The A.P. Smithwick Memorial Steeplechase (NSA-II) Aug. 9 at Saratoga came down to the final 20 yards of the flat run when a determined Mixed Up outfought the front-running Preemptive Strike to win by a half-length.
The 2 1/16-mile hurdle event over national fences sets up William L. Pape’s 8-year-old gelding Mixed Up perfectly for his defense of Saratoga’s biggest steeplechase event, the $150,000 New York Turf Writers’ Cup Steeplechase Handicap (NSA-I).
The New York Turf Writers’ Cup Steeplechase Handicap is to be contested at 2 3/8 miles on Aug. 30.
Ridden by Danielle Hodsdon for Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard, the 7-5 favorite Mixed Up carried 158 pounds, eight more than second-choice Preemptive Strike, who set all the pace under Paddy Young and stubbornly held on.
Sheppard has won the Turf Writers’ Cup an unprecedented 12 times, including last year when Hodsdon brought Mixed Up home on top. This was Sheppard's third Smithwick victory.
Mixed Up, a son of Carnivalay, completed the Smithwick distance in 3:45.56.
“Preemptive Strike is always on the lead, and he was the horse to beat,” said Sheppard. “So we didn’t want him to get too far away. I think Danielle showed very good judgment. She rode him calmly and confidently. She said he had to fight right at the very end, about the last 70 yards, but he had the other horse measured. We’ll look at the New York Turf Writers Cup. That’s the plan, if all goes well.”
Hodsdon was so happy with her mount’s effort that she pumped her fist in glee after the wire.
“We carried a lot of weight today, and there was one lone speed horse,” she said. “I thought, `If I’m not second or third, (Preemptive Strike) is going to get away from us and nobody else is going to chase him.’ I was surprised at how keen my horse was once I put him up there. He usually really relaxes out the back."
Mixed Up, who paid $4.90, $2.90 and $2.50, improved to 14 wins from 36 starts. He has now earned more than $500,000 in his career after taking down the winner's share of $50,940.
Preemptive Strike ($3.40, $2.90) finished 1 3/4 lengths ahead of New Zealand-bred Sweet Shani ($3.60), another Sheppard entrant. Orison, The Looper and Orsay trailed, while Best Attack and Chess Board were scratched.--Blood-Horse staff(Chart, Equibase)