Mark W. Buyck’s Show Court, sent to the starter at long odds in Monday’s $175,000 A. P. Smithwick Memorial Handicap (Gr. 1), moved up impressively on Saratoga Race Course’s final turn, took command early in the stretch, and fended off favored Iranistan to win by a length.
Hudson River Stables’ Iranistan, never headed in his three prior starts, jumped well and ran on in the stretch under vigorous urging from jockey Darren Nagle, but the 11-to-10 favorite had no answer for Show Court, an Irish-bred trained by Arch Kingsley Jr.
Woodslane Farm’s Overwhelming, 10.60-to-1, closed from last to take third place, six lengths behind Iranistan, and pacesetter Personal Start finished fourth, another 12 3/4 lengths back, in a field of seven. All the Way Jose finished fifth, Modem was sixth, and overseas invader Oskar Denarius was eased to the finish line after tiring from his early exertions.
Michael Mitchell, winner of last year’s A. P. Smithwick aboard longshot Swansea Mile, again spotlighted his talents in the 2 1/16-mile race over National Fences. A day before last year’s A. P. Smithwick, he had won the Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes aboard Show Court.
Show Court scored his first victory in top company after sixth-place finishes in Grade 1 races, Saratoga’s New York Turf Writers Cup Handicap last August and the Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup in late March. He ran the A. P. Smithwick distance in 3:49 flat on turf rated as good and paid $30.20 to win.
Magalen O. Bryant’s Personal Start, who had won the David Semmes Memorial (Gr. 2) after shadowing the early speed, went to the front immediately under Barry Foley. Right behind him were Iranistan and Oskar Denarius, who was making his first U.S. start after success in lower-level handicap hurdles in England for trainer Ben Pauling.
Mitchell, an English-born jockey who had a successful stint in New Zealand, kept Show Court in fourth position while Buttonwood Farm’s All the Way Jose was farther off the pace than usual, and 156-pound highweight Modem followed in sixth, with Overwhelming at the back.
After the next-to-last fence on the final backstretch run, Oskar Denarius made a very brief move on Personal Start before beginning his retreat through the field. Personal Start jumped the last with a one-length lead over Iranistan.
Personal Start began to tire on the turn, but Nagle was hard at work on Iranistan to go past. Mitchell tipped Show Court to the inside, and they drew into contention late on the final turn before taking the lead early in the stretch.
Mitchell kept Show Court under a drive through the stretch, and the nine-year-old Vinnie Roe gelding fought off Iranistan, a four-year-old making his first start in top company. Overwhelming, ridden by Sean McDermott, closed past tiring horses to take third.
The A. P. Smithwick, postponed from Thursday, is named for the Racing Hall of Fame jockey known universally as Paddy. He was the National Steeplechase Association’s champion jockey five times in the 1950s and early 1960s. The winner’s trophy was presented to Kingsley by his son, Patrick Smithwick.