Monday, 24 July 2023 20:53

Trainer Craig Smith's Unbelievable Bargain: Smart as Me Wins $100,000 Century Mile Handicap after $6,000 Purchase

Smart as Me (Prescod, N'Rico) in the stretch run of the Century Mile Handicap (Black Type) on July 22, 2023 Smart as Me (Prescod, N'Rico) in the stretch run of the Century Mile Handicap (Black Type) on July 22, 2023 Coady Photo/Ryan Haynes

The question isn’t how Smart as Me won Saturday’s $100,000 Century Mile Handicap.

It isn’t about how the four-year-old won decisively by four lengths either.

Instead, it’s all about how trainer Craig Smith was able to buy Smart as Me for just $6,000 as a two-year-old in Keeneland, Kentucky’s November 2021 sale.

The latter question is almost impossible to answer.

“Craig has a real good eye for young horses,” said Jamie Graham, who owns the now four-year-old with Smith, Adrian Munro’s Highfield Investment Group, and Keith Johns True North Stable.

“But to get Smart as Me for just $6,000 is unbelievable. The horse’s pedigree is amazing. It’s flabbergasting.”

For sure.

Start with the the sire Malibu Moon, who has sired multiple Grade 1 winners, two Eclipse Award winners and Orb, winner of the 2013 Kentucky Derby.

Then there’s Smart as Me’s dam Siren Serenade, who also produced Luminance, who was second in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks, sold barren for $1 million and then $1.2 million to Juddmonte Farms in foal to Gun Runner.

Siren Serenade is also the dam of Stellar Sound, who was stakes placed in a graded stake.

But we’re just getting started.

Smart as Me’s second dam is Versailles Treaty, who won $1.2 million with nine wins, nine seconds and two thirds in 20 career starts. Two of the seconds were in the 1991 and 1992 Breeders’ Cup Distaff. Three of of the wins were in the Grade 1 Ruffian Handicap at Belmont, the Grade 1 Gazelle, also at Belmont, and the Grade 1 Alabama at Saratoga.

“Every once in a while you get lucky,” said Graham, who has owned over 100 horses but said that Smart as Me is definitely the best horse he’s ever owned.

But $6,000?

Did Smart as Me only have three legs?

“No, just a few minor ailments that just needed time,” laughed Smith, who is having another solid season - which he credits to his staff - won four more races at Century Mile this past weekend and has career earnings just short of $5 million.

“Everybody asks me the same question. How did you get a horse like that for just $6,000,” said Smith, who took seven horses to Tampa Bay this past winter and “when the dust settled” came home with 20 while taking advantage of Horse Racing Alberta’s highly successful incentive programs. “His pedigree is incredibly deep.

“Just timing I guess. We were the lucky ones. He was bred to be a good one.”

Now it looks like Smart as Me is exactly that - a good one.

Saturday’s stake was Smart as Me’s fourth win of the season already. It would have been five but he was disqualified for interference in one race and placed third. Running exclusively on grass at Tampa Bay over the winter, he also has three seconds and some of the runner-up spots were against quality individuals while running in Tampa Bay over the winter.

As just one example, Ronstadt, who defeated Smart as Me at Tampa in February, came back to run second in an allowance race this past weekend at New Jersey’s Monmouth Park.

As for the Century Mile Handicap itself, Smart as Me, ridden confidently by jockey N’Rico Prescod, had to be steadied early, found room along the rail down the backstretch and then took off after Glava, who opened up a lead of some 10 lengths.

Taking the lead at the top of the lane, it was then Smart as Me who opened a long lead and was by himself at the wire holding race favourite and last year’s Alberta champion At Attention safe by four comfortable lengths.

Somehow Smart as Me, who has now run first or second in his last six starts, was sent off at 7-1 and paid $16.60 to win.

“The horse ran great,” said Smith, who bought four other horses at Tampa for the group that now owns Smart as Me.

“We set up an agreement where if you bought one of the five horses you bought all five. It was in for a penny in for a pound.

“It’s a really good group of guys. They know what racing is all about. They know the highs and they know the lows and they all love horse racing.

“They had to wait 11 months after we bought Smart as Me to see him run. It was a patience game.

“Smart as Me is a professional. He’s still a colt but he doesn’t cause any problems. He’s a great horse to train. He’s a class horse. Everything he does, he does well.

“He ran on grass in Florida and everybody told me that he was only a grass horse. But everything he’s shown me - including this weekend’s win - suggests he’ll run on both dirt and grass.

“Honestly, I think he would run over broken glass.”

Smart as Me’s next assignment is up in the air.

“One day at a time,” said Smith.

“But I would like to run him on Derby Day, August 26, in the Speed to Spare. It’s a mile and a quarter but it doesn’t appear that the extra distance will be a problem.

“Whether he runs before then or not I haven’t decided. He’s had nine starts already this year and I don’t want to empty the tank too much.

“He runs well fresh too.”

STOCK REPORT - There were three other stakes on this past weekend’s calendar.

Also on Saturday was the Count Lathum, a prep to the Canadian Derby, which was won by second-favourite American Blaze, who got up just in time to edge out Kauai Dan with Kystone running a game third.

On Friday, Floral won her third race in her last four starts capturing the R.K. ‘Red’ Smith by more than four lengths for owner Dallas Nelson and trainer Tim Rycroft.

Also on Friday Force to Rekn With shipped in from B.C. to go wire to wire in the Sonoma with favourite Big Hug, last year’s Two-Year-Old Filly champion, second.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Follow me on Twitter at CurtisJStock

Read 3576 times Last modified on Monday, 24 July 2023 21:03