Augustin Stable's Praise the Prince will be back on Thursday afternoon to defend his title in the New York Turf Writers Cup Steeplechase (NSA-I) for older horses at 2 3/8 miles over National Fences. And, the 9-year-old Prince of Wales gelding will be reunited with jockey Gus Brown.
Third in Turf Writers Cup' in 2001, Praise the Prince last year ran second in the A.P. Smithwick and returend to win the Turf Writers Cup by 1 1/2 lengths, becoming the second straight New Zealand-bred to win the race. Zabenz won it in 2002.The Turf Writers Cup victory came at a cost, however."He suffered a soft-tissue injury below the pastern in that race," said trainer Sanna Hendricks. "We used `shockwave' therapy on him, and he responded to it. I took the conservative approach with him. I gave him plenty of time to rest and recover and didn't bring him back to training until February 5th, with an eye on these races at Saratoga."
But while Praise the Prince was progressing, Brown was having his own troubles."I broke my wrist last fall, and that kept me out for a while," said Brown, 30. "I came back and rode the first two weeks at Colonial Downs, then a two-year-old flipped on me at Delaware Park. That was on July 10; on the 15th, I had surgery and they put two screws in my ankle and six screws and a plate in my leg. The plate was put in more as a precaution because the doctor knew I would rush to get back."
Brown has been working horses for Hendricks, and can't wait to get back on Praise the Prince.
"It's only right that he's my first mount back," Brown said. "He is my favorite horse of all time. I remember a few years ago, I was talking with (jockey) Mike Smith about our favorite horses. And Mike's thing was `What horse would you want to go with into battle?' And my answer to that is Praise the Prince. There are a lot of horses, and good ones, too, that always have an excuse: they didn't like the track, they didn't like one turn, they didn't like two turns, whatever. Praise the Prince simply doesn't make excuses. He just runs hard all the time."
Praise the Prince, who won an exhibition on the flat on on July 25th, ran second in the Smithwick., with Robert Massey riding in place of the injured Brown.Praise the Prince will be asked to give more on Thursday. As the highweight at 158 pounds, he will be spotting his seven rivals anywhere from six to 20 pounds."I am very concerned about the weights, but there is nothing I can do about that," Hendricks said.Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard, who has won this race a record 11 times, will try to take full advantage of the spread in weights with Marilyn S. Ketts' Cherokeeinthehills, who will carry 138 pounds. This will be his third start at Saratoga this season; earlier, he posted a fourth and a victory over soft and yielding courses at two miles and a sixteenth. In both of those races, the seven-year-old son of Cherokee Colony carried 152 pounds. Tom Foley has the mount.
1. -- Praise the Prince, Gus Brown, 158
2. -- Barzulu, Gerry Carwood, 144
3. -- Tres Touche, David Bentley, 152
4. -- Santenay, Matt McCarron, 150
5. -- Tallow, Chip Miller, 146
6. -- Party Airs, Cyril Murphy, 146
7. -- Mulahen, Robert Massey, 142
8. -- Cherokeeinthehills, Tom Foley, 138
Santenay will race with blinkers.