Resuming his love affair with Saratoga Race Course, Randleston Farm’s Spy in the Sky fought off a furious late charge by Left Unsaid to win the $100,000 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1) by a nose on Thursday, Aug. 2. All Together, always prominent in the highly competitive race over 2 1/16miles, held on stoutly for third, 1 1/2 lengths farther back. Decoy Daddy, part of an 1.85-1 four-horse entry of leading owner Irvin S. Naylor, closed ground to take fourth, another length back.
Sent off as the 25-1 longshot in a field of top steeplechase competitors, Spy in the Sky paid $52 to win after running the 2 1/16 miles in 3:50.92 on firm turf. The eight-year-old Thunder Gulch gelding had won the 2009 New York Turf Writers Cup Handicap (Gr. 1) and had only one major win since then, the 2010 Carolina Cup (Gr. 3) at Camden, S.C.
He was pulled up in last year’s Smithwick, but two fourth-place finishes this year, in the Marcellus Frost (Gr. 2) at Nashville’s Iroquois Steeplechase in May and the David L. “Zeke” Ferguson Memorial (Gr. 3) at Colonial Downs on June 2, indicated that he was rounding into top form.
To ride Spy in the Sky in the Smithwick, trainer Jimmy Day tapped Danielle Hodsdon, who had been aboard for the fourth-place finish in the Marcellus Frost. She also has been the chief assistant for Racing Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard, who saddled Bill Pape’s Divine Fortune. Bidding for a third straight win in the Smithwick, Divine Fortune went off as the 3-2 favorite but never was a factor and finished fifth, 3 1/2 lengths behind the winner.
Hodsdon placed Spy in the Sky in midfield as Naylor’s Tax Ruling set the early pace in company with Sheila Williams’ and Andre Brewster’s All Together. “There was quite a bit of speed. He just drafted behind them,” Hodsdon said.
Armata Stable’s Dynaski sat just off the leaders and moved into closer contention after completing the first circuit of Saratoga’s inner turf course. As the field moved through the far turn for the final time, Dynaski took the lead under Brian Crowley, but Spy in the Sky made a sharp move on the far outside and gained the advantage at the head of the stretch.
“I hit the lead a little sooner than I wanted. Being he’s an older horse, you don’t want to leave it too late,” Hodsdon said. “I have never been that wide on that final turn, but for a little horse, he’s got a big stride, and you don’t want to check him behind those horses. He was traveling well, and I just thought I better keep his run going. It was wide, but he had a nice run. He was just brilliant.”
Sky in the Sky opened daylight at the final fence, but All Together jumped the fence well with Xavier Aizpuru, and The Fields Stable’s Left Unsaid was finding his best stride under Paddy Young. The reigning champion jockey had Tom Voss-trained Left Unsaid fully extended, but Spy in the Sky dug in under Hodsdon to secure the victory.
Hodsdon said she was gratified to pick up major winning mounts after riding so many for Sheppard. “It means a lot,” said Hodsdon, who was the champion jockey in 2006 and the earnings leader in 2009. “I worked for Jonathan Sheppard for a really long time. I’ve moved on and am going to do some things on my own. It’s nice to know that I can come back and sit on a horse for somebody else and still do it.” Hodsdon also is training some horses in her own name.
In the afternoon’s first race, a $65,000 optional allowance over 2 1/16 miles, Gregory Hawkins’ Alajmal closed powerfully past pacesetter Brave Prospect to win by 1 1/2 lengths. Woodslane Farm’s Brave Prospect held on for second, a nose ahead of Naylor’s late-running Memorial Maniac. Pape’s The Price of Love took fourth.
Trained by Racing Hall of Fame member Janet Elliot and ridden by Ross Geraghty, Alajmal ran the 2 1/16-mile distance in 3:51.53 on firm ground. Bred by Shadwell Farm, the four-year-old First Samurai gelding had won his maiden victory over fences at Penn National Race Course on June 12. Elliot tuned him for the optional allowance with a flat start at Saratoga on July 23. Aljamal went off at 8.20-1 in a full field of 12 and paid $18.40 to win.