Smithwick Aftermath: Thank the Goat

Smithwick Aftermath: Thank the Goat
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By Sean Clancy
From The Saratoga Special, reprinted with permission

Thank the goat.

The day before Thursday's A.P. Smithwick Memorial Steeplechase, jockey Gus Brown was talking about omens and goats. Last year, Dominick Schettino's goat adopted Brown's mount Praise The Prince. The goat moved in after Praise The Prince lost the meet opener. He went two for two after taking on the squatter.

This year, Praise The Prince came to the same barn and the goat was nowhere to be seen. Until Wednesday morning. Different goat but same result.

"I don't know if means anything but James Bond's goat came over this morning and laid down in his stall; he's a sure thing now," Brown said.

And he was. Praise The Prince was the standout on paper, with or without the goat, and made the paper stand on end with an easy score in the $75,000 stakes. The New Zealand bred gelding roared off the turn and scampered in to win by himself.

Aggro Crag (Matt McCarron) finished second with Spring Salute (Dave Bentley) third.

"He did it very easily, easier than I thought he would. He usually has to grit it out. The race did fall apart underneath him but I felt like I could go another turn and still be traveling the same," Brown said. "He surprises me because he goes out and does his thing, race after race. There is never an excuse for him."

Sanna Neilson trained the winner for Augustin Stable. The 6-year-old upped his record to six for nine over jumps in a little over a year of racing. Brown sat in the jocks' room kitchen after the race, buying turkey sandwiches for anyone who wanted one. Atop the jockey standings for the year, Brown has won two of the four jump races at the meet and has been aboard Praise The Prince for his entire career.

"He's a great little horse. After a mile I knew. It was like being in the eye of the hurricane once I got down on the inside, all hell was breaking loose around me but I was free where I was," Brown said. "Of course it was the goat. Had to be the goat. We're going to kidnap Bond's goat for the rest of the meet."

One other thing. Indispensable and J.W. Delozier fell at the second fence and Roger Horgan came off Quel Senor halfway down the backside the last time. There were gasps from the crowd and the race suddenly had a pall over it rather than a pomp.

As a steeplechase fan: Damn, damn, damn.

As you probably know, I used to ride jump races. In fact, my last fall was with Indispensable in October. I saw Indispensable make the exact same mistake as he did with me last year. I ran across the clubhouse floor to see if he got up. I let out a big deep breath when I saw him on the other side of the hedge. We all did.

Unfortunately, falls are a real live part of the game. Steeplechase people hate falls more than anything in the world. Jack Fisher, the trainer of Indispensable, looked like he had just watched a bad movie. Delozier and Horgan as well as the horses were all doing OK afterwards.

It's something that happens. The steeplechase community deals with it. They care believe me, and go on the best they can.

Racing writers clamored for information on the fallen jockeys while valets and friends asked everyone about their condition.

Horgan came back with grass stain on his helmet cover, on his left shoulder.

"The same thing's hurt as always. Pride," Horgan said.

Trying to explain the game to people who don't feel it is tough. Trying to explain the steeplechase jockey's desire to go out there time after time is even tougher.

Because they do explains a lot, though.

Contact Sean Clancy via e-mail at sean@thesaratogaspecial.com or telephone at 518-581-1947.

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