06/16/2011 3:43PM

Colonial Turf Cup: Smart Bid may give Motion edge over Romans and Guys Reward

Benoit & Associates
Smart Bid will attempt to go as far as 1 3/16 miles for the first time in the Colonial Turf Cup.

The latest round of Graham Motion versus Dale Romans comes on a much smaller stage.

The Motion-Romans match-up was front-page news when Derby winner Animal Kingdom faced Preakness hero Shackleford in the Belmont Stakes last weekend, but on Saturday it is Smart Bid, trained by Motion, lining up against the Romans-trained Guys Reward and six others in the $500,000 Colonial Turf Cup at Colonial Downs in Virginia.

Until this year the Colonial Turf Cup had been restricted to 3-year-olds and served as a lead-in to the Virginia Derby, but while the Virginia Derby remains an age-restricted race, the Turf Cup was opened up to older horses for 2011.

The 1 3/16-mile distance of the Turf Cup marks the farthest Smart Bid ever has raced, but the 5-year-old horse, once considered more a miler by his trainer, has shown signs of wanting more ground. In March, he won the Mervin Muniz Stakes over nine furlongs at Fair Grounds, and on Derby Day, a race before Animal Kingdom’s triumph, Smart Bid was slowly getting to winner Get Stormy in the nine-furlong Turf Classic, finishing second by less than a length.

“I really had this horse pegged as a 3-year-old as a mile-type horse,” Motion said. “As he’s gone on, now I get the feeling he’s more one-paced, and these longer races suit him.”

Smart Bid, a son of Smart Strike, quietly has earned more than $650,000 for the Augustin Stable while showing something close to his best almost every time out: In 15 starts he has finished third or better 13 times. Jockey Edgar Prado rides Smart Bid for the fifth race in a row, and familiarity with Smart Bid’s racing habits is a plus.

“You really have to start riding him at the half-mile pole to get him home,” said Motion.

The Colonial Turf Cup also includes the Turf Classic fourth-place finisher, Rahytrada, sixth-place finisher, Moryba, and ninth-place finisher, Court Vision. Court Vision has a second-place finish from two Colonial starts, and the $2.6 million-earner probably is better than his showing in the Turf Classic, but Court Vision’s best recent form has come in one-mile races.

The Romans-trained horse, Guys Reward, is not without a chance. He finished third, beaten two noses, in the May 28 Louisville Handicap and should benefit turning back from that race’s 12-furlong distance.

All Along: Aruna appears formidable

While Smart Bid might be a tepid Turf Cup favorite, the Motion-trained Aruna looks like an odds-on chalk in the Grade 3, $100,000 All Along earlier on the card.

Aruna raced in France during 2009 and part of 2010, and was unbeaten in three U.S. starts during the second part of last year, winning an allowance race, the $100,000 Pebbles, and the Grade 2 Mrs. Revere. Racing over a wet and demanding course at Churchill on May 7 in the Distaff Turf Mile, her 2011 debut, Aruna finished second behind sharp winner Aviate, and she simply looks like a better horse than any of her eight opponents Saturday.

“I really like her,” Motion said. “I don’t want to look too far ahead, but I’d love to think she could compete in a Grade 1 sometime this year.”

Aruna, who Motion said has trained well between races, tends to sit mid-pack early in her races, make a move to reach contention partway through the race, and then come with a strong stretch run. She has yet to win beyond 1 1/16 miles, but should be able to get Saturday’s nine-furlong trip.

Dynawaltz, trained by Motion’s mentor, Jonathan Sheppard, might have the best chance at an upset. The 4-year-old Dynawaltz finished second last month in the Gallorette Stakes at Pimlico in her second race since being imported from England.

◗ Mikoshi could go off a mild favorite over 10 rivals in the $50,000 Da Hoss Stakes over one mile.