Trainer Jonathan Sheppard bagged his record 12th victory in the New York Turf Writers Cup (NSA-I) as William L. Pape's Mixed Up carried jockey Danielle Hodsdon to a one-length victory over Top of the Bill in the steeplechase event at Saratoga Race Course.It was the Hall of Famer member Sheppard's first Turf Writers Cup win since 2001 when Pape's It's a Giggle won the 2 3/8-mile race over national fences. "You mention those races; they were some years ago," Sheppard said. "We needed this one. We're really happy. This was great. We were getting a nice bit of weight today; it was a handicap."Mixed Up, breaking from post 1, carried 148 pounds, while favorite Hirapour, the 10-year-old defending Turf Writers Cup winner, carried high weight of 164 pounds in his last Saratoga appearance. He will be retired at season's end. Also compromising Hirapour's chances was Mark the Shark, who opened a 15-length lead on the field after two miles, an advantage that dissolved in the last run home. Hirapour was racing mid-pack as the 1-2 favorite but got into trouble and lacked a closing response."When (Hodsdon) decided to go after him, she got up to him quick," Sheppard said. "Hirapour didn't run his best race."Mixed Up stumbled after taking the lead over the final jump and came in slightly on the runner-up Mixed Up in the run for the wire, but finished best under strong right-handed urging.The winner is a 7-year-old bay gelding by Carnivalay--Oh Nonsense (Oh Say) bred in Pennsylvania by Sheppard and Pape.
It was Hodsdon's first grade I victory, and it came in 4:27.23 on the "good" course. It was worth $10, $4.90 and $4."It worked out well," she said. "I was lucky to have Mark the Shark in front of me. He made a nice target. I was very lucky that there wasn't another closing horse coming. I was obviously concerned at the last fence of where Hirapour might be.""He made a mistake going down the backstretch," said Hirapour's jockey, Matt McCarron of his mount's struggle with the first fence on the second lap. "He's never done something like that before. Maybe it was the weight getting to him. He felt the pressure of the race sooner than he normally does. Maybe he tired too hard. I really don't have an explanation." Top of the Bill, piloted by Carl Rafter, finished 1 1/2 lengths clear in second and paid $5.70 and $3.80. Mark the Shark, William Dowling aboard, held for the show ($6.8), followed by Undebidder, Hirapour and Toughkenamon. Erin Go Bragh left the course prior to the 10th jump after falling far behind on the far turn. (Chart, Equibase)