The feature event at Saratoga on Friday was the $100,000 Curlin S., which featured both Stanford and Tekton.
However, Smart Transition proved better than those two, and everyone else, when drawing off in the 1 1/8-mile contest by 4 3/4 lengths.
The John Shirreffs trainee produced plenty of buzz with the win under Junior Alvarado, which he accomplished in 1:50.40 over the fast main track.
Smart Transition was content to track behind Stanford, Battle Midway and Tekton, who were racing nearly in tandem not far away in front. Set down by Alvarado nearing the turn, the bay colt easily avoided Battle Midway as that one began backing up fast on the inside, took over on the outside and pulled away to earn his first stakes victory.
Smart Transition added just a second career win to his resume in this spot, which was his second straight stakes attempt after making his black-type bow a fourth-placing in the Dwyer S. (G3) on Independence Day.
The Kentucky-bred won the Curlin impressively and now seems bound for the $1.25 million Travers S. (G1) on August 29 going 10 furlongs at the Spa. A beaming Shirreffs wouldn’t confirm it in the after-race interview, but he also didn’t rule it out either.
Smart Transition is likely to face some tough competition if he starts in the Travers.
One who could (but is highly unlikely to) pop up at long odds is Gangster, a three-year-old son of Street Boss who emphatically broke his maiden one race after the Curlin.
Gangster was making just his second career start in Friday’s maiden special weight, which was the same nine-furlong distance of the Curlin. The Todd Pletcher pupil ran fourth in his debut at Belmont Park while sprinting 6 1/2 furlongs, and seemed to relish the extra distance on this occasion.
Gangster led all the way home after being hustled from the gate by jockey Jose Ortiz. He was sent off the 21-1 longest shot in the nine-horse field but ran like a favorite while scoring by five lengths in a final time of 1:49.71.
Gangster beat Smart Transition’s 1:50.40 Curlin time by .69 seconds.
There would be any number of trainers willing to take a shot at Saratoga’s Mid-Summer Derby, but Pletcher is not known for quick turnarounds. The chances of Gangster, whose dam is a half-sister to Grade 2-winning sire Sir Cherokee, being in the Travers are pretty slim, but it’s an interesting angle nonetheless.
Smart Transition photo courtesy of NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography