Though fewer races were run compared to previous meets, the Saratoga jump racing season offered plenty of excitement and showcased horses that give fans a lot to look forward to in the fall and, hopefully, for a long time to come.
The meet featured three stakes — the AP Smithwick, Jonathan Kiser novice, and inaugural running of the Jonathan Sheppard — and two allowance events. And when the dust cleared, two trainers and two riders brought home all five prizes. Jockey Gerard Galligan rode the winners of two allowance and the Kiser, while Tom Garner earned Grade 1 glory in the Smithwick and Sheppard. Leslie Young conditioned Garner’s three scores, while Keri Brion took the two other stakes.
In the season finale, on Wednesday, Van Cushny and Tom Rice’s Booby Trap, coming off a maiden score at Colonial Downs in July, opened up a lead at the final turn and won easily while being geared down under Galligan in the $65,000 allowance at 2 3/8 miles.
A five-year-old son of Hard Spun out of the Kitten’s Joy mare Bail Out Kitten, Booby Trap, who races for Van Cushny and Tom Rice and trainer Young, has blossomed over fences. Making only his third start over jumps in a second career that began at Tryon in early June, Bobby Trap, who was bred in Kentucky by Ken and Sarah Ramsey, won impressively for the second time.
Before that, he ran 22 times, mostly in claimers, at tracks including Aqueduct, Belmont Park, Gulfstream Park, Churchill Downs, Laurel, and Charles Town.
What does the future hold in store for Booby Trap? Trainer Young says he might be entered in the William Entenmann novice stakes at Belmont Park on Sept. 16.
“He seems to take in the race-track environment well,” Young said. “He has been a super fun horse for Van and new owner Tommy Rice (considering he was) a $4,500 Charlestown claimer.”
In recapping the earlier action:
• On July 22, Buttonwood Farm’s Baltimore Bucko, the slight 3-1 favorite in an evenly matched betting field, broke fast and never looked back in the $150,000 Smithwick, the first stakes score for the five-year-old British-bred, as it was for trainer Brion, who struck out on her own earlier this year when her mentor and long-time boss, Jonathan Sheppard, retired.
Winning rider Tom Garner guided Winston C to victory in both the 2019 Smithwick and Turf Writers Cup (now rechristened the Sheppard) at the Spa, and also took last year’s Turf Writers with Bruton Street-US’ Rashaan. In the Smithwick, Garner took the lead at the break in the 2 1/16-mile contest, and controlled the pace throughout. When the long run to the wire began, Baltimore Bucko had plenty left and scooted off to the wire 5 ¾ lengths ahead of Irv Naylor’s French Light. Riverdee Stable’s Gibralfaro, trained by new Hall of Famer Jack Fisher, finished third.
• On July 28, in the Kiser, no one could have anticipated the unexpected ending to the $75,000 stake that saw Silverton Hill’s Bodes Well and Galligan roll to victory for Young when Buttonwood Farm’s odds-on favorite The Mean Queen — with a commanding lead in deep stretch — dropped jockey Tom Garner.
• On Aug. 4, Galligan and Young teamed up again, this time with Ballybristol Farm’s Silver Crescent for win number two of the meet. The British-bred son of Champs Elysees was content to sit at the rear of the seven-horse field for most of the 2 1/16-mile contest, then began his run on the final turn, and burst clear by 2 1/4 lengths in the stretch to take the $65,000 allowance. It was the six-year-old’s second straight win of 2021 to go along with a runner-up finish in a maiden hurdle at the Carolina Cup Races earlier.
• On Aug. 18, The Mean Queen was all business as the five-year-old Irish mare, bet down to 4-5 favoritism, romped under Garner against the boys by 4 3/4 lengths in the Sheppard, a race in which Brion trained the top-three finishers. The Queen’s stablemate, Baltimore Bucko, took the lead at the start of the demanding 2 ⅜-mile contest over a yielding turf course under Richard Condon. The eight-horse field was bunched up for most of the going, but when the long grind over the flat began at the top of the backside turning for home, The Mean Queen made her move on the outside and took command. Baltimore Bucko, held on for second, while Irv Naylor’s French Light, ridden by Jamie Bargary, finished third.
A look at the leaderboard
With summer racing in the books and the G1 Lonesome Glory and Entenmann novice stakes kicking off the fall NSA campaign in less than two weeks, we’ve updated the horse and human standings.
As of Sept. 2, here’s where we stand:
- Leading owner by Earnings: Rod and Alice Moorhead’s Buttonwood Farm: $274,800
- Leading trainer by races won: Keri Brion, Jack Fisher, and Leslie Young tied at 8
- Leading trainer by earnings: Keri Brion with $435,750
- Leading rider by races won: Tom Garner and Graham Watters, tied at 12
- Leading rider by earnings: Tom Garner with $410,950
- Leading horse by earnings: Baltimore Bucko, $126,000
For the complete fall schedule, click here: https://www.nationalsteeplechase.com/schedule/