If the Eclipse Awards had a “Tough Luck” category in horse racing, Cannon Thoroughbreds’ Smooth Like Strait would be a top candidate.
Since winning the La Jolla Handicap at Del Mar in 2020, the son of Midnight Lute has run 11 times, winning three and finishing second seven times. He has been runner-up in five of his last six races. In fact, all six of those races were Grade Is and IIs and in the race he did not finish second, the G1 Maker’s Mark Mile at Keeneland, he was third in a three-horse blanket finish. In fact, Smooth Like Strait led at one point in the stretch run of every one of those races, including last year’s Breeders’ Cup Mile at Del Mar.
So one could hardly blame trainer Michael McCarthy if he went looking for a softer spot for his 5-year old horse. But McCarthy says that’s not why he’s running Smooth Like Strait in the $100,000 Wickerr Sunday at Del Mar.
“I liked the spacing of the race, it gives us some options as to where we go towards the end of the meet,” McCarthy says. “I thought about running him in the Eddie Read but I just wanted to go ahead and keep him at a mile for the time being.”
Turns out the Wickerr came up as tough a competitive race as you’ll find at this level with several grade stakes winners entered, including a former Breeders’ Cup winner. Exline Border Racing, et al’s Storm the Court won the 2019 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita making him the early favorite for the 2020 Kentucky Derby. But the son of Court Vision never won another race, bouncing around with graded stakes company until trainer Peter Eurton dropped him into allowance races at Oaklawn Park and Churchill Downs this year.
Smooth Like Strait would be wise to keep an eye out for Hronis Racing’s Bran, a 4-year-old French-bred who won the GIII Daytona at Santa Anita last out. He’s won twice and placed twice in his last four races.
“This will be the first time at the distance,” Sadler says, “but he’s got a very good record, he’s there every time. Its come up a very tough race but he’s a nice horse in his own right.”
Sadler will also run Yuesheng Zhang’s Sword Zorro, last year’s GIII La Jolla Handicap winner.
The field for the Wickerr from the rail with the jockeys and morning line odds: Irideo (Hector Berrios 15-1); Tesoro (Armando Ayuso 50-1); Sword Zorro (Ryan Curatolo 15-1); Gregorian Chant (Umberto Rispoli 6-1); I’mgonnabesomebody (Kyle Frey 50-1); Navy Armed Guard (Frank Alvarado 20-1); Bran (Florent Geroux 5-1); Storm the Court (Abel Cedillo 8-1); Indian Peak (Ramon Vazquez 8-1); Majestic Eagle (Edwin Maldonado 12-1); Kentucky Pharoah (Declan Cannon 20-1); Smooth Like Strait (Juan Hernandez 6-5) and Me and Mr. C (Joe Bravo 12-1)
Del Mar Press Release
Photo: Smooth Like Strait (Benoit Photo)