Bill Pape’s Divine Fortune collected a second consecutive victory in Saratoga Race Course’s $75,000 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 2) with a carefully timed late move that carried him and jockey Brian Crowley to a two-length victory over Irvin S. Naylor’s Decoy Daddy on Thursday, Aug. 4. Mary Ann Houghland’s Nationbuilder finished third, 5 1/4 lengths clear of 2.15-1 favorite Slip Away in fourth.
Sent off as the 3.65-1 third betting choice behind Slip Away and Armata Stable’s Dynaski, Divine Fortune ran the Smithwick’s 2 1/16 miles over nine National Fences in 3:49.20 on firm turf. Trained by Racing Hall of Fame member Jonathan Sheppard, Divine Fortune was making his first start over fences since finishing fourth in last year’s New York Turf Writers Cup Handicap (Gr. 1) at Saratoga.
Ridden for the first time by Ross Geraghty, Decoy Daddy went to the lead immediately and soon was joined by Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Slip Away, the reigning Eclipse Award winner ridden by Paddy Young. Divine Fortune raced fourth early in the tightly bunched field of six on Saratoga’s inner turf course.
Slip Away slipped into the lead before the fourth fence and led by more than a length over the seventh fence as Divine Fortune began to move closer to the leaders. Decoy Daddy loomed outside Slip Away before the eighth fence, jumped into the lead, and drew clear on the far turn.
Divine Fortune found his best stride approaching the final fence and took aim on Decoy Daddy, who took the final obstacle in stride in front of Saratoga’s grandstand. Under strong urging by Crowley, Divine Fortune seized the lead approximately ten strides from the finish line and drew clear. Nationbuilder, also trained by Sheppard, made a move after the final fence to take third, 3 1/4 lengths behind Decoy Daddy.
Sheppard and Crowley scored again in Saratoga’s $53,000 Steeplechase Owners and Trainers Association Firestone Hurdle when Hudson River Farms’ Royal Rossi caught a game Baltic Shore at the finish line and won by a nose. Sonny Via’s Worried Man took third in the optional allowance. Sent off at 4.10-1, Royal Rossi won in 3:50.34.
Willie McCarthy sent High Hope Stables’ Baltic Shore to the early lead, with the Ramseys’ Mabou in close pursuit under Young. Mabou took the lead at the third fence and held the advantage for more than a full circuit of the inner turf course.
At the eighth fence, Baltic Shore jumped to the lead and opened daylight on the final turn. Crowley put Royal Rossi into gear approaching the final fence, and they gradually into the advantage of Arch Kingsley Jr.-trained Baltic Shore before winning on a head bob.