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Saratoga and Del Mar 2017

Smith, Uh Oh Bango Eye Big Cap Victory

Jockey Mike Smith

Mike Smith is eight away from career victory No. 5,000. “If they were all as easy as this one, I’d have been there already,” the Hall of Fame jockey said flashing his signature smile after guiding Mizdirection to a 2 ½ length triumph over four outclassed rivals in Saturday’s Clockers’ Corner Handicap.

 

The win brought his figure to 4,991 (he would reach 4,992 with a come-from-behind win on Tigah in the eighth race).

 

A more daunting task awaits the 41-year-old New Mexico native next Saturday, when he rides Uh Oh Bango in the Grade I, $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap presented by San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino at 1 ¼ miles.

 

Among his potential rivals is Game On Dude, last year’s Big ‘Cap winner and this year’s pre-race favorite, should he run. Smith already owns an upset over the Bob Baffert-trainee, posting a 1 ½-length victory aboard Drosselmeyer in the Breeders’ Cup Classic last Nov. 5.

 

“He’s certainly a stayer,” Smith said of Uh Oh Bango, a 5-year-old Top Hit horse, who was bred in Arizona by his owners, Triple AAA Ranch. “He’s the kind of horse that can get the distance and he’s doing really well.”

 

Uh Oh Bango won the Grade II San Pasqual Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on Jan. 7, then finished a game second to 3-10 favorite Game On Dude in the San Antonio Stakes at 1 1/8 miles on Feb. 5.

 

“His last race was good,” Smith allowed. “Game On Dude ran terrific that day. If we get lucky and get a little pace up front, who knows what can happen? If Ultimate Eagle is in there with Game On Dude, there should be plenty of pace. We just got to hope that we can run ‘em down.”

 

Don’t put it past him. Smith has won with bigger longshots. Giacomo, at 50-1 in the 2005 Kentucky Derby, comes readily to mind.

 

Uh Oh Bango worked five furlongs on Santa Anita’s main track Sunday in 1:02.40.

 

Probable for the Big ‘Cap: Boxeur des Rues, Mario Gutierrez, 112; Game On Dude, Chantal Sutherland, 123; Gladding, Joel Rosario, 116; Fiddlers Afleet, no rider, 110; Holladay Road, no rider, 114; Prayer for Relief, no rider, 117; Ron the Greek, Jose Lezcano, 116; Setsuko, Victor Espinoza, 116; Thirtyfirststreet, Eswan Flores, 114; Twice the Appeal, Christian Santiago Reyes, 114; Uh Oh Bango, Mike Smith, 117; and Ultimate Eagle, Martin Pedroza, 120.

 

In other Big ‘Cap news:

 

Kiaran McLaughlin said by phone Sunday morning he would decide tomorrow whether Hawthorne Gold Cup winner Redding Colliery would ship from the East Coast for the race.

 

Two-time Santa Anita Handicap winner Lava Man will escort Robert B. Lewis Stakes winner I’ll Have Another for a six furlong workout between races on Saturday. I’ll Have Another is pointing to the Grade I, $750,000 Santa Anita Derby on April 7.

 

Doug O’Neill, who trained Lava Man and who conditions I’ll Have Another for owner J. Paul Reddam, said Sunday that in addition to Boxeur des Rues, he plans to run California-bred Lone Star Derby winner Thirtyfirststreet in the Big ‘Cap.

 

 

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