With a perfectly timed move under Danielle Hodsdon, Bill Pape’s Divine Fortune slipped past front-running favorite Slip Away and drew away late to a three-quarter-length victory in Saratoga Race Course’s $75,000 A. P. Smithwick Memorial Steeplechase (Gr. 2) on Thursday, Aug. 5.
Hudson River Farms’ Arcadius, who like Divine Fortune is trained by Jonathan Sheppard, closed well along the rail to take second, a head in front of Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Slip Away, the 1.05-to-1 betting choice on a rainy afternoon in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
As expected, Slip Away went to the lead immediately under leading jockey Paddy Young, but Divine Fortune and Hodsdon kept the Skip Away gelding in their sights throughout the race. While Slip Away had run off to some huge leads in previous races, including a nine-length victory in the $50,000 Temple Gwathmey (Gr. 3) at the Middleburg Spring Races in Virginia on April 17, he never opened more than a five-length lead on Divine Fortune.
That position was exactly where Racing Hall of Fame trainer Sheppard wanted Divine Fortune to be. “It was a beautiful ride,” he said.
Divine Fortune and Arcadius, who was trapped on the inside behind Slip Away most of the race, moved toward the leader on the final turn of the Smithwick. Divine Fortune, with the outside position, jumped the last of nine fences on even terms with Slip Away, but the front-runner spurted away to a slim lead in the strides immediately after the fence.
Divine Fortune fought back and overtook Slip Away inside the sixteenth pole. Arcadius and jockey Brian Crowley skimmed the rail on Saratoga’s Mellon Turf Course and got up to take the place spot.
Sent off as the 2.70-to-1 second betting choice in an entry with Pape’s The Price of Love (sixth), Divine Fortune ran the Smithwick’s 2 1/16 miles in 3:58.98 on firm turf.
“He’s back,” longtime owner Pape said in the Saratoga winner’s circle. “We were concerned that he wasn’t, but he proved that he is back.” The seven-year-old Royal Anthem gelding, bred in Pennsylvania by Pape and Sheppard, won his first stakes race in nearly three years.
He was out of action for two years and returned to the races late last fall. He began the current National Steeplechase Association season with a second behind Spy in the Sky in the $75,000 Carolina First Carolina Cup (Gr. 2) in Camden, S.C., on March 27 and then won the $25,000 Block House Steeplechase in Tryon, N.C., on April 17. He subsequently finished third in the $50,000 Marcellus Frost at the Iroquois Races in Nashville on May 8 and was fourth in the David L. (Zeke) Ferguson Memorial at Colonial Downs on July 11.
Hudson River Stables owner Edward P. Swyer said he was pleased with the effort by Arcadius, a six-year-old Giant’s Causeway gelding who had finished third in the $150,000 Calvin Houghland Iroquois Steeplechase (Gr. 1) at Nashville. In the Smithwick, he went off as the 3.70-to-1 third betting choice. “I think he would have won if he hadn’t been boxed in,” Swyer said.
–Written by Don Clippinger