Favored Casablanca Smile could not have had an easier setup in Keeneland's $125,000 Rood and Riddle Dowager Stakes, kicking away in the stretch for a front-running seven-length romp over a firm turf course Oct. 24 (VIDEO).
The 4-year-old Chilean-bred champion daughter of Ocean Terrace recorded her first win in four North American starts as the 7-5 choice. Javier Castellano was aboard for trainer Shug McGaughey and owner Leo Liaskos' Green Hills Farm.
Casablanca Smile broke second in the 1 1/2-mile Dowager as Speak Easy Gal, gate-to-wire winner of the Orchid Stakes (gr. IIIT) over the same distance at Gulfstream Park this spring, led the opening quarter-mile. But Casablanca Smile easily overtook Speak Easy Gal on the outside after a super-soft :27.65 opening quarter-mile. Toting top weight of 125 pounds, she dictated an easy pace from there as the well-spaced six-horse field made its way around the track in single file. Six furlongs went in 1:18.91 and the mile in 1:45.15.
With a quarter-mile to run, Speak Easy Gal, ridden by Elvis Trujillo, attempted to catch to the leader, but Casablanca Smile responded when asked by Castellano leaving the final turn to take a commanding lead in upper stretch. As Speak Easy Gal tired, Casablanca Smile opened up by 3 1/2 lengths at mid-stretch and coasted home under easy handling in a time of 2:33.70, nearly five seconds off the course mark.
Sweet and Flawless, tracking the front-runners in fourth most of the way while within striking distance for Julien Leparoux, launched her bid in upper stretch to sweep past Speak Easy Gal by 1 3/4 lengths for the runner-up spot. Speak Easy Gal was followed by Dyani, Emerald Beech, and Restless Soul, who gave way after stalking the leaders in third past the quarter-mile pole.
Winner of both the Chilean Oaks (gr. I) and El Derby (gr. I) in her final two starts in her native land last year, Casablanca Smiles had recorded two seconds and a third in her three prior United States starts, all in stakes company. She was coming off a runner-up finish in Saratoga's 11-furlong Glens Falls Handicap (gr. IIIT) Sept. 6, a race in which she led in the stretch but could not hold off Keertana.
“We’ve run her three times and she’s run great all three times, but today she settled a lot better than she has in her previous races,” said McGaughey’s assistant, Robbie Medina.
Casablanca Smile improved her career mark to 6-5-2 in 16 starts with earnings of $308,682.
Haras El Sheik bred the winning bay filly who is out of Periza, by Sadlers Congress.
Casablanca Smile paid $4.80, $2.80, and $2.20 and topped a $22.20 exacta. Sweet and Flawless remained winless in six starts in 2010, returning $3.60 and $2.40. Speak Easy Gal, the 2-1 second choice for trainer Marty Wolfson, was $2.20 to show.