Smooth Like Strait Leads BC Alumni in Maker’s Mark Mile

For the second time this month, grade 1 racing makes a weekday appearance at Keeneland.

Following the opening-day Central Bank Ashland Stakes (G1) April 8 at the Lexington oval, top-level action is again on deck for a Friday when Keeneland stages the $600,000 Maker’s Mark Mile Stakes (G1T). The one-mile grass race drew a field of 11, including some of the top turf short-route turf horses in the country.

Illustrative of the race’s quality, three participants last raced in the Nov. 6 FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Mile Presented by PDJF (G1T) at Del MarIn Love (seventh), Ivar (third), and Smooth Like Strait (second). Friday’s race represents the first start since for the trio, all existing grade 1 winners.

Favored at 2-1 odds on the morning line is Cannon Thoroughbreds’ Smooth Like Strait, a Michael McCarthy trainee who has been first or second in 14 of 18 turf starts. Though he won just one of seven starts last year during his 4-year-old season, not one of his six defeats came by more than a half-length.

By that scant margin, he lost the Breeders’ Cup last fall when held second after favored European raider Space Blue passed him in the stretch.

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“He had a couple of tough beats last year, obviously,” McCarthy said. “I felt a couple things could have gone his way a time or two. I arguably thought he was the best turf horse in the country last year. I think his performance in the Breeders’ Cup validated that.”

Umberto Rispoli, who recently shifted his tack to Kentucky after basing in California, has a return mount aboard the 5-year-old son of Midnight Lute .

Smooth Like Strait completed his workout preparation for Friday’s race with a five-furlong breeze in 1:01 on the main track at Santa Anita Park April 8. Xbtv.com video captured him spotting graded-winning turf horse and stablemate Caribou Club a length’s advantage before passing that one in the stretch and pulling about a length and a half clear at the finish. He later drew well ahead in breezing past the wire under encouragement.

“He’s training very well,” McCarthy said. “Schedule-wise, it was a race that seemed to be in a good spot. Happy with the way the horse has been trained since the Breeders’ Cup. Not happy about getting a bunch of wet weather there. But we’ll play the hand we’re dealt.”

Though the forecast calls for clear skies Friday and the preceding day, the Keeneland course may remain less than firm after rain earlier in the week in Central Kentucky.

Smooth Like Strait has raced predominantly on dry courses. He won the 2020 War Chant Stakes at Churchill Downs under showery conditions, though the course was still listed by Equibase as firm. He ran fourth on good turf at Santa Anita in the 2019 Eddie Logan Stakes.

While front-running Smooth Like Strait dictated relatively easy splits of :23.51 and :47.38 in the Breeders’ Cup Mile, Ivar and In Love closed from well off the pace.

Jockey Joe Talamo was able to work out a solid trip from post 12 on Ivar, avoiding losing too much ground around both turns. Ninth after a half-mile, Ivar kicked into gear on the second turn, and after angling out for the stretch, he caught all but Space Blues and Smooth Like Strait. Ivar checked in a length behind the runner-up.

Video

Under Alex Achard, In Love raced inside Ivar down the backstretch of the Breeders’ Cup Mile. Then, briefly awaiting room, In Love followed Ivar’s outside rally in the stretch, beaten 3 1/4 lengths for the win.

Both horses are former South American-based runners owned by Bonne Chance Farm and Stud RDI and trained by Paulo Lobo. They are both 6-year-olds by Agnes Gold . In Love is a gelding, Ivar an intact horse.

The inside-drawn In Love is perfect in two starts on Keeneland’s turf course, having won an allowance race locally in October 2020 and the Keeneland Turf Mile (G1T) last fall.

Ivar won the same stakes race in 2020 when it was sponsored by Shadwell. Ivar’s two other grass starts at Keeneland were fourths in the 2021 Keeneland Turf Mile and the 2020 Breeders’ Cup Mile.

Juddmonte also has two uncoupled runners in Friday’s race: European stakes winner Masen now trained by Chad Brown, and grade 2 winner Set Piece , conditioned by Brad Cox. Like the Breeders’ Cup Mile returnees, they also make their first season debuts.

Friday’s field is completed by Shirl’s Speight , Atone , Count Again , Somelikeithbrown , Mira Mission and Public Sector —who are either graded winners or graded placed.

Entries: Maker’s Mark Mile S. (G1T)

Keeneland, Friday, April 15, 2022, Race 9

  • Grade IT
  • 1m
  • Turf
  • $600,000
  • 4 yo’s & up
  • 5:16 PM (local)

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