Mount Joy Stables’ 4-year-old Florida homebred Smooth Air wore down the leaders in the deep stretch of the $300,000 Gulfstream Park Handicap (gr. II) (VIDEO) March 14 at Gulfstream Park to score a 1 1/4-length decision over Rolbea Throughbred Racing’s 5-year-old Finallymadeit.
Ridden by Paco Lopez, Smooth Air was making his second start this year after finishing seventh in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) at Santa Anita in late October for trainer Bennie Stutts Jr. The son of Smooth Jazz
relaxed off the pace down the backstretch of the one-mile test as Finallymadeit
dueled for the lead with Robert Clay’s Formidable
before rallying down the outside in the field of six older horses. Formidable held third, three-quarters of a length behind the runner-up.
“We didn’t break the way I had hoped,” Lopez said. “We were stumbling around, but I was able to straighten up and turn things around. (Finallymadeit) bothered me a little bit, but when it was time to make the push my horse answered the call. At the end there was no doubt in my mind we were going to take it. We had plenty horse.”
Smooth Air, winner of the Ohio Derby (gr. II) and Hutcheson Stakes (gr. II), and second to Big Brown in the Florida Derby (gr. I) last year, paid $6.80 as the third choice and was timed in 1:35:49 over the fast track. Marc Keller’s Bribon and Robert La Penta’s Cool Coal Man, the co-favorites, finished fourth and fifth, respectively.
Smooth Air is out of the French Deputy mare Air France. He is now 6-3-3 from 14 starts with earnings of $932,200.
“Once we decided not to go to Dubai (World Cup) we targeted this race to see if he could be effective at a one-turn mile, because the major goal from here is the Met Mile (at Belmont Park on Memorial Day),” said Brian Burns of Mount Joy Stables. “He’s been so special for us. He’s a third-generation homebred. He’ll run once more before the Met Mile. There are several options.”