Mrs. S. K. Johnston Jr.'s Mr. Hot Stuff pulled away from early leader Brave Prospect to capture the $100,000 A. P. Smithwick Memorial Steeplechase Stakes (NSA-I) Aug. 1 at Saratoga Race Course.
The 7-year-old Tiznow gelding, a full brother to dual grade I winner Colonel John, travelled toward the rear of the field for the first mile before edging forward to track pacesetter Brave Prospect. Under rider Paddy Young, Mr. Hot Stuff maintained his position over the jumps and took over the lead from the fading frontrunner at the eighth fence. Digging in to hold on to his 2 1/2-length stretch lead, the Jack Fisher trainee maintained the margin as he hit the finish with a final time of 3:50.92 for the 2 1/16-mile race.
"Everything was good," Young said. "It was the first time I sat on the horse, so everything was good. I've watched him plenty of times. He beat me a lot of times. He's a very nice horse to get on. He had run at Colonial Downs about a month ago, and it was his first try against open horses. I couldn't ask for any more. He was the utmost professional today."
Italian Wedding, half of a Jonathan Sheppard-trained coupled entry with Divine Fortune, tracked the pace midfield until pulling ahead in the stretch for a runner-up finish. Stablemate Divine Fortune held on to come in third. Last year's Smithwick winner, Spy in the Sky came up fourth.
Mr. Hot Stuff returned $12, $3.70, and $2.80, while the two-pronged entry of Italian Wedding and Divine Fortune paid $2.20 for the place and show positions.
This is the fourth win in eight steeplechase starts for Mr. Hot Stuff, who began his jump training with Fisher two years ago. A grade I stakes-placed winner in 19 starts on the flat, the son of Tiznow placed third in both the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) and the Sham Stakes (gr. III) at Santa Anita Park.
Mr. Hot Stuff was bred by WinStar Farm out of the Turkoman mare Sweet Damsel.
"He has the talent and he used it today. He's taken to the jumps because he doesn't have to work that hard," Fisher said. "Seriously, it's not as tough; he's not going down there in :23. It's just a nice easy gallop for him. Sometimes, doing this, if it's easy enough, they'll try again. He's a beautiful horse."