SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Bruton Street-US’s evergreen steeplechase specialist Snap Decision will return to racing over the hurdles in Wednesday’s Grade 1, $150,000 Jonathan Sheppard, a handicap for 4-year-olds and up traveling 2 3/8 miles at Saratoga Race Course.
Trained by Hall of Famer Jack Fisher, Snap Decision was seen on the flat for the first time since 2018 last out when finishing third in the 1 1/2-mile Colonial Cup on July 27 at Colonial Downs. There, he tracked 2 1/2 lengths off the pace before shuffling through traffic and putting in a bid at the stretch call, running on to finish just 1 1/2 lengths behind the victorious Red Knight and a head behind second-place finisher Another Mystery. He defeated a slew of accomplished rivals that included this year’s Grade 3 Louisville winner Cellist.
Fisher said he entered Snap Decision in the Sheppard to have options and will also look at the $135,000 John’s Call on August 24 on the flat at the Spa and the Grade 1 Lonesome Glory over hurdles this fall during the Belmont at the Big A meet.
“He was third and got boxed in on the turn at Colonial. He ran great,” Fisher said. “There was one horse in there that was a bear [Cellist] but that horse didn’t show up. It was a prep for the Sheppard, and if we don’t run there, the John’s Call and then the Lonesome Glory.”
Snap Decision’s return to the flat came nearly four years after finding another dimension as a steeplechaser when transferred to Fisher from the care of Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey. His last race on the flat for McGaughey was an even third-place finish in an optional claimer in November 2018 at Aqueduct Racetrack. In 16 starts since then, the son of Hard Spun has never finished off the board and posted a nine-race win streak from July 2019 to June 2021 that was capped by a Grade 1 triumph in last year’s Iroquois at Percy Warner.
He followed his Iroquois score with a trio of runner-up finishes in the Grade 1 Lonesome Glory at Belmont Park, the Grade 1 Grand National at Far Hills and the Grade 2 Temple Gwathmey at Middleburg before successfully defending his Iroquois title this May one start before his return to the flat.
“He’s flourished as he won nine in a row last year and he was a nice flat horse, he just wasn’t a stakes level flat horse,” said Fisher. “He was always great over the jumps. He’s a fabulous horse. It’s nothing I did, he’s just a great horse.”
Carrying a field-high 164 pounds, Snap Decision will start from post 6 with Graham Watters aboard.
Trainer Keri Brion will look to repeat in this event after conditioning The Mean Queen to victory in a campaign that would earn her the Eclipse Award for Champion Steeplechase Horse last year.
Brion will have two chances with Going Country, whom she co-owns with Blue Streak Racing, Metahorse Racing and CFC Stables; and Atlantic Friends Racing’s Historic Heart.
Going Country will make a big step up on short rest from a closing third-place effort in the Jonathan Kiser Memorial on August 3 at the Spa where he struggled to jump throughout before finally getting over the last three fences well and making up ground late to finish 4 1/4 lengths behind the victorious Howyabud.
“I’m taking a chance with the horse who ran in the novice. It was uncharacteristic of him and he struggled over the jumps,” said Brion. “If he would have jumped at all, he would have won the race.”
Going Country, who adds cheek pieces, will stretch out from the 2 1/16-mile Jonathan Kiser to run at the 2 3/8 distance for the first time since finishing second in a maiden at Montpelier last year, something Brion said should suit him.
“I don’t know why he didn’t jump, but added distance helps. He made up so much ground, so you can’t discount him,” said Brion. “He’s a little inexperienced, and it was his first time at Saratoga and first start since Nashville, so I’ll forgive him. It’s worth a shot.”
A 6-year-old son of Yeats, the late-blooming Going Country began his career last year with Brion and had two starts before returning this year to break his maiden at Tryon in his third outing on April 16. He followed with a one-length allowance score just one week later at Middleburg before a did-not-finish in the Grade 2 David Semmes Memorial and a closing third in the Green Pastures in May at Percy Warner.
Last out, Going Country carried 153 pounds, but will lose 13 pounds as he has been assigned the field-low of 140 with jockey Danny Mullins slated to ride for the first time from post 4.
“He gets in at 13 pounds [less],” said Brion. “Weight was dependent on if we ran against Snap Decision or not, but the weight makes me want to give it a chance.”
Brion’s other entrant, Historic Heart, was last seen finishing an even fourth in the Grade 1 A.P. Smithwick Memorial on July 20 at the Spa behind returning rival Down Royal. There, he tracked in fourth for the first 1 1/2 miles before losing some position in at the 1 3/4-mile call. He battled back to wind up fourth, defeated 8 1/2 lengths under returning rider Parker Hendriks.
“I just didn’t have him fit into his last race, and he needed the race,” said Brion. “If he runs back to what I think he is, he should be right there.”
Historic Heart started his career in England with trainer Nigel Hawke where he earned his first stakes placing in the 2020 Scottish Triumph Hurdle at Musselburgh. In his first start for Brion, he won the Harry Harris in October at Far Hills before closing out the year with a runner-up finish in the Aflac Supreme Hurdle at Pine Mountain.
This year, Historic Heart won his seasonal bow in the Carolina Cup in April at Camden before being eased in the Grade 1 Iroquois in May at Percy Warner. He returned with his Smithwick effort two months later.
“I thought he’d win the Smithwick and he was very tired,” Brion said. “It was hot that day and he’s better than what he showed. He’s fresh at home and happy. He gets a nice weight and Parker stays on him, which was his choice. The distance suits him.”
The son of Fracas drew post 8 and was assigned 144 pounds.
The lone mare in the field, Down Royal, will look for her second Grade 1 triumph of the Saratoga meet after upsetting the A.P. Smithwick for the first top-level victory of her career. A New York-bred 8-year-old daughter of Alphabet Soup, Down Royal also boasts stakes victories in the Margaret Currey Henley Hurdle earlier this year at Percy Warner, the Randolph D. Rouse at Colonial Downs and Peapack Hurdle at Far Hills last year.
A homebred for trainer Kate Dalton and jockey Bernard Dalton, Down Royal has amassed $277,474 in earnings with a record of 6-6-2 from 23 lifetime starts, 19 of them over jumps. Owned by Shadowfax Stable, Down Royal drew post 1 [143 pounds] with Dalton aboard again.
Completing the field are multiple stakes-winners Belfast Banter [post 2, Jamie Bargary, 146 pounds] and Song for Someone [post 3, Thomas Garner, 153 pounds]; Grade 2-winner Redicean [post 5, 142 pounds]; and A.P. Smithwick runner-up Chief Justice [post 7, Barry Foley, 144 pounds].
The Jonathan Sheppard, named for the Hall of Fame trainer who won at least one race at Saratoga each year from 1968 to 2015, is slated as Race 1 on Wednesday’s 10-race program, which also features the $150,000 NYSSS Cab Calloway 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 Press Release
Photo: Snap Decision (NYRA Photo)