The Fields Stable’s Bob Le Beau, making his first 2016 start over fences, surged to the lead in Saratoga Race Course’s homestretch and turned back a late challenge from Scorpiancer to win Thursday’s $125,000 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1) by a length.
Bruton Street US’s Scorpiancer, who led with a furlong to run and rebroke after Bob Le Beau opened a clear lead, finished 5 1/4 lengths clear of Bob Le Beau’s stablemate Portrade, who laid down the early fractions.
Amy Taylor Rowe’s Maserati had his three-race winning streak broken when he finished fourth, 1 3/4 lengths farther back. Demonstrative, the 2014 Eclipse Award winner, was close early but faded late to finish eighth.
On the strength of his two Grade 1 wins last year and a victory in a Parx Racing flat race for hurdlers on July 10, Bob Le Beau went off as the Smithwick’s 9-to-10 favorite and paid 3.80 to win. He ran the Smithwick’s 2 1/16 miles in 3:51.20 on firm turf.
The Smithwick win gave the nine-year-old Irish-bred gelding a 12-month sweep of the New York Racing Association’s three Grade 1 stakes race, after victories in last year’s New York Turf Writers at Belmont and Belmont Park’s Lonesome Glory Handicap. He had finished fourth in last year’s Smithwick.
Ridden by Jack Doyle, Bob Le Beau gave trainer Elizabeth Voss a bit of a scare when he was well back in the field of 10 through the early circuits of the Mellon Turf Course and then when he misjudged the next-to-last fence on Saratoga’s backstretch. “He flew the last, and ran well from there,” Doyle said.
Other than the mistake at the seventh fence, the Irish-born jockey said Bob Le Beau showed no signs of rust after not starting over fences last November, a lackluster fifth-place finish in the Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup.
The Fields Stable’s Portrade, ridden by Gus Dahl, kicked to the lead at the start and was shadowed by Stonelea Stable’s Balance the Budget, ridden by Mark Watts. Bob Le Beau was last through the first 1 1/2 miles and only began to move forwardly down the backstretch the last time.
His advance was temporarily interrupted at the seventh fence. “I was a little worried when he missed the second-last fence, but when we landed over it I gave him a squeeze, and he came alive,” Doyle said. “After jumping the last, I knew I could take my time. I needed a little bit of room, and once he got it, he really opened up.”
At the last, Portrade surrendered the lead to Balance the Budget, who opened up on the field. But the field surrounded him at the top of the stretch, and Scorpiancer held a narrow lead over Bob Le Beau at the furlong pole. Bob Le Beau broke clear, but jockey Connor Hankin encouraged a late move by Scorpiancer to cut the margin to a length at the finish line.