Homeracing

Smooth Roller hits the jackpot in Awesome Again

Profile Picture: Jen Caldwell

September 27th, 2015

Smooth Roller brought just three career starts into Saturday’s $300,750 Awesome Again S. (G1) at Santa Anita Park, but exited the 1 1/8-mile contest a first-time stakes winner with a guaranteed berth in the October 31 Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Keeneland.

The Awesome Again is part of the “Win & You’re In” Challenge series, and was supposed to be Bayern’s official entrée into a title defense run in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. The dark bay ridgling played his part and headed to the front when the gates opened, setting splits of :24.30, :48.64 and 1:12.25.

Meanwhile, Smooth Roller took up a spot just to Bayern’s outside and maintained constant pressure on his rival down the backstretch. Entering the turn, jockey Tyler Baze sent Smooth Roller after Bayern and the four-year-old drew even.

Bayern attempted to fight back on the inside but Smooth Roller kept motoring and easily pulled off to finish 5 1/4 lengths in front while stopping the clock in 1:48.08 over the fast main track.

Bayern was unable to hold on to second, with fellow Bob Baffert trainee Hoppertunity reeling him in to secure the runner-up spot by 1 1/2 lengths. It was another length back to Imperative in fourth.

Smooth Roller just began his career over the summer for trainer Victor Garcia and owner Lucky Charm Stable. The bay gelding broke his maiden by 2 1/2 lengths on June 27 at Santa Anita Park before taking an allowance/optional claimer on August 1 at Del Mar. He tried stakes company for the first time at that latter venue, running a nice fourth while only 1 1/4 lengths behind the winner in the Harry F. Brubaker S. last out on August 26.

Smooth Roller has a tough task ahead in the Breeders’ Cup Classic but could rise to the occasion once more. The son of Hard Spun is out of the Unbridled mare Catch the Moment and can trace his female line back to 1969 Kentucky Derby and Preakness hero Majestic Prince.

Smooth Roller photo courtesy of Harold Roth/Horsephotos.com

AWESOME AGAIN JOCKEY QUOTES

TYLER BAZE (Smooth Roller, winner): “This is his fourth race and from the very beginning Victor told me he could really run and he proved it. I worked him last week and ever since I’ve been on him down at Del Mar he’s turned into a monster work horse in the morning; he really wants to do it. Last week, Victor wasn’t here, he was at the Keeneland Sale. He called and told me to go seven eighths in 1:28. I literally breezed him in 1:25. I called him and told him ‘that’s as easy as he wants to go and he did it the right way.’

“I told him to dress up for Saturday because I’m expecting him to run big and he did.

“He’s a good-feeling horse. He goes out there and there’s nothing wrong with a horse that’s feelin’ good. He’s ready to do it and he’s changed and he’s really matured.”

MIKE SMITH (Hoppertunity, second): “We ran a good race, but I just couldn’t catch the winner. He ran great. The game plan going in was pretty much what happened. I thought I’d be laying third and he was. He was laying a comfortable third. Hard Aces was coming a little early on the backside, so it turned it into a long run. But he was able to gather himself up and secure second anyway. That’s pretty much it.”

MARTIN GARCIA (Bayern, third): “He looked like he was going nice and easy but he didn’t want to run.”

Is he the same horse as he used to be?: “Not at all. If he was the same, he would have won. Too quiet; he didn’t show anything.”

AWESOME AGAIN TRAINER QUOTES

VICTOR GARCIA (Smooth Roller, winner): “I expected him to run big. He had a lot of trouble in his last race. He was washed out, stumbled from the gate, was four or five wide both turns and only got beat a length and one-quarter. I worked the horse twice and he worked real good. Tyler was real happy with it. We’ll go to the Breeders’ Cup (Classic), absolutely. This will be my second Breeders’ Cup. I ran a filly named Approved to Fly in 1988 (fourth in the Juvenile Fillies).

“I’ve been training since late 1985. It feels great (to beat the Breeders’ Cup Classic winner from last year, Bayern). I thought we had a good shot in the race, but the only way to find out is to run with the big boys, and the horse ran like I expected.”

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