Kentucky-breds dominated the Grade 1 racing action at Santa Anita on Memorial Day with Smooth Like Strait winning the Shoemaker Mile (G1) and earning a berth in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1), Country Grammar taking down top prize in the Hollywood Gold Cup (G1), and Maxim Rate capturing the Gamely Stakes (G1).
Smooth Like Strait, a homebred for Michael Cannon’s Cannon Thoroughbreds, became a Grade 1 winner with an impressive score in the Shoemaker Mile, a “Win and You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Mile to be run at Del Mar on Nov. 6. Ridden by Umberto Rispoli, Smooth Like Strait won the one-mile turf event by 1 ½ lengths, covering the distance in 1:34.19 for trainer Michael McCarthy.
“I’ve had an immense amount of faith in this horse all along, and I really believe that there are big things coming for him later in the year,” McCarthy said. “I’m super happy for the horse and the connections.
Smooth Like Strait,a 4-year-old son of Midnight Lute out of the Flower Alley mare Smooth as Usual, is now a five-time Graded stakes winner.
Kentucky-bred Country Grammar fought to a game head victory over Royal Ship (BRZ) in the $300,000 Hollywood Gold Cup. The win gave his trainer, Bob Baffert a record-equaling eighth victory in the Hollywood Gold Cup, tying him with the legendary Charles Whittingham.
Owned by WinStar Farm, Country Grammar is a 4-year-old son of Tonalist who had started his career with trainer Chad Brown. Country Grammar made his initial start for Baffert with a runner-up effort to Royal Ship in the Californian Stakes (G2) in his previous outing.
Ridden by Flavien Prat, Country Grammar was sent off as the 9-5 favorite in the race. The $180,000 winner’s share of the purse increased his bankroll to $377,320. Scott and Debbie Pierce bred Country Grammar out of the Forestry mare Arabian Song.
“His form on the dirt was really good last year,” said Baffert. “It looked like he was beat today, but he kicked it in. It’s exciting. He ran a big race last time and just got beat. He was really ready to go today and I think the distance was the key. He got it done with a lot of class and determination.
Completing the Kentucky-bred sweep was Maxim Rate who rallied strongly in the lane to win the Gamely Stakes. Ridden by Juan Hernandez, Maxim Rate won the 1 1/8-mile turf affair in 1:46.61 for trainer Simon Callaghan.
Sent off at odds of 13-1 Maxim Rate is a 5-year-old mare by Exchange Rate out of the Unbridled’s Son mare Catch My Eye. She is owned by Slam Dunk Racing, Stable Currency LLC, and James Branham. She was bred in Kentucky by Fred Hertrich III and John D. Fielding.
“The Grade 1 was our main aim and to pull it off is fantastic for all of the owners, all of the Slam Duk team, everyone involved,” said Callaghan. “Now, we’ll just space the races out and it will be nice to get to the Breeders’ Cup.”