Augustin Stable's Praise the Prince stormed to the front after the last jump and drew off to an impressive 1 1/2-length victory in Thursday's New York Turf Writers Cup (NSA-I) at Saratoga. The final time for the 62nd running of the 2 3/8 mile steeplechase race was 4:13.64, just shy of the course record 4:12.
Victory by the 8-year-old New Zealand-bred appeared elusive as Praise the Prince was well back throughout most of the running and was fifth as Tres Touche was in front after the final fence. But Gus Brown patiently rallied Praise the Prince to the fore in the gelding's first win since taking the Temple Gwethmay (NSA-III) in April of 2002.
Tres Touche took the early lead and was quickly overtaken by Anofferyoucantrefuse. Tres Touche continued a stalking position as the 12-horse field was closely bunched throughout most of the race and reassumed the lead leaving the final turn.
"I've never ridden a great flat horse, but I wouldn't trade with any horse in the world," Brown said of the winner. "This horse has so much heart. Down the backstretch, he was off the bridle and was running hard, but he just has so much heart. He is just an amazing beast and he jumped well."
Praise the Prince paid $7.50, $4.20, and $3.60, with Tres Touche returning $7.90 and $5.50. Indispensable, beaten by a neck for second, got up for third, a neck ahead of Mulahen (GB), and paid $13.00.
Thursday's race reunited Brown with Praise the Prince for the first time since the pair finished second in the Iroquois (NSA-I) in May 2002. In his four starts since, Praise the Prince had two thirds and two seconds in races graded by the National Steeplechase Association.
Trained by Sanna Hendricks, Praise the Prince has finished first, second, or third in all 19 career jump races. The son of Prince of Praise has eight steeplechase victories to his credit. Previous to his jump career, Praise the Prince had two wins and three placings in 15 flat starts.
"He's a real quality horse and he has been training well into these last three races," said Hendriks. "He's been doing everything right, although it took him a couple of races to get here.
"Praise the Prince has always been one of my favorites," she added. "He's a hard knocking horse that never gives up. We're going to bring him back to Pennsylvania, give him a few weeks rest and then look at the Breeders' Cup and the Colonial Cup."