Jack Fisher, American Steeplechasing’s reigning champion trainer, captured both ends of Saratoga Race Course’s jump doubleheader on Thursday, Aug. 1, taking a $65,000 optional allowance claimer with veteran All Together and then winning the $100,000 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1) with Gil Johnston’s rising star Mr. Hot Stuff.
Always well placed in the 2 1/16-mile Smithwick, Mr. Hot Stuff tracked the pace of Fisher-trained Brave Prospect for the first 1 1/2 miles and spurted to the lead when Woodslane Farm’s pacesetter began to tire at the next-to-last fence on Saratoga’s inner turf course.
With three-time champion jockey Paddy Young in the saddle, Mr. Hot Stuff jumped the last fence with a 2 1/2-length lead and easily maintained that margin to the finish, holding off the 4-5 favored entry of trainer Jonathan Sheppard’s Italian Wedding and Bill Pape’s Divine Fortune.
Italian Wedding, making his first start in 16 months, finished second under Bernie Dalton, while two-time Smithwick winner Divine Fortune and Darren Nagle was a neck farther back in third. Randleston Farm’s Spy in the Sky, last year’s Smithwick winner, finished fourth in a field of seven.
Sent to the start at 5-1 odds, Mr. Hot Stuff ran the Smithwick distance in 3:50.92 through a steady rain on a firm turf course.
Mr. Hot Stuff, a seven-year-old Tiznow gelding, had a brief but eventful career on the Triple Crown trail in 2009. After a maiden win, he finished third in the Santa Anita Derby (Gr. 1). For breeder WinStar Farm, he finished 15th in the Kentucky Derby (Gr. 1) and eighth in the Belmont Stakes (Gr. 1).
Acquired by Johnston in 2010 and turned over to Fisher, he showed promise over fences in 2011 with two victories before going to the sidelines for nearly two years. He came back with a third in the $50,000 Queen’s Cup for novices on April 27 and then won the $75,000 Marcellus Frost Novice Stakes at the Iroquois Steeplechase on May 11. He disappointed with a fourth in Colonial Downs’ $50,000 David L. “Zeke” Ferguson Memorial (Gr. 3) on June 8 before scoring decisively in the Smithwick, his first-ever Grade 1 start over fences.
The Smithwick was expected to be a resumption of the rivalry between Divine Fortune and Jacqueline Ohrstrom’s multiple Grade 1 winner Demonstrative, but Demonstrative was scratched.
All Together, owned by Andre Brewster and Sheila Williams, had last visited the winner’s circle in 2011 when he won Saratoga’s Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes. He returned to Saratoga on Thursday bearing a $30,000 claiming tag under the optional allowance’s conditions.
The eight-year-old Danzig gelding was placed in the front of the second flight by jockey Xavier Aizpuru as Network News and Pleasant Woodman drew away to a gaping early lead. Their advantage evaporated on the backstretch run the final time, and All Together swept to the lead approaching the final fence and won by 1 1/4 lengths at 5.10-1. The Elkstone Group’s Albany Road took second by a nose over Peggy Steinman’s Orebanks on a head bob at the wire. All Together ran the 2 1/16-mile distance in 3:49.30.