Michael Tabor's 7-1 shot Smooth Jazz took full advantage of his inside post, gunning to the front with jockey Edgar Prado and pulling away in the stretch to score a three-length upset over 4-5 favorite Crafty C.T. in Sunday's $273,750 Commonwealth Breeders' Cup (gr. II) at Keeneland.
Trained by Todd Pletcher, the Kentucky-bred 4-year-old Storm Boot colt won in a time of 1:21 3/5 for seven furlongs. Pace-stalking Multiple Choice held on for third, 9 1/4 lengths behind the winner in the seven-horse field.
"This race was a piece of cake," Prado said. "When you have the ammunition you can do anything. We just went to the front and didn't look back."
Crafty C.T., with Jerry Bailey aboard, tracked pacesetting Smooth Jazz and Multiple Choice and Shane Sellers from about five lengths behind through fractions of :22 for the opening quarter-mile and :44 4/5 for the half.
On the turn for home, Crafty C.T. took over second while angling out for the stretch run, and trying to reach contention for the lead. But in the final furlong, Prado and Smooth Jazz, who had the benefit of an inside rail bias, put the favorite away after three quarters of a mile in 1:09 2/5. Smooth Jazz romped home with mild urging by a widening advantage.
"We were in the right place at the right time," Pletcher said. "The plan was to put him on the lead at all costs, which is not this horse's usual running style. It worked."
Bailey said Crafty C.T. lacked much of edge.
"I knew going to the gate he really didn't want to run today," he said. "When the gates opened, he never jumped."
Najran, the 7-2 choice, broke through the gate before the start of the race, then broke in the air and plowed into Roman Dancer on his outside. Rushed by Eibar Coa to force the pace, he faded to finish last.
Smooth Jazz, who was coming off of a fifth-place showing in the Richter Scale Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II) at Gulfstream on March 8, recorded his first graded stakes victory. The victory, worth $169,725, was his fifth in 11 starts and more than doubled his career bankroll to $321,105.
"We've always thought this horse was a very good horse," Pletcher said. "He needed his last race at Gulfstream and today he showed the kind of potential he has."
San Gabriel Investments and T.F. Van Meter bred Smooth Jazz, who was purchased as a yearling for $95,000 at Keeneland.
The winner paid $16, $5.20, and $3.40. Crafty C.T. returned $2.60 and $2.20. Multiple Choice's show price was $2.80. The $2 exacta was $44.20.