Tres Touche, right, captures the New York Turf Writers Cup at Saratoga. Cherokeeinthehills, left, took second.

Tres Touche, right, captures the New York Turf Writers Cup at Saratoga. Cherokeeinthehills, left, took second.

Skip Dickstein

Tres Touche Wires Field in Turf Writers 'Chase

Tres Touche took the lead right at the start of the New York Turf Writers Cup Steeplechase (NSA-I) Thursday at Saratoga and never relinquished it in winning the 2 3/8-miles chase by a length over Cherokeeinthehills. Odds-on favorite and defending winner Praise the Prince finished fifth.

Tres Touche, owned by a seven-person partnership that races under the Barracuda Stables name, is trained by Richard Hendricks and was ridden by David Bentley. Hendricks' wife is Sanna, trainer of Praise the Prince.

"He did great today," Bentley said of Tres Touche. "He jumped real well. He jumped the field perfectly. He's a horse that loves distance. The more you can give him the better it is for him. I was confident in him today. He was second in this race last year, and he always runs good up here. I thought we had a good shot going into the race, and we did."

Sanna Hendricks was disappointed in how the race unfolded.

"For him, that was a real clunker," she said of Praise the Prince. "I thought he might labor under the weight (high weight of 158 pounds). He was giving 20 pounds to Cherokeeinthehills. He's not a particularly big horse. That's got to be a factor. I just hope he's okay."

Tres Touche, carrying 152 pounds, took the lead from the beginning and carried a comfortable lead early as the field passed the stands the first time. He was tracked by Ken and Sarah Ramsey's Party Airs, with Barzulu and Santenay giving chase. Praise the Prince, sent off at 7-10, was tucked in fifth position and saved ground in the field of eight.

There was little change in order as the tightly-bunched field came around by the finish line the second time. Down the backside for the last time, Cherokeeinthehills responded to encouragement from rider Tom Foley and quickly gained ground to get into position while traveling wide. Barzulu traveled well as Party Airs began to back up. Praise the Prince, under Gus Brown, never seemed to get on track.

At the last jump, Party Airs, fell, unseating rider Cyril Murphy, but was uninjured. Tres Touche continued on well to hold off Cherkoeeinthehills. The New Zealand-bred Barzulu was four lengths back in third. The final time for the $102,949 race was 4:19.46.

"We always break him sharp," said Hendricks, who won his first New York Turf Writers Cup. "If someone wants to go by, fine. If not, that's fine, too. I had a good feeling when Dave turned on the backside and opened up on them. I was like, `Oh, he's going really good.' And then, he jumped beautifully the last three fences. I said, `Oh, good,' when Dave sat him down for the last fence. The firm turf helped him today – it carries him. The older he's gotten, the tougher it is for him to run over soft going."

Tallow and Mulahen both failed to finish. Tallow went off course before the 10th jump and Mulahen was pulled up.

Bred in Maryland by John Manfuso, Tres Touche is the lone stakes winner sired by Poles Apart (by Danzig). The 7-year-old gelding is out of the stakes-placed Smoggy mare Princess Smoggy. Tres Touche, who was second in the Turf Writers Cup last year, is a half-brother to fellow steeplechase stakes winner Naughty Prince.

Tres Touche was fourth behind Praise the Prince, Najjm, and Barzulu in the A.P. Smithwick Memorial Steeplechase (NSA-II) earlier in the Saratoga meeting. In May, Tres Touche won the Iroquois Steeplechase (NSA-I) by 20 3/4 lengths. In all he has a slate of 10-10-4 from 31 starts over jumps. With the winner's purse of $63,030, Tres Touche bumped his career total to $556,566.

Tres Touche paid $17.20, $8.60, and $5.30. Cherokeeinthehills paid $8.90 and $5.40. Barzulu returned $5.30 to show. The exacta, 3-8, paid $143.50.

(Chart, Equibase)