Cannon Thoroughbreds LLC’s homebred Smooth Like Strait dueled Island Commish for most of the race before he put away that rival with three-sixteenths of a mile to run and comfortably won Saturday’s inaugural $100,000 War Chant presented by TwinSpires.com at Churchill Downs by 1 ¾ lengths over Pixelate.
Smooth Like Straight, trained by Michael McCarthy and ridden by John Velazquez, defeated a dozen rival 3-year-olds as he covered one mile on firm turf in 1:36.77.
The leaders rattled off fractions of :23.90, :48.24 and 1:12.33 and were five lengths clear of the rest of the field at the head of the stretch.
“The turf was really firm the entire day and I was really excited about my horse’s chances,” Velazquez said. “Then, right before the race, the rain started but I’m really proud that he handled everything well. He ran a hard race.”
The victory was worth $57,040 and increased Smooth Like Strait’s earnings to $178,323 with a record of 3-1-1 in seven starts. The Kentucky-bred son of Midnight Lute out of the Flower Alley mare Smooth as Usual won the Cecil D. DeMille (Grade III) as a 2-year-old and finished second to Hariboux (GB) in the $100,000 Pasadena at Santa Anita on Feb. 29.
Smooth Like Strait returned $12.20, $7.20 and $5.20 as the 5-1 third-betting choice. Pixelate, ridden by Joel Rosario, returned $10.60 and $7 and finished a half-length in front of 3-1 favorite Field Pass, who paid $3.80 to show under Jose Ortiz.
Hieronymous, South Bend, Shared Sense, Street Ready, Fenwick Station, Bama Breeze, Bodecream, Billy Batts, Island Commish and Liam’s Pride completed the order of finish. Vanzzy and Natural Power (IRE) were scratched.
The War Chant, named in honor of the 3-year-old who won the 2000 Breeders’ Cup Mile (GI) at Churchill Downs, came four weeks in advance of the $100,000 Audubon, a 1 1/8-mile turf event at Churchill Downs on Saturday, June 20.