09/30/2015 1:28PM

Rolling to the Classic

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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. 

PAST PERFORMANCES ARE AVAILABLE AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS BLOG POST.

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.

HANDIGAMBLING:

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!

Harpo
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A MORE DETAILED ANALYSIS IS ALWAYS APPRECIATED !
 
REMEMBER, IF YOU ARE DECLARED THE WINNER OF THE HANDIGAMBLING EXERCISE; PLEASE CONTACT FORMBLOG@DRF.COM WITH YOUR DRF LOGIN AND PASSWORD IN ORDER TO ACCESS YOUR PRIZE PACKAGE.

ALSO, IF THE WINNER WOULD LIKE TO SELECT THE FOLLOWING WEEK'S RACE, PLEASE CONTACT FORMBLOG@DRF.COM NO LATER THAN THE FOLLOWING WEDNESDAY MORNING (A SATURDAY RACE IS MOST IDEAL)

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SMOOTH ROLLER.pdf650.93 KB
HGSHADWELLTURF.pdf198.19 KB