Bruton Street-US’s Moscato closed relentlessly through Saratoga Race Course’s stretch to catch Optimus Prime in deep stretch and fought his way to a three-quarter-length victory in Thursday’s $100,000 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1).
Ridden by Michael Mitchell and trained by Jack Fisher, Moscato scored his second graded stakes victory of the pandemic-compressed jump racing season, after an 11-length romp in Middleburg Spring’s $50,000 Temple Gwathmey Handicap (Gr. 3) on June 13.
Benefiting from late money, Moscato went off as the Smithwick’s 1.70-to-1 favorite, narrowly ahead of Rosbrian Farm’s Optimus Prime at 1.95-to-1, and paid $5.40 to win. The Smithwick win gave Bruton Street and Fisher a sweep of Saratoga’s opening-week jump races after Snap Decision scored a deceptively easy 1 ½-length victory in Wednesday’s Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes.
Wendy Hendriks’ Surprising Soul, a Grade 1 winner last fall for trainer Ricky Hendriks, went to the early lead and set the pace despite nearly stumbling over the third fence. Jockey Ross Geraghty quickly righted Surprising Soul, and they continued to set the pace ahead of Sharon Sheppard’s Redicean and jockey Thomas Garner.
Bruton Street-US’s Snap Decision, a New York favorite who was bet down to odds-on for his return to novice competition in Saratoga Race Course’s Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes on Wednesday, surged past longshot front-runner Bodes Well inside the furlong pole and was geared down over the final 30 yards for an easy victory.
Winner of the Virginia Gold Cup’s David Semmes Memorial on June 27, reigning novice champion Snap Decision won by 1½ lengths over Hudson River Farms’ Galway Kid, who outfinished Bodes Well in deep stretch.
Ridden by Sean McDermott, Snap Decision went off at 35 cents on the dollar and paid $2.70 to win after running the Kiser’s 2 1/16 miles in 3:54.38 on firm turf.
The Kiser victory continued champion trainer Jack Fisher’s dominance of the year’s hurdle stakes. In addition to Snap Decision’s two victories, Fisher took the Temple Gwathmey Handicap (Gr. 3) on June 13 with Bruton Street’s Moscato, the likely favorite in Thursday’s A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1) on the Saratoga course.
Colonial Downs opens its 2020 season on Monday, and two steeplechase races will kick off the racing season at the Richmond, Va.-area track. First post time is 4 p.m., and the jump races will be the first and second races. Colonial will conduct its 2020 meet without spectators because of the coronavirus pandemic. The steeplechase
Rosbrian Farm’s Optimus Prime, currently the National Steeplechase Association’s top-rated hurdler, will take on a formidable Bruton Street-US team headed by multiple graded stakes winner Moscato in Saratoga Race Course’s $100,000 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1) on Thursday.
The 2 1/16-mile Smithwick will be Saratoga’s first race, with a 12:50 p.m. first post time.
Trained by Ricky Hendriks, Optimus Prime will have a new jockey, two-time champion Darren Nagle, for the French-bred’s 2020 debut under 158 pounds, which also is his rating.
Now eight, Optimus Prime had a championship-level season in 2018, beginning with a victory in Saratoga’s New York Turf Writers Cup Handicap (Gr. 1). He finished third in Belmont Park’s Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1), and then scored an impressive victory in the International Gold Cup’s David L. “Zeke” Ferguson Memorial Stakes (Gr. 2).
With Saratoga as his target, Optimus Prime rolled to an eye-popping victory in the Virginia Gold Cup’s David Semmes Memorial (Gr. 2) in May of 2019, but he went to the sidelines for the remainder of the season.
For his comeback race, Optimus Prime will face a formidable trio from leading trainer Jack Fisher’s stable.
Bruton Street-US’s Snap Decision, fresh off an impressive open stakes win, returns to novice competition Wednesday in the $55,000 Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes as Saratoga Race Course begins its steeplechase racing program.
The 2 1/16-mile Kiser, named for the champion jockey who died in a 2000 non-racing accident, will be the first race on the program with a 12:50 p.m. post time.
Trained by Jack Fisher, Snap Decision is the reigning novice champion after two notable stakes victories to conclude his 2019 season, in Belmont Park’s William Entenmann Memorial Novice Stakes and Far Hills’ Foxbrook Champion Hurdle.
Formerly trained in New York by Claude R. “Shug” McGaughey, the Hard Spun six-year-old is no stranger to Saratoga. He waltzed away to a commanding 38½-length victory in a Saratoga allowance hurdle last August.
He kicked off his 2020 season with a facile 4½-length score in the Virginia Gold Cup’s David Semmes Memorial on June 27. He carries a National Steeplechase Association rating of 150, well above his six opponents. Sean McDermott, who rode him in the Semmes, has a return call.
The following is a statement of the Genesee Valley Hunt Races. After much thought and deliberation, we have made the difficult decision to cancel the 2020 Genesee Valley Hunt Races, which were to take place Oct, 10. We have been closely monitoring the situation with COVID-19, the recommendations of scientists and infectious disease experts, and