Smokin’ T comes out on top in the Lure (Susie Raisher)
By Keith McCalmont – NYRA Press Office
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y.— DATTT Stable’s Kentucky homebred Smokin’ T, with Hall of Famer John Velazquez up, prevailed in a three-way photo over second-choice Dakota Gold and favored Portfolio Company to land Saturday’s $135,000 Fasig-Tipton Lure, a 1 1/16-mile inner turf test restricted to older horses yet win a graded race this year, at Saratoga Race Course.
Trained by Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey, the 4-year-old War Front colt enjoyed a brief respite at Fair Hill Training Center following a last-out second in the Cliff Hanger on May 27 at Monmouth Park and reigned victorious in the Lure after two sharp works last month over Saratoga’s Oklahoma training turf.
“I sent him down to Fair Hill for about two weeks to jog in the paddock and get some grass and brought him back. I think that helped to get him fresh,” McGaughey said.
Mid Day Image surged to the lead from the outermost post 8 and led through splits of 24.22 seconds and 48.04 over the yielding turf with Doctor Davis to his outside in second just two lengths in front of the tracking Ocean Atlantique and Smokin’ T and a long gap back to the Danny Gargan-trained Dakota Gold in fifth to the outside of Portfolio Company for conditioner Chad Brown.
Smokin’ T stalked from fourth as Mid Day Image led the field into the far turn through three-quarters in 1:12.81 as Ocean Atlantique took aim at the leaders and stalled with Portfolio Company and Dakota Gold launching their bids in tandem as the former took the rail route and the latter rallied wide around rivals.
Velazquez gave Smokin’ T his cue late in the turn and angled outside Doctor Davis where he met the challenge of an in-flight Dakota Gold. Portfolio Company joined the fray along the rail for the final rush to wire as the trio battled it out through the final stages, but a stubborn Smokin’ T would not be denied a neck win over Dakota Gold in a final time of 1:43.64. It was a further head back to Portfolio Company in third with Speaking Scout, Doctor Davis, Tiz the Bomb, Ocean Atlantique and Mid Day Image rounding out the order of finish. Chazzesmee was scratched.
McGaughey tipped his cap to Velazquez, who guided Smokin’ T to a sharp optional-claiming score in May over the Churchill Downs turf.
“It was a game effort. He was sitting perfect the whole way. I didn’t know how he was going to like the course,” McGaughey said. “I got to take my hat off to Johnny. He really rode a strong race when those horses came to him. He still had horse and he still had some muscle left.
“I liked where he was sitting. This doesn’t mean anything, but the three that were in front of him were all longshots,” added McGaughey. “I kept looking back to see where Chad [Portfolio Company] and Danny [Dakota Gold] were. He’s ridden him two times [this year] and rode him just the same both times and both times he’s won on him.”
Velazquez said Smokin’ T was professional once tipped out for the stretch run.
“We had a perfect trip,” Velazquez said. “You know we respected a couple of speed horses and hopefully he’d relax behind the speed. Then we got to the backstretch, he relaxed nicely and I tried to get a better ground for him. Once we got to the three-eighths pole, I got him to the better ground and he felt a bit more comfortable. From then on, he put up a good fight.”
Irad Ortiz, Jr., aboard the multiple stakes-winning Dakota Gold – a New York-bred son of Freud – said his charge did not benefit from the yielding going.
“The horse ran good, but I don’t think the horse liked the ground too much. It’s soft, very soft and everywhere you go is a little soft. He tried hard,” Ortiz, Jr. said.
In addition to the Cliff Hanger, Smokin’ T had hit the board in stakes company last year in the Cutler Bay at Gulfstream Park and Audubon at Churchill Downs.
McGaughey said Smokin’ T may now target the $150,000 Bernard Baruch on September 4 at Saratoga.
“I’ll nominate to the Bernard Baruch and see. This race is going to help him if it doesn’t take too much out of him,” McGaughey said. “We could always go to Kentucky Downs, but I’d like to see him bounce back so I can run him here.”
Smokin’ T, out of the multiple graded stakes-winning Ghostzapper mare Wine Princess, banked $74,250 in victory while improving his record to 15-4-1-4. He returned $13.80 for a $2 win bet.
Live racing resumes Sunday at Saratoga with a 10-race card featuring the Grade 3, $200,000 Adirondack in Race 8. First post is 1:10 p.m. Eastern.