Smart Bid (center, white cap) gets his nose in front for victory in the Mervin H. Muniz Memorial Handicap. <br><a target="blank" href="">Order This Photo</a>

Smart Bid (center, white cap) gets his nose in front for victory in the Mervin H. Muniz Memorial Handicap.
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Hodges Photography/Lynn Roberts

Smart Bid Gets Gavel Call in Muniz Memorial

Augustin Stable homebred gets up by a nose in four-horse photo at Fair Grounds.

Smart Bid prevailed for the first time since November 2009 in a four-horse photo finish to the $396,000 Mervin H. Muniz Memorial Handicap (gr. IIT) March 26 on the Fair Grounds turf (VIDEO).

Ridden by Edgar Prado for trainer Graham Motion, the Augustin Stable homebred registered his first graded stakes win by a nose over Expansion as the 3-1 second choice. Brazilian-bred Moryba, the 17-10 favorite, was a head back in third with pacesetting Workin for Hops just a neck farther behind in fourth. The final time for the about 1 1/8-mile test over firm ground was a solid 1:49.97.

Morning line favorite Battle of Hastings was scratched earlier in the day by trainer Greg Fox.

Smart Bid's last win came in Santa Anita's Damascus Stakes on a synthetic track Nov. 7, 2009. The 5-year-old son of Smart Strike had lost six in a row since then. He ran well in two prior starts this year on the Gulfstream Park turf, however, including a nose loss to Teaks North in the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (gr. IT) in his most recent try Feb. 5.

Workin for Hops, ridden by Rosie Napravnik, set a conservative pace -- :24.87, :49.80, 1:14.05 -- and led by two lengths after six furlongs with Moryba second and Smart Bid third. Moryba, ridden by Kent Desormeaux, bid for the lead at the eighth pole and got the advantage close to home. But he could hold off neither Smart Bid, who closed strongly under right-handed urging from Prado, nor Expansion, closing fast for Gerard Melancon. Smart Bid got to the wire just in front of Expansion in a terrific finish.

“I had a beautiful trip,” Prado said. “He broke nice and I was in a good spot all the way around. When I called he was there for me. He fought real hard when he saw the other horse (Expansion) coming. I am very proud of the horse.”

The consistent Smart Bid earned $240,000 for the victory and improved his lifetime record to 4-4-4 in 14 starts while banking $543,138.

George Strawbridge bred Smart Bid in Pennsylvania. The dark bay/brown horse is out of the Danzig mare Recording.

Carrying 118 pounds, Smart Bid paid $8, $4.40, and $3 while topping a $76.60 exacta. Expansion, winner by a head in the Fair Grounds Handicap (gr. IIIT) in his most recent start Feb. 19 for trainer Steve Asmussen, returned $9.40 and $4. Moryba, the 119-pound highweight after an impressive allowance win in his United States debut Jan. 23 at Gulfstream, was $3.20 to show.

Workin for Hops was followed by Joinem, Sleepless Knight, Giant's Tomb, and Southern Anthem.