Rispoli Guides Smooth Like Strait To Victory In La Jolla Handicap

Cannon Thoroughbreds’ Smooth Like Strait used his speed to good advantage Sunday and scored a handy victory in the 80th running of the Grade 3 La Jolla Handicap for 3-year-olds at Del Mar near San Diego, Calif.

Under 124 pounds and Umberto Rispoli, Del Mar’s leading rider, the 4-5 favorite drew out in the lane to tally by 2 1/2 lengths at the end of the 1 1/16-mile grass test and earned $75,000 from the $125,000 purse. The victory by the Midnight Lute colt was his fourth in eight lifetime starts and pushed his bankroll to $253,323. He is trained by Michael McCarthy.

Finishing second was Exline-Border Racing, David Bernsen and partners’ Storm the Court and running third was Karl Pergola’s K P All Systems Go.

As the 4-5 race favorite, Smooth Like Strait returned $3.60, $2.60 and $2.20 across the board. He covered the distance on the green in a solid 1:40.29.

Three of the Kentucky-bred’s four victories have come in stakes races, including the Cecil B. DeMille Stakes at Del Mar last December 1.

“I knew I had the most speed,” said Rispoli. “Mike (trainer Michael McCarthy) told me to ride like I was on the best horse. When you hear that, you have confidence. When Mike Smith’s horse (Indian Peak) came up outside me on the backstretch, that was OK. It wasn’t a worry. My horse was relaxed, so we were just helping each other. Then he had good speed at the end and we were gone. I like this place (Del Mar) and I like racing in California. There’s good competition here. We go against each other and make each other better. It’s good.”

Rispoli was a double winner on the afternoon and took a 24 to 21 advantage over Flavien Prat for the riding crown at Del Mar after 13 days of racing at the shore oval.

“Very pleased,” McCarthy said. “The race unfolded like it looked on paper. I thought Umberto (rider Rispoli) did a wonderful job of getting him out in the clear on the first turn. When that horse came up outside of him on the backside it was something we’re not used to. But Umberto was very cool, didn’t panic, did the right thing and knew he was on the best horse today. When the other horse went ahead it didn’t bother me because I knew we were still traveling well in hand. When we re-engaged and got a half a length ahead I was just happy to see no one was coming from behind.”

Nobody hit the Pick Six Sunday afternoon meaning there will be a carryover of $142,511 heading into this Friday’s card. The track’s Jackpot carryover rose to $56,395.

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