Ransom mare Count to Thee, Count Again notched his fifth graded stakes victory and is now 17-7-1-4 overall. With the winner’s share of $300,000, he became racing’s newest millionaire with total earnings of $1,069,915.
“I just followed instructions,” said Ortiz, a three-time Eclipse Award winner who won the previous race, the Grade I Hollywood Gold Cup, with longshot There Goes Harvard. “Phil told me to let him do his thing and don’t rush him. He had a big turn of foot. The horse was ready to run today, was ready to win.
“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.”
Smooth Like Strait, who tracked pacesetter and eventual last place finisher Dance Some Mo early, opened up turning for home but was no match for the winner today under Flavien Prat. A close third in the Maker’s Mark Mile, Smooth Like Strait was off as the 2-5 favorite and paid $2.10 and $2.10 while finishing 3 ½ lengths in front of D’Amato’s Masteroffoxhounds.
Ridden by Juan Hernandez, Masteroffoxhounds ran from off the pace to finish one length in front of Heywoods Beach. Off at 6-1, Masteroffoxhounds paid $2.20 to show.
Fractions on the race were 22.54, 45.58, 1:09.02 and 1:20.84.
Santa Anita Press Release
Photo by Benoit Photos