Down Royal bests the boys in A.P. Smithwick 

July 20, 2022

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Shadowfax Stable’s New York-bred Down Royal, the lone mare in a field of seven, came home the best over her six rivals in Wednesday’s Grade 1, $150,000 A.P. Smithwick Memorial to kick off steeplechase action at the Saratoga Race Course meet. 

Expertly piloted to victory by Bernard Dalton, husband of trainer Kate Dalton, the 8-year-old daughter of Alphabet Soup scored the first graded victory of her career after closing from off the pace in the 2 1/16-mile affair over the hurdles. Down Royal extended her win streak to four-in-a-row for Dalton, dating back to her first stakes score in the Randolph D. Rouse last August at Colonial Downs. 

Down Royal started from post 2 and was held patiently behind the pace set by Pistol Whipped, who led the field through the first two jumps as Iranistan was asked to take second position passing the wire for the first time. Chief Justice tracked in third along the rail as Pistol Whipped set the tempo over the firm turf. 

Iranistan was asked by pilot Jack Doyle to make up ground down for the first pass down the backstretch and found himself in a three-way battle for the lead with Pistol Whipped and Chief Justice as they approached the fifth jump. Pistol Whipped struggled with that jump and quickly faded to the back of the field with Iranistan and Redicean leading them around the third turn and to the final fence. With the frontrunners tiring, the Barry Foley-piloted Chief Justice took command approaching the turn for home. 

Dalton got to work aboard Down Royal, who made up ground from last to the outside of Chief Justice and continued to respond to urging on the outside path. Dalton called an audible in the stretch drive and angled her to the inside as Chief Justice was in an all-out drive to the wire, battling on gamely until Down Royal was able to get her neck in front at the wire in a final time of 3:49.57. 

French Light chased behind the top two and checked in third 1 1/4 lengths behind Chief Justice with Historic Heart rounding out the superfecta another seven lengths back. Redicean and Iranistan completed the order of finish while the pacesetter Pistol Whipped was eased after 1 1/2 miles and vanned off. 

Kate Dalton said it was not until late in the race that she was confident Down Royal would pull off the victory. 

“About a stride before the wire,” said Dalton, with a laugh. “She was coming around the far turn and moving forward into third and frankly, I was delighted with that. The others were backing up and if she ended up staying where she is and being third, it would be a great run. But then she got up to second and it didn’t look like she was going to pass Chief Justice and I was delighted with second, but she just kept giving 100 percent. It’s what she does. I don’t know why she’s suddenly got so good, but she has.”

Chief Justice tries to run down Down Royal but can’t and she prevails by a neck. (Susie Raisher)

The win was the second Grade 1 victory at the Spa for Dalton, who sent out Diplomat to upset the 2017 Grade 1 New York Turf Writers Cup Handicap [now the Jonathan Sheppard], also with her husband in the irons.

“I didn’t think I was coming here to pull a Diplomat, but apparently I was,” the conditioner said. 

Bernard Dalton said it was emotional to win a Grade 1 aboard Down Royal, who he has piloted in 18-of-19 starts over the hurdles. 

“This filly got me my 100th winner as a jockey at Nashville over jumps in America and you can’t write that script,” Dalton said. “To come here and win a Grade 1 on a filly that you [bred] and have ridden probably 99.9 percent of the time in our eight years, you can’t describe the feeling it gives you to accomplish this.”

Foley was full of praise for both Chief Justice’s runner-up effort and for Down Royal’s determined victory. 

“It was a big run for him,” said Foley. “He was just very unlucky to get run down by a good filly, to be fair. It was a massive run out of her and I’m delighted for Bernie and Kate Dalton, they’re hard triers and they deserve that. I think they’re going to get a nice check for this because the winner is New York-bred and she gets the bonus.”

Down Royal, who was bred by Bernard and Kate Dalton, returned $15.60 for a $2 win wager. She earned $90,000 for her victory and now boasts a record of 23-6-6-2 with total purse earnings to $269,974. 

Live racing continues Thursday with New York Thoroughbred Aftercare Day, a 10-race card featuring the $125,000 Rick Violette in Race 9. First post is 1:05 p.m. Eastern.

Saratoga Live will present daily coverage and analysis of the summer meet at Saratoga Race Course on the networks of FOX Sports. For the complete broadcast schedule, visit https://www.nyra.com/saratoga/racing/tv-schedule

NYRA Bets is the official wagering platform of Saratoga Race Course, and the best way to bet every race of the summer meet. Available to horse players nationwide, the NYRA Bets app is available for download today on iOS and Android at www.NYRABets.com

By Mary Eddy
Main Photo by Chelsea Durand

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