Multiple grade II winner Smooth Air, coming off a strong second in the Metropolitan Mile (gr. I), makes his first start for trainer Chad Brown in the $250,000 Salvator Mile (gr. III) at Monmouth Park July 4.
The winner of the Salvator Mile earns a starting slot in the $1 million Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile to be run on Santa Anita's Pro-Ride synthetic track Nov. 7. Eight are entered, led by Mount Joy Stables' Smooth Air, who is now in the hands of Brown, a former assistant to Bobby Frankel. He was previously trained by Bennie Stutts Jr.
Smooth Air, winner of the Gulfstream Park Handicap (gr. II) in March, gave a game effort in the Met Mile May 25. The 4-year-old son of Smooth Jazz rallied between horses to get the lead at the sixteenth pole but could not hold off Bribon in the final yards, losing by a half-length. The bay colt went over the $1 million mark in earnings ($1,052,200), however, and his career mark now stands at 6-4-3 in 15 starts. Smooth Air won the Hutcheson Stakes (gr. II) and Ohio Derby (gr. II) last year.
Paco Lopez, who has ridden Smooth Air in his past three starts, retains the mount. Smooth Air will carry 121 pounds and break from post 2.
Kiss the Kid and Two Step Salsa are among the leading challengers.
A multiple graded winner trained by Amy Tarrant for Hardacre Farm, Kiss the Kid returns to the main track after seven consecutive starts on turf, including grade III wins in the Cliff Hanger at Medowlands last fall and Gulfstream Park's Appleton March 28. The 6-year-old son of Lemon Drop Kid ran sixth in his last start, the June 13 Monmouth Stakes, and was seventh in the Dixie Stakes (gr. IIT) at Pimlico in the race before that.
“I thought I should give him a chance in here because we have the home field advantage,” Tarrant said. “He trains over this track every day, and he’s already won on the dirt here.
“If ever I was going to try him in a graded stakes on dirt, this is the place to take a shot,” she said.
Now owned by Godolphin and trained by Saaed bin Suroor, Two Step Salsa captured the $1 million Godolphin Mile (UAE-II) in March but faltered to sixth in his lone start since, the True North Handicap (gr. II) at Belmont Park June 6. The Petionville colt won from six furlongs to 1 1/16 miles in Southern California as a 3-year-old last year.
Solar Flare won the Frisk Me Now Stakes at Monmouth as a prep for this spot by eight lengths May 24. Larry Jones trains the Argentine-bred 5-year-old son of Salt Lake for Fox Hill Farms.
Trainer Nick Zito is represented by Robert LaPenta's Coal Play, who won his second start of the year by more than seven lengths over an allowance field at Belmont June 10.
Brazilian-bred Runforthedoe (sixth) and The Roundhouse (10th) attempt to atone for lackluster efforts in the Metropolitan. Keep Laughing bounces out of a three-length allowance score in the mud at Belmont June 4 for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.
$250,000 Salvator Mile (gr. III, Race 9, 4:50 p.m.), 3 & Up
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Runforthedoe (BRZ), R Migliore, 117, P H Lobo
2. Smooth Air (FL), P Lopez, 121, C C Brown
3. Solar Flare (ARG), G Saez, 119, J L Jones
4. Kiss the Kid (KY), C Hill, 121, A Tarrant
5. Coal Play (KY), J Bravo, 117, N P Zito
6. Two Step Salsa (KY), G K Gomez, 121, S bin Suroor
7. Keep Laughing (KY), E Castro, 117, K P McLaughlin
8. The Roundhouse (KY), C P DeCarlo, 117, T A Pletcher