Overcoming early misadventures, Edith R. Dixon’s Schoodic jumped powerfully over the final fence of Saratoga Race Course’s $75,000 Michael G. Walsh Novice Stakes, took the lead within a few strides, and drew away impressively to a four-length victory on Thursday.
Trained by Jack Fisher and ridden by Paddy Young, Schoodic fulfilled the promise he had shown in winning last year’s three-year-old championship without a defeat and banished memories of his previous start at Saratoga, where he was pulled up after being jostled in the Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes three weeks earlier.
Irv Naylor’s Address Unknown finished second after leading over the last fence, and Bill Pape’s Bluegrass Summer closed ground late to take third money, a neck ahead of Anne Pape’s Fog Island. Gil Johnston’s Awesome Pearl, winner of the Kiser at 35-to-1 odds, finished fifth.
Schoodic, a four-year-old Tiznow gelding bred by the owner, paid $9.10 to win after going off as the 3.55-to-1 second betting choice behind 2.05-to-1 Address Unknown. He completed the Michael G. Walsh’s 2 3/8 miles in 4:40.77 on turf rated as good.
His victory was all the more impressive because he gave away several lengths at the start when he turned and tried to rear following a false start. Young quickly settled him and gradually regained contact with the field, led initially by Sheila J. Williams’ Easy Reach, also trained by Fisher.
On the final turn, Ross Geraghty put impressive Monmouth Park winner Address Unknown on the lead, and Schoodic moved into position to challenge. Address Unknown jumped the last fence with a 1 1/2-length lead, but Schoodic quickly erased that advantage and galloped clear under pressure from his jockey.
Schoodic’s victory gave Fisher a little breathing room atop the National Steeplechase Association rankings, moving him two wins ahead of Cyril Murphy, trainer of Address Unknown. Young, who notched his second victory for Fisher at the current Saratoga stand, has nine wins, four behind Willie McCarthy and two behind Geraghty.
Saratoga steeplechase racing resumes Monday, Aug. 18 with a $65,000 allowance hurdle that was rescheduled from Wednesday.