Smooth Air glides home in the Ohio Derby (gr. II).

Smooth Air glides home in the Ohio Derby (gr. II).

JJ Zamaiko

Smooth Air Much the Best in Ohio Derby

The Smooth Jazz colt drew clear in the stretch May 31 at Thistledown.

Manoel Cruz gave Mount Joy Stables’ Smooth Air a perfect stalking trip and the Smooth Jazz colt responded with authority, taking over before the eighth-pole and then drawing clear for a convincing four-length victory in the $300,000 Ohio Derby (gr. II) (VIDEO) for 3-year-olds May 31 at Thistledown.

It was the biggest career win for Smooth Air, who was second behind Big Brown in the March 29 Florida Derby (gr. I) and then a disappointing 11th in the May 3 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). The Bennie Stutts Jr. trainee picked up $180,000 for the score.

Cherokee Artist, who took the lead entering the far turn, was a clear second under Jeremy Rose, 2 1/2 lengths in front of Z Fortune, who made a bid along the rail with a furlong remaining but flattened out. The final time for nine furlongs was 1:50.26 on a fast main track.

Bred in Florida by Mount Joy Stables, Smooth Air is out of the French Deputy mare Air France. He is now 4-2-2 from nine starts. His other graded stakes score came Jan. 5 in the Hutcheson (gr. II) at Gulfstream Park.

Going off as the second choice, the winner paid $5.80, $3.40, and $2.40. The exacta (1-8) returned $27.80, while the trifecta (1-8-7) with favorite Z Fortune was worth $53.80.

Early on it was 70-1 longshot Celtic Meal who set the pace. The son of Formal Dinner sprinted to the front, posting fractions of :22.52 and :46.34. But he was done shortly after the half-mile pole and gave way to Cherokee Artist, who had been pressing the leader all along.

Smooth Air, never far back, came up to challenge Cherokee Artist as they came out of the turn and after a brief duel, theSmooth Air took over by a length at the eighth-pole. He put the race away with a half-furlong to go.

Smooth Air has now earned $575,500.

Medjool, last through the backstretch, rallied mildly to get fourth, followed by Your Round, Instill, Celtic Meal, and Stolen Chevy.

(Chart, Equibase)