Classy 6-year-old Smart Bid nailed pacesetter Mr. Vegas on the wire to score as the favorite by a head in the $122,500 Fair Grounds Handicap (gr. IIIT) (VIDEO) Feb. 25.
The son of Smart Strike remained perfect in two starts on the Fair Grounds turf course. Smart Bid also captured the Mervin H. Muniz Jr. Memorial Handicap (gr. IIT) at the New Orleans track last March, which was his his most recent victory and his only other graded win. A homebred for George Strawbridge Jr.’s Augustin Stabe, Smart Bid is trained by Graham Motion. He was ridden to victory by Edgar Prado, and the pair covered 1 1/8 miles on the good turf course in 1:51.91.
Breaking from post 10, Smart Bid rated comfortably in fifth on the outside through the early going while Mr. Vegas set the pace. A winner of three straight races at Fair Grounds including the Jan. 21 Colonel E. R. Bradley Handicap (gr. IIIT), Mr. Vegas was unchallenged on the lead and clicked off fractions of :24.40, :49.60, and 1:14.41 with Miguel Mena aboard. Ioya Bigtime
tracked in second, with Strike Impact
also up close.
Mr. Vegas cut the final turn nicely and took a 1 1/2-length lead to mid-stretch. Both Smart Bid and Colonel Bradley runner-up Dubious Miss
, ridden by Corey Lanerie, were his biggest threats—both of them chasing hard from the outside. Mr. Vegas was laboring in deep stretch but remained game as he desperately tried to hold off Smart Bid and Prado. But the 9-5 favorite got him just before the wire to earn the $75,000 winner’s share.
Mr. Vegas had to settle for second, 1 1/2 lengths in front of Dubious Miss in the field of seven. Ioya Bigtime was fourth, followed by Strike Impact, Derby Kitten
, and Achaemenes
Smart Bid was bred in Pennsylvania and is out of the Danzig mare Recording. The Mervin Muniz was his lone win in eight starts in 2011, but he was graded stakes-placed four times, twice as a runner-up in grade I races. The victory improved his record to 5-7-4 from 20 starts and earnings of $891,813.
The winner carried top weight of 121 pounds and paid $5.50, $3.40, and $2.60. The exacta (10-3) returned $17.60 and the trifecta (10-3-6) was worth $49.20.