After winning a duel with Lesters Boy early on, Smile Again was headed in the stretch by 13-10 favorite Freedom Crest before fighting back to post a neck-length win in Saturday's $100,000 Bel Air Handicap (gr. II) at Hollywood Park. Under Laffit Pincay Jr., 6-year-old Smile Again completed the 1 1/16 miles in 1:41.74 on a fast track.
"Boy, that was a good race," said Pincay, who has ridden a record five Bel Air winners. "This horse tried, he didn't give up. He's got a little tendency to drifting out, but I controlled him pretty good most of the race. He was sure game, didn't give up. I thought for a while I was going to finish second. When I saw Freedom Crest creeping up and up, I thought maybe he would get tired because he hasn't run in a while. But my horse didn't lose his stride. He just kept coming back, coming back. He was so game. That was a real horse race."
Freedom Crest finished second, two lengths ahead of Dig for It. Out of Mind, Penamacor, and Lesters Boy completed the order of finish.
Smile Again's victory gave his sire, Wild Again, his second graded stakes winner on the day. Earlier Saturday at Arlington Park, Bright Valour won the Hanshin Cup Handicap (gr. III) for the second straight year.
The win marks the first in a graded stakes for Sidney H. and Jenny Craig's Smile Again and his sixth victory in 18 career races. His only previous stakes win came in the listed Forty-Niner Handicap at Golden Gate Fields in 1999. He has also finished second in the Ben Ali Stakes (gr. III). Fares Farm inc. bred Smile Again (Wild Again--Storm and Sunshine, by Star de Naskra) in Kentucky. Shine Again is trained by Ron McAnally.
Smile Again returned $19.20, $7, and $4 and topped a $1 exacta worth $29.20. Freedom Crest paid $3.40 and $2.40. Dig for It reutned $3.40 to show.
Earlier on the Hollywood Park card, 2-year-old filly Georgia's Storm (Illinois Storm--Fuljan, by Native Tradition) went wire-to-wire in winning the $108,400 Landaluce Stakes (gr. III) under Chris McCarron. The Eduardo Inda-trained California-bred completed the six furlongs in 1:10.45. Respectful finished 1 1/4 lengths back in second, followed by Who Loves Aleyna, Miss Jeanne Cat, Roaring Blaze, Ile de France, and Siphina.
The win marks the third in four starts for Reinaldo A. Martinez's Georgia's Storm, who also posted a three-length win in the Cinderella Stakes at Hollywood Park in June.
The winner earned $65,040 and returned $4, $3, and $2.20. The $1 exacta paid $10.40.
In the third graded stakes on the Hollywood Park card, Stonerside Stable's Kalatiara upset favored Dianehill in the $109,900 Royal Heroine Stakes (gr. IIIT) while making her North American racing debut. The 4-year-old daughter of Metal Storm completed the one-mile race in 1:34.31 on firm turf with McCarron in the irons. The McAnally trainee earned $65,940 for the win, her eighth in 12 career starts.
Kalatiara returned $11.20, $5.60, and $4. Second-place Dianehill paid $3.40 and $2.60. Al Desima was worth $4 to show. Southern House, Garden in the Rain, La Ronge, and Brianda completed the order of finish.