02/25/2012 5:35PM

Fair Grounds: Smart Bid nails Mr. Vegas on wire in turf handicap


Smart Bid is not really a horse with a home track. He’s been bedded down this winter at the Palm Meadows training center in Florida, and also spends time at the Fair Hill training center in Maryland. And when it comes to racing, Smart Bid is liable to show up anywhere: His six starts in the last year had come at six different tracks. But Smart Bid seems especially fond of New Orleans. Back at Fair Grounds for the first time since he won the Grade 2 Mervin Muniz Handicap last March 26, Smart Bid won the Grade 3, $125,000 Fair Grounds Handicap in first start since September.

Smart Bid had finished eighth over yielding turf in that final race before his break, but that was the rare non-competitive performance from 6-year-old Smart Bid. When he loses, Smart Bid makes it close, and when he wins, Smart Bid tends to make it tight. In the Fair Grounds ‘Cap, the margin was a head, with Smart Bid up just before the wire over Mr. Vegas, who set the pace and gamely held through the stretch run.  

Mr. Vegas, winner of three straight turf races this winter at Fair Grounds, set splits of 24.40 seconds for the first quarter-mile, 49.60 for the opening half, and 1:14.41 for six furlongs while maintaining a clear advantage and racing well off the rail. Fifth down the backstretch, Smart Bid and jockey Edgar Prado launched a sustained wide bid partway around the far turn, coming between horses in mid-stretch to engage Mr. Vegas. The pacesetter ran on gamely, but not quite fast enough to hold back Smart Bid’s final surge.

Smart Bid, a Smart Strike horse owned by George Strawbridge’s Augustin Stables, won for the fifth time in 20 starts. He was timed in 1:51.91 for 1 1/8 miles on “good” turf, and paid $5.80 as the favorite. Dubious Miss rallied on the far outside to get third, and was followed by Ioya Bigtime, Strike Impact, Derby Kitten, and Achaemenes.