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Smooth Roller Heads to Breeders’ Cup After Easy Awesome Again

Smooth Roller Heads to Breeders’ Cup After Easy Awesome Again: The Awesome Again (GI) has been run under that name for only three years, but even before the name change horses used the race as springboard to the Breeders’ Cup Classic. In 1987, Ferdinand won the race, then named the Goodwood Breeders’ Cup Handicap, before going on to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic over Alysheba. Bertrando, another very good colt, won the Goodwood Breeders’ Cup Handicap before managing a sixth-place finish behind Concern and Tabasco Cat in the 1994 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs. In 1998, a very good Silver Charm won the Goodwood Breeders’ Cup Handicap before finishing second in the Breeders’ Cup Classic to Awesome Again. In 1999, Budroyale finished second in the Goodwood Breeders’ Cup Handicap behind Cat Thief, defeating horses such as Swain and Chester House. In 2000, the half-brother to Budroyale named Tiznow won the Goodwood Breeders’ Cup Handicap before winning his first Breeders’ Cup Classic. Pleasantly Perfect won the Goodwood Breeders’ Cup Handicap two years in a row (2002 and 2003), but in 2003, the Goodwood served as his final prep before a win in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. The last horse to use the race as a prep, by then named the Awesome Again, was Mucho Macho Man, and he went on to win one of the most thrilling editions of the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Smooth Roller Horse

Smooth Roller and jockey Tyler Baze win the Grade I, $300,000 Awesome Again Stakes, Saturday, September 26, 2015 at Santa Anita Park, Arcadia CA. Photo: Benoit

This year, the winner of the Awesome Again and a Breeders’ Cup Classic contender is Smooth Roller. Trained by Victor Garcia, who hasn’t won a graded stakes event since 1989, and ridden by Tyler Baze, the lightly raced four-year-old gelding by Hard Spun won his first Grade I race in this graded stakes debut. The gelding defeated horses such as Bayern (2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner), Hard Aces (2015 Gold Cup winner), and Hoppertunity (2014 Clark Handicap winner), all of whom are Grade I winners. The gelding took charge coming into the lane and easily pulled away from Hoppertunity and Bayern, who finished second and third, respectively.

Trainer Victor Garcia expected his gelding to run huge after a terrible race last time out in the Harry F. Brubaker Stakes.

“I expected him to run big. He had a lot of trouble in his last race. He was washed out, stumbled from the gate, was four or five wide both turns, and only got beat a length and one-quarter. I worked the horse twice, and he worked real good. Tyler was real happy with it. We’ll go to the Breeders’ Cup (Classic), absolutely. This will be my second Breeders’ Cup. I ran a filly named Approved to Fly in 1988 (fourth in the Juvenile Fillies).”

Smooth Roller is bred to excel at longer distances. The gelding is a son of Hard Spun, who finished second in the 2007 Kentucky Derby. The versatile son of Danzig not only won a Grade I sprint but also placed in the 2007 Haskell Invitational and Breeders’ Cup Classic, the latter loss coming behind champion Curlin.

Smooth Roller is out of an unraced Unbridled mare. Unbridled was an influential stallion and is currently the only stallion to have sired a different winner of each Triple Crown race. Unbridled won the 1990 Kentucky Derby, Breeders’ Cup Classic, and finished second in the Preakness Stakes during his own racing career.

Smooth Roller was sold as a yearling at the 2012 Keeneland September Yearling Sales. The gelding was consigned by Taylor Made Sales Agency, bringing $160,000 as a part of Hard Spun’s third crop. As of 2012, Smooth Roller is a half-brother to three winners from three to race. Smooth Roller’s third dam is a half-sister to Secreto, the Group I winner of the Ever Ready Epsom Derby.

According to TrueNicks, Smooth Roller is bred on a successful cross. While there are eight registered foals of racing age, four of them are winners from six starts. Two of these foals are stakes winners, or 33%. This a good statistic as there is such a limited number of babies bred on this cross.

Smooth Roller now has a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Classic as long as he stays healthy and his connections opt to run him in the ten-furlong contest. While he defeated a decent field, he will likely be a longshot in the Classic. He will not have an easy task as he will be facing American Pharoah, Beholder, Honor Code, and other top horses.

The Breeders’ Cup will take place on October 30 and 31 at Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, Kentucky. The $5 million dollar Breeders’ Cup Classic is the closing race of the Breeders’ Cup races on October 31. Other horses already confirmed for the Breeders’ Cup Classic are American Pharoah, Beholder, and possibly Honor Code.

Awesome Again Stakes 2015 Replay: