09/30/2015 1:28PM

Rolling to the Classic


Perhaps a star was born last Saturday afternoon at Santa Anita.

SMOOTH ROLLER, making only his fourth lifetime start, obliterated a good field of older handicap performers in the Grade 1, $300,000 Awesome Again Stakes. That victory likely propelled Smooth Roller, an unraced maiden three months ago, into the Breeders' Cup Classic and a matchup with such stalwarts as AMERICAN PHAROAH, BEHOLDER, GLENEAGLES, LIAM'S MAP and HONOR CODE.

Smooth Roller broke a bit awkwardly from post position seven in the eight-horse Awesome Again. He was sent up by jockey Tyler Baze to track the slow pace (24.30, 48.64) set by reigning Breeders' Cup Classic winner BAYERN. Smooth Roller turned up the heat on Bayern from the outside through six furlongs in 1:12.25, sent the off-form Bob Baffert-trainee packing into probable retirement at the quarter-pole, and was never threatened en route to a 5 1/4-length victory in 1:48.08. That final time was good for a whopping 111 Beyer Speed Figure.

HOPPERTUNITY, winner of the Grade 1 Clark Handicap last fall for Baffert, clunked up for second over stablemate Bayern. Grade 1 winner HARD ACES, Grade 2 winners GLOBAL VIEW and IMPERATIVE, multiple Grade 3-placed SAMMY MANDEVILLE and stakes-winner POINT PIPER failed to hassle the winner.

SMOOTH ROLLER was foaled in Kentucky on February 7, 2011. The gelding is by the versatile Hard Spun, winner of the Grade 1 King's Bishop going seven furlongs at Saratoga. Hard Spun also grabbed a pair of nine-furlong, Grade 2 routes on polytrack (Lane's End Stakes, Kentucky Cup Classic Stakes), scored the Grade 3 LeComte Stakes at one mile on dirt and placed second in both the Kentucky Derby and Breeders' Cup Classic. As icing on the cake, Hard Spun finished third in the Preakness Stakes.

At stud, Hard Spun has also sired champion Questing, Grade 1 dirt winners WICKED STRONG, Hard Aces and Zo Impressive, and Grade 1 turf winners Hardest Core and HARD NOT TO LIKE.

Smooth Roller's unraced dam, Catch the Moment (by Unbridled), has also dropped Elite Alex, the third-place finisher of the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes at a mile in 2011. The second dam, Fluid Move (by Nureyev), was multiple stakes-placed going long on turf. This is the female family of Epsom Derby winner Secreto and French Derby winner Caracolero.

Smooth Roller was purchased for $160,000 at the 2012 Keeneland September yearling auction. Trained by Victor Garcia, the gelding didn't make it to the races until earlier in the summer. In that spot, a seven-furlong maiden special weight at Santa Anita, Smooth Roller rallied from midpack to defeat two next-out graduates.

In his initial foray against winners, an entry-level optional claimer at 1 1/16 miles on August 1 at Del Mar, Smooth Roller displayed better early interest. He pressed the pace over the speed-friendly surface while four paths off the rail and made the front turning for home. He seemed on his way to a comfortable victory, but appeared to lose focus once he struck the lead.

PERFECT SET, a battle-tested 5-year-old from the Jerry Hollendorfer barn, poked a head in front, but Smooth Roller fought back resolutely once engaged. He snatched victory from the jaws of defeat by nosing out Perfect Set right on the wire. He was flattered when Perfect Set returned to take his subsequent two outings, and two other horses that Smooth Roller defeated that afternoon also came back to win.

In his prep for the Awesome Again, the $86,000 Harry F. Brubaker Stakes at one mile at Del Mar, Smooth Roller was defeated by both Point Piper and Global View. Trip handicappers knew that Smooth Roller was much better than his fourth-place finish, however.

Washed out in the paddock, Smooth Roller pitched a fit in the starting gate and flipped Mike Smith out the rear of the stall prior to the start. Smooth Roller stumbled when the gates finally opened and suffered from an extremely wide trip. Despite his early antics, the poor start, and the extra ground covered, Smooth Roller was in with a big chance turning for home before understandably tiring in the final eighth.

Is the Breeders' Cup Classic a case of "too much too soon" for this lightly-raced contender?  Not only will he face one of the better Classic fields in recent memory, but Smooth Roller must ship outside of Southern California for the first time while trying an unfamiliar 10 furlongs. He'll have to overcome all of this in only his fifth start.

Handicappers must ask themselves whether Smooth Roller is a very talented runner with upside potential, or a case like Materiality, the brilliant Florida Derby winner that found the Kentucky Derby and Belmont too difficult to navigate earlier in the spring.


Here are the WINNING Beyer Speed Figures from 9/22/15 - 9/28/15:

1. SMOOTH ROLLER - 111 - Awesome Again Stakes (G1) - 1 1/8 Miles - 26Sep15-10SA
2. BIG BLUE KITTEN - 106 - Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational (G1) - 1 1/2 Miles (Turf) - 26Sep15-10BEL
3. ALERT BAY - 105 - City of Hope Mile (G2) - 1 Mile (Turf) - 27Sep15-8SA
3. FAVORITE TALE - 105 - Alw 67900C - 6 Furlongs - 26Sep15-5PRX
5. ROCK FALL - 104 - Vosburgh Invitational (G1) - 6 Furlongs - 26Sep15-9BEL
6. WEDDING TOAST - 103 - Beldame Invitational (G1) - 1 1/8 Miles - 26Sep15-5BEL
7. LA VERDAD - 102 - Gallant Bloom Handicap (G2) - 6 1/2 Furlongs - 26Sep15-7BEL
8. IVAN FALLUNOVALOT - Remington Park Sprint Cup - 6 Furlongs - 27Sep15-5RP
8. SACRED OVATION - 101 - Seal Beach Stakes - 6 Furlongs - 25Sep15-3LRC
10. BEHOLDER - 99 - Zenyatta Stakes (G1) - 1 1/16 Miles - 26Sep15-7SA
10. STEVIE'S WONDER - 99 - Alw 25000s - 6 Furlongs - 28Sep15-8PRX
12. SHOTGUN KOWBOY - 97 - Oklahoma Derby (G3) - 1 1/8 Miles - 27Sep15-9RP
12. VALID - 97 - Groomstick Stakes - 7 Furlongs - 26Sep15-10GP
14. ALL RUN - 96 - OC 40k/N1X -N - 6 1/2 Furlongs - 27Sep15-7SA
14. LOCHTE - 96 - Mr. Steele Stakes - 1 Mile (Turf) - 27Sep15-3GP
14. PHOTO CALL (IRE) - 96 - Rodeo Drive Stakes (G1) - 1 1/4 Miles (Turf) - 26Sep15-9SA
17. TEXAS RYANO - 95 - King Pellinore Stakes - 1 1/4 Miles (Turf) - 27Sep15-6SA
18. KEY TO POWER - 94 - Teleprompter Stakes - 1 Mile (Turf) - 26Sep15-7AP
18. ONUS - 94 - Commonwealth Oaks (G3) - 1 1/8 Miles (Turf) - 26Sep15-10LRL  
20. ERIK THE RED - 93 - OC 62k/N2X -N - 6 1/2 Furlongs - 24Sep15-9BEL
20. GEOTHERMAL - 93 - Lukas Classic Stakes - 1 1/8 Miles - 26Sep15-10CD
20. QUIET KITTEN - 93 - OC25k/SAL25k - 1 1/16 Miles (Turf) - 24Sep15-9GP
20. PLAINVIEW - 93 - OC 80k/N3X - 7 Furlongs (Turf) -  23Sep15-6BEL
24. COUGAR RIDGE - 92 - Remington Green Stakes - 1 1/8 Miles (Turf) - 27Sep15-4RP
24. DON DULCE - 92 - OC 80k/C -N - 1 1/16 Miles - 27Sep15-9BEL
24. SINGING KITTY - 92 - Unzip Me Stakes - About 6 1/2 Furlongs (Turf) - 26Sep15-3SA

*SMOOTH ROLLER's lifetime past performances are available at the bottom of this blog post.


Video stakes analyses for many of the weekend's major stakes races from Keeneland, Belmont and Santa Anita can be found at http://www.drf.com/videos

You can follow me on Twitter @DRF_DanIllman.

Eric Wing and I will cover some of Saturday's major Breeders' Cup Prep races on DRF Live (live.drf.com) beginning at 2pm ET


Congrats to ed for finishing first in the most recent HandiGambling event.

Let's go with Saturday's Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland for this week's exercise. 


SR Vegas and Rick M. have graciously decided to streamline all of the HG rules in order to make them an easier read for everyone...

With so many new people attending Dan's Formblog we thought it would be a good time to update the Handigambling Guidelines and Rules as we go forward in 2014.

Let's remember WHY we began the HandiGambling races in the first place. The goal was to share ideas on why we like these horses and why we're betting them the way we are. We are not asking for a novel but if you could spare a sentence or two outlining your handicapping angles and thought processes about wagering, it would be appreciated.


Please start your post with  HG or HANDIGAMBLING to better recognize and find your entry.

-  You have a mythical $100 to wager in whatever format you choose and that is available for that HG race.
Anyone going over the $100 limit will be disqualified.

- Post your WAGER and ANALYSIS to the blog WITH YOUR NAME/OR MONIKER AT THE END OF THE POST.  Remember that posts may start as 'anonymous' or an 'alternate name'. You MUST sign yourself at the end (even if it is the same) This enables the scorekeeper to recognize you .

- (1) ONE ENTRY per person for the Handigambling contest. If you have multiple email addresses, use just ONE for contest purposes.  Multiple entries will be cause for disqualification.

- Separate your analysis from the wager and use the horses # in your wager. Just like you would do in a real wager. No horse names.

-In the event of a tie, the earliest post gets first preference. Dan reserves the right to approve or deny any entries.

- The winner will receive a "60-Card Quarterly Formulator Past Performance Plan"

As an example :

HG 2014
The speed in this race goes to  horses # 1, 4 ,6 ..Ennie , Meenie, and Mo
Since it's a sprint I don't see any closers catching them.. like # 9 Miney.
I think trainer Groucho with the #6 Mo has the best stats in this condition, route to sprint.. just a gut feeling at large odds ML 20-1

HG wager
50$ Ex box 1-6
total $100

Thanks Dan!




Okiesharp More than 1 year ago
TBTA I loved your 'Moron' comment on announcers. I can't tell you how many times I've screamed at the TV whenever a reporter shoves a microphone in someones face who has just had a devastating loss and asks the 'how do you feel question'. I can imagine there are plenty of clips on the cutting room floors where someone has said:'if you don't get that microphone out of my face I'm gonna shove it so far up your a$$ that it'll take a dentist to remove it'........ Just sayin' Okiesharp
God Bless Longshots More than 1 year ago
@Lukas Does Union City rings a bell? GBL
God Bless Longshots More than 1 year ago
Belmont Today: Race 1: #9 Chilly Bay (6/1) - Tough race; nonetheless back to turf and cut back in distance raises hopes Race 3: #5 Rock Show (5/1) - Definitely an Exacta possibility if a win is far fetched Race 4: #2 Matty'S Wondergirl (10/1) - Race two starts back should be good enough to win #3 Sky Gem (12/1) - Should improve stretching out in 2nd start after 340 days layoff Race 7: #3 Rock Me Again (7/2) - Appears tough here #7 Voila La Victoire (12/1) - improvement noted with blinkers on; added distance should only help; poised for a good effort. Race 8: #6 Literata(15/1) - Need not much to improve to beat these Race 9: #9 My Adonis (10/1) - Finally outside; Fits well with the group GBL
CalvinLCarter More than 1 year ago
Bernard, Thanks for your reply. Gleneagles should be a good price and I look for him to be tough to beat in the Breeders' Cup Classic.
Cathy More than 1 year ago
C, You finished the conversation. It's simply two different ways of looking at the animal. One is that they are to be treasured and respected with a strong feeling that the horse is owed our best stewardship. The other is "who cares, he's shown the some (and in Optimizer's case very little) talent for CD's dirt. Why not?" And that is precisely why I can't stand it when Lukas gets his hands on a hard trying horse who is a cut below. Those horses run their guts out every time regardless of where they finish, unless you get a horse like Mr. Zee or Lady's Secret who simply rebel and bolt indicating that they have had enough. If my colt was no world beater, I most certainly would not be entering him into a Triple Crown race, especially the Derby. Optimizer showed nothing from the Breeder's Cup Juvenile on, except for a second in the Rebel to Secret Circle with absolutely no horse of quality behind him. I don't need to be on TV or say "Look, I've done the Derby" to my friends. TBTA
Harold Crenshaw More than 1 year ago
C I am not calling for a trust busting entity to smash up these super feed, super huge conglomerate stables. I think that the ONUS lies on the owners to employ OTHERS. But the lure of TV and what they provide is too big a draw. IF I were a zillionaire I would find an up and comer who was dependent on ME and not the other way around.....I would hire a TRUE EXPERT....and not a salesman. When I shop...I get some pleasure from defusing sales ANGLES....and calling out the next move...because I am salesman by nature and occupation, I know all of the moves. I have lots of salesman throw up their hands and declare "I guess I have to play it straight with you" And the lure of Pletcher, Lukas and Baffert is the age old technique(and this is my FAVORITE sales move) EVERYONE USES me.....if they want to WIN. Join the Flock, join the team and your best chance of winning HUGE races is with me...because I win them. A solid move if you don't mind handing over control(a huge factor in the power structure of the stable) and subverting to the salesman.
CM Vongole More than 1 year ago
TBTA, So was Skyring not running on grass? On Optimizer, he actually started his career on turf and polytrack and had 9 dirt starts before returning to turf... however, he contested the BC Juvenile and then finished a close 4th in the KyJC on dirt. His good Rebel performance put him in the Derby field and I believe he ended up contesting all 3 legs. That accounts for 6 of those races and it's not as if he showed absolutely nothing on dirt. He was no world-beater by any means, but so what? Pedigree is not the only factor which determines placement (surface or distance). If you have a competitive 3yo in the Spring (he did run 2nd in the Rebel and had a decent performance at Churchill a few months earlier), most stables are going to run in the triple crown races if their horse is nominated and has the earnings. Why wouldn't you? Are there many grass stakes for young 3yos at that time? There might be a G3 or G2 on the Derby undercard, but why not take a shot with a horse that has previously shown some signs of life on (Churchill's) dirt? At that point, who cares if he's better suited for grass? There will be time for that later, if that's the decision. Hey, I didn't bet him either, but if he was healthy and fit, I would've probably run him in the Derby too if I owned him.
SR Vegas More than 1 year ago
...any Eskendereya fans out there? "The Japan Bloodhorse Breeders’ Association has purchased Eskendereya (Giant’s Causeway–Aldebaran Light, by Seattle Slew) from Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings and the 8-year-old will stand in Japan for the 2016 breeding season." The promising colt won the GR II 2010 Fountain of youth and the GR I Wood Memorial , before being retired due to an injury and went to stud in 2011 at Taylor Made. for the complete link: http://www.thoroughbreddailynews.com/jbba-purchases-eskendereya/ SR Vegas
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
For anyone who doesn't know the BC mile will be run at a mile and 70yards due to the 70 yard runnup.The riders went over the course and chose this distance so they could have a nice run to the 1st turn. Article is on bloodhorse. Garyw
VanSavant More than 1 year ago
C/All; Okay, I’ll chime in on this Lukas discussion here, and understand that I am somewhat of a fan of his. Don’t ask me to explain why, but by the same token, I don’t think the guy is really above board. I have no concrete evidence, just suspicions and what-not, but this one always has stuck with me: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G27sCLfyMgQ Watch slowly and carefully at the 12:10 to 12:11 mark during the gallop out. “say, what is that dark object Stevens just put into Pat Day’s hand (I think that’s Pat Day)? What is that? Is that a machina”… Maybe it’s nothing. Curious what others think… Later gators vs