Randleston Farm's Spy in the Sky was sent off the 25-1 longest shot on the board in Thursday's Grade 1, $100,000 A.P. Smithwick Memorial Steeplechase at Saratoga but ran like a favorite when posting a nose victory in the 2 1/16-mile hurdle contest.
Jockey Danielle Hodsdon was aboard the Thunder Gulch gelding, and kept her mount about three wide in midpack early in the race as Tax Ruling set the pace on the front end. Hodsdon asked Spy in the Sky after the eighth fence, and the veteran chestnut responded with a five wide move on the final turn. He pulled a bit clear in the lane, but lost some momentum taking the last fence and just held Left Unsaid on the wire to stop the clock in 3:50 4/5 over the firm turf.
"I thought he gave all he had. He's an older horse," Hodsdon said. "He has a nice little turn of foot, but he really just dug in to hold it in the end. I hit the lead a little sooner than I wanted. Being he's an older horse, you don't want to leave it too late. I was pretty sure he just held on.
"I have never been that wide on that final turn, but for a little horse, he's got a big stride and you don't want to check him behind those horses. He was traveling and I just thought I better keep his run going. It was wide, but he had a nice run. He was just brilliant. There was a quite a bit of speed. There were three up in front of us that were galloping right along, so he just drafted behind them. It just set up absolutely perfect for him."
Spy in the Sky returned nice payouts of $52, $21.80 and $13.40 to his faithful, but few, supporters. Left Unsaid had 1 1/2 lengths to spare over third-place finisher All Together, while Decoy Daddy filled the fourth spot. Divine Fortune, the 3-2 favorite, came next and was followed under the wire by Country Cousin, The Jigsaw Man, Tax Ruling, Via Galilei and Dynaski after Nationbuilder was withdrawn.
Spy in the Sky was making just his third start of the year in this spot. The James Day trainee was fourth in the Grade 2 Marcellus Frost Hurdle to open his eight-year-old campaign on May 12, then filled that same position in the Grade 3 David L. (Zeke) Ferguson Memorial Hurdle on June 2. He was winless in six starts last season, but did place in the Grade 3 Caroline Cup Hurdle and a pair of jump allowances.
Spy in the Sky adds the Smithwick win to victories in the 2009 Grade 1 New York Turf Writers Cup Steeplechase Handicap and the 2010 Carolina Cup Hurdle, which was a Grade 2 at that time. The gelding boosted his earnings to $353,160 and his record now reads 42-7-3-6.
Bred in Kentucky by Gainsborough Farm, Spy in the Sky is out of the listed-winning Zilzal mare Monaassabaat, making him a half-brother to Group 3-placed listed victress Echo River. His second dam is the Mr. Prospector mare It's in the Air, who was honored with an Eclipse Award as the champion two-year-old filly of 1978 and racked up five Grade 1 scores during her time on track. Others of note in this female family include Group 1 hero and sire Storming Home as well as the Grade 1-winning half-sisters Music Note and Musical Chimes.
Later on the card, Burning Sands Stable's San Pablo gave a preview of what could come on Saturday when capturing the $98,000 Birdstone Stakes by three lengths. The Todd Pletcher pupil was exiting a fourth-place run in the Grade 2 Monmouth Cup last out, a race that saw Rule beat Flat Out by 1 1/2 lengths on July 7. That latter pair are scheduled to once again face-off in the Grade 1 Whitney Handicap on Saturday.
San Pablo was much the best in the Birdstone in his return to New York. Jockey John Velazquez had the Jump Start colt press the early pace set by Isn't He Perfect before taking command in the stretch. San Pablo ran 1 1/8 miles on Saratoga's fast dirt in 1:48 3/5 as the 6-5 favorite and returned $4.70, $2.90 and $2.20 to his backers.
Isn't He Perfect finished second, a half-length up on Alma d'Oro, who in turn had a nose to spare over Hello Lover on the wire. Pleasant Prince was eased in the final furlong and walked off the track. Colizeo and Gallant Fields were both scratched.
San Pablo ran second in a pair of stakes prior to the Monmouth Cup, just missing by a neck in the Grade 3 Excelsior Stakes and by a nose in the As Indicated Stakes. The dark bay four-year-old captured his seasonal bow in the Shots Are Ringing Stakes on January 14, and also boasts a score in the Flying Chevron Stakes and a third in the Chief Tamanaco Stakes from last year.
The Kentucky-bred is out of the winning Silver Ghost mare Hunt's Corner and improved his career record to 11-6-3-1, $292,800.