NYRA oddsmakers have made Snap Decision the even-money favorite for Thursday’s Lonesome Glory showdown with The Mean Queen, who has been installed as the 7-5 second choice.
In less than 48 hours, we’ll learn if Buttonwood Farm’s mighty mare The Mean Queen can give steeplechasing’s reigning monarch, Bruton Street-US’ Snap Decision, a run for his money in the Grade 1, $150,000 Lonesome Glory on opening day at Belmont Park Thursday afternoon.
On paper, the battle of the sexes would seem a mismatch. Snap Decision, a winner of nine straight (seven stakes) since breaking his maiden over jumps at Monmouth Park on July 4, 2019, looms a towering presence for the Bruton Street team, which includes new Hall of Famer trainer Jack Fisher and jockey Graham Watters, who is currently tied with Tom Garner atop the standings for leading rider.
Snap Decision, bred in Kentucky by the Phipps family and originally trained on the flat by Shug McGaughey, is unraced since capturing the G1 Iroquois in Nashville in late June, following a nine-length romp in the G2 Temple Gwathmey at Middleburg on May 1. The Iroquois was run at 2 3/4 miles, while the Gwathmey was contested at 2 1/2 miles — the same distance as the Lonesome Glory. Snap Decision’s win at Nashville tied the record for consecutive wins set by Thrice Worthy in 1981 and 1982.
“We gave Snap a bit of a rest after Nashville, given the long training/race season of the spring,” said owner Michael Hankin. “We are looking forward to seeing him run at Belmont.”
Bruton Street had hoped that their 2020 Eclipse-award winner, Moscato, would be ready for a fall campaign, but he is still convalescing from a tendon injury. Hankin remains hopeful that Moscato will be able to compete next spring.
As far as The Mean Queen is concerned, the freakishly impressive five-year-old daughter of Doyen, is five for seven lifetime in a career that began in Ireland last November. She is three for four since coming stateside from her native Ireland with trainer Keri Brion, and could very easily been a perfect four for four had she not tossed her rider with a big lead in deep stretch in the Jonathan Kiser novice stakes at Saratoga.
Following that setback, The Queen was on her best behavior and rebounded with an easy win in the Sheppard, her first open stakes tally. Brion, who saddles two in the Lonesome Glory, opted to reroute Buttonwood’s other star, Baltimore Bucko, winner of the G1 A.P. Smithwick at Saratoga, to the William Entenmann novice stakes, which will be run right before the Lonesome Glory.
“Our main plan was to split her and Bucko up,” Brion said. “It’s nice that Bucko gets to go back to his novice condition, and although The Queen is also a novice, she is clearly on a bit of a different level.
“Snap Decision is an absolute force to be reckoned with, and I’m not sure how good she is but, I’m looking forward to having some more questions answered about her after Thursday,” Brion noted, adding that the mare is training as well as she ever has. “It’s really great to have this matchup between Snap and her as it’s getting a huge following not just within steeplechase racing. That’s what this sport needs: More fans and outsiders being drawn to it.”
Snap Decision is indeed a force. He has been practically untouchable since his streak began, his stiffest challenge coming in the 2020 Kiser, when he struggled over the first fence, landing near a stumbling rival. Still, he kept his cool and rallied late to win going away over Hudson River Farm’s Galway Kid by a length and a half. Galway Kid, a G3 winner also trained by Brion, is back after an illness and competes in the Lonesome Glory, too.
Neither the distance nor weight should prove a problem for either favorite. The Mean Queen prevailed over 2 1/2 miles at Wexford Race Course; she also has a point-to-point victory at 3 miles, both times carrying near 160 pounds.
Snap Decision is used to toting top weight. In the Lonesome Glory, run as a handicap, he gets in with 164 pounds to The Mean Queen’s 157, including new rider Richie Condon. The other five contenders all carry 150 pounds or less.
If either of the two falter, NYRA has installed Irv Naylor’s Amschel as the 6-1 third betting choice. This is the third time this season Naylor and trainer Cyril Murphy will take on Snap Decision. Coming off an 11-month layoff, Amschel finished third in the Temple Gwathmey and a closer second to Snap Decision — beaten just 3 1/2 lengths — in the Iroquois. His last win came in a handicap at Montpelier in 2019.
Besides Snap Decision, trainer Fisher will be represented by Gill Johnston’s Brianbakescookies, whose biggest moment came in the $35,000 Queen’s Cup in April when he ran away with the novice stakes by 17 lengths.
Trainer Leslie Young unleashes a pair of game competitors in Silverton Hill’s Bodes Well, who capitalized on The Mean Queen’s mishap in the Kiser, to take the race by 4 ½ lengths. Ironically, Tom Garner, who rode The Mean Queen that day, has the mount on Bodes Well in the Lonesome Glory. Her other entry, Sharon Sheppard’s Redicean, won the 2019 Kiser and finished second in last year’s New York Turf Writers Cup (renamed the Jonathan Sheppard this year) to stablemate Rashaan, both of whom upset champion Moscato in the race.
You can watch the races from Belmont via livestream from the National Steeplechase Association’s web site. The William Entenmann has a post time of 2:05 p.m., the Lonesome Glory, 2:38 p.m.