Smooth Like Strait, Field Pass Face Off In Sunday’s Grade 2 Twilight Derby

Cannon Thoroughbreds homebred Smooth Like Strait returns to Southern California and will try to stretch his speed to a mile and one eighth on turf as he heads a field of nine sophomores in Sunday’s Grade 2, $200,000 Twilight Derby at Santa Anita.

A resounding 2 ½ length winner of the Grade 2 La Jolla Handicap two starts back, Smooth Like Strait, who is trained by Michael McCarthy, finished fourth as the 6-5 favorite in a Grade 2 stakes at Churchill Downs on Sept. 5 and will likely vie for favoritism with midwestern invader Field Pass, who he faced on Sept. 5.

A two-time Grade 3 winner in Kentucky, trainer Mike Maker’s Field Pass was a close third in the same race Smooth Like Strait was favored in Sept. 5 and he’s won four out of his seven starts this year.

C R K Stable’s Express Train, who showed much promise at age two, will be trying turf for the first time on Sunday in what will be his third start of the year for John Shirreffs and rates a big chance in what appears to be a wide open Twilight Derby.


Owner: Cannon Thoroughbreds, LLC

Trainer: Michael McCarthy

A Kentucky-bred colt by Midnight Lute, he made the lead turning for home in the Grade 2 American Turf on Sept. 5 at Churchill Downs, but tired late to be beaten four lengths. A gutty one mile minor turf stakes winner three starts back at Churchill Downs on May 23, he’s won two out of his last three starts and was also a winner of the Grade 3 Cecile B. DeMille Stakes six starts back on Dec. 1, 2019. Smooth Like Strait is four for nine lifetime with earnings of $277,823 and he’ll be reunited with Umberto Rispoli, who pointed him to victory in the La Jolla Handicap as the 4-5 favorite.


Owner: Three Diamonds Farm Trainer: Mike Maker

A Grade 3 winner going a mile and one eighth on synthetic Polytrack at Turfway Park on March 14, he notched his second Grade 3 win over a “good” turf three starts back at Keeneland on July 12. Most recently third, beaten 1 ¾ lengths in the Grade 2 American Turf Stakes at Churchill Downs Sept. 5, a race in which he rallied to wrest command from Smooth Like Strait in mid-stretch, he was a gate to wire winner of an ungraded stakes going 1 1/8 miles on turf four starts back on June 20 at Churchill. Field Pass, who defeated Smooth Like Strait by 2 ¼ lengths on Sept. 5, has demonstrated ample versatility and the ability to get the Twilight Derby distance. With an overall mark of 13-5-2-2, he’s the leading money earner in the field with $472,610 and he’ll no doubt vie for favoritism when ridden for the first time by Drayden Van Dyke.


Owner: C R K Stable, LLC Trainer: John Shirreffs

A $500,000 Keeneland September Yearling Sale purchase, this colt by Union Rags broke his maiden going one mile on dirt in his second start by 14 ¼ lengths and in his final start at age two, was a well beaten fourth at 5-2 in the Grade 1 American Pharoah Stakes at a mile and one sixteenth on Sept. 27, 2019. An impressive two length winner of a 6 ½ furlong allowance on Aug. 23, a race in which he overcame a stumble at the start, he flattened out a bit late when second, beaten three quarters of a length as the 4-5 favorite in a one mile allowance here Sept. 26. In what will be his third start off a long layoff, Express Train should be a tighter horse on Sunday as he tries turf for the first time in his sixth career start with regular rider Mike Smith aloft.


Race 9 of 10 Approximate post time 5 p.m. PT

  1. Farmington Road—Flavien Prat-124
  2. Express Train—Mike Smith—124
  3. Margot’s Boy—Tiago Pereira—124
  4. Kiss Today Goodbye—Victor Espinoza—124
  5. Dominant Soul—Edwin Maldonado–124
  6. Smooth Like Strait—Umberto Rispoli—124
  7. Scarto—Juan Hernandez—124
  8. K P All Systems Go—Abel Cedillo–124
  9. Field Pass—Drayden Van Dyke—124

First post time for a 10-race card on Sunday is at 1 p.m. Santa Anita’s races can be viewed live and free of charge at

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