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August 21, 2009

Mixed Up Returns To The Top At A.P. Smithwick

Mixed Up and Danielle Hodsdon (left) jumped to victory in the $102,723 A.P. Smithwick Memorial at Saratoga. Slip Away and Peter Buchanan (leading) placed fourth.

Even at age 10, William Pape’s Mixed Up isn’t slowing down. And he showed his continuing prowess on Aug. 6 while winning the $102,723 A.P. Smithwick Memorial at Saratoga Springs, N.Y., where he suddenly became the leading steeplechaser in the country.

But if you’d asked his jockey Danielle Hodsdon and trainer Jonathan Sheppard last year if the little horse with the storied career would ever be back on the top of the National Steeplechase Association’s money-won list again, they probably would have said it was doubtful.

Because of his lackluster performances in 2008, the barely 15.3-hand Mixed Up got a cut in the handicapped weight for the Smithwick, carrying 146 pounds to favorite Kenneth Ramsey’s Slip Away (Peter Buchanan) who sported 150 and Beverly Steinman’s Dark Equation (Paddy Young) who carried the lion’s share at 154 pounds.

As expected, Preemptive Strike and Jody Petty led for most of the way, out-jumping the field only to be overtaken in a spectacular stretch run by Mixed Up. Planets Aligned and Chip Miller held on for third.

The homebred Mixed Up is one of the most consistent of the money winners out of Pape’s stable. This was Mixed Up’s 11th win over jumps in 45 total race starts, and he’s now won $684,017 in his lifetime of racing.

Mixed Up currently sits at the top of the NSA leaderboard with $120,251. Calvin Houghland’s Pierrot Lunaire has $90,000 and two-time horse of the year and Eclipse Award winner Sonny Via’s Good Night Shirt has $72,000. If all goes well, Mixed Up will battle for the title with these two later in the fall.

Hodsdon is excited to see “Mickey” back.

“It was a great race,” Hodsdon said. “Top-notch horses. We went at a good gallop the whole way, and no one went ridiculously fast. Mickey was absolutely great. He likes to be tucked down the inside and then make his run in the clear. It was the perfect scenario for him.”

In 2006 and ’07, Pape’s Mixed Up was a machine. He was winning everything, including this same race in 2007 and Saratoga’s $150,000 New York Turf Writers in 2006. Although he was up against titans Hirapour and McDynamo in the big races and loaded up with weight, he still garnered himself an Eclipse Award nomination in 2006.

Sadly, 2008 wasn’t nearly so fortuitous. Mixed Up wasn’t showing the same spark, and there were soundness issues to boot, so Sheppard did something unusual; he took him off the drug Lasix (Furosemide).

Considered a diuretic, Lasix is used to prevent bleeding in the horse’s lungs, and it’s prevalent in flat track and steeplechase racing. All of the horses in Mixed Up’s race were on Lasix. Controversial too, Lasix is banned from race day use at many European and Middle Eastern tracks because it’s considered a performance enhancer by the racing commissions.

Sheppard said the horse almost collapsed in 2007 after the $150,000 Lonesome Glory race at Belmont (N.Y.), and the drug had caused a potassium imbalance.

“The Lasix wasn’t doing him any good,” Sheppard said. “And instead took so much out of him. I think he needed just a couple of races to pick his head up a bit after losing so many.”

Sheppard added, “He’s a different horse to school too. The other day, when we got on the track, I told everyone to ‘jog on’ and he just broke into a gallop. He’s feeling really good and seems very healthy. I would like to give the Turf Writers another go, but it depends on the weights.”

Hodsdon said this 21⁄16-mile race was perfect for him.

“Obviously, the Smithwick distance better suits him,” Hodsdon said. “He can get the 23⁄8 of the Turf Writers too, but it will all depend on the weight. At this point he owes us absolutely nothing, and we’ll try to do right by him.”

Emotional Victory


Nothing could have been more sentimental than William Fossett’s You The Man’s win in the $70,000 Jonathan Kiser Memorial Novice Stakes at Saratoga on July 30.

Named for the 22-year-old jockey who died in 2000 after a head injury sustained from a fall off a rope swing, this race in his honor means a great deal to many people, but for two friends it was as emotional as it gets.

Maryland trainer Todd Wyatt has a small stable and one very nice steeplechaser. Like most trainers, he’s selective in who rides his prize, and he wasn’t going to settle for just anyone. So he tapped retiree Arch Kingsley Jr. for the call.

The 37-year-old Kingsley, officially retired after his last concussion in 2003, only rides his own trainees and hadn’t sat on a jumper all year, not to mention the fact that he had to make the light weight of 141 pounds in a couple of weeks.

It was a lengthy debate, but in the end the Camden S.C., resident said he’d give it a shot.

Kingsley and Wyatt were Kiser’s good friends, and Kingsley even tied with Kiser for leading jockey honors in 1997. Kiser went on to win the title in 1999 as well.

In 2008, Kingsley was ranked 23rd on the NSA all-time leading jockeys list with 123 wins, and he had won Saratoga’s $150,000 Turf Writers in 1997 and in 2000. Wyatt was looking for just that sort of professional, a jockey who knows this course.

“I felt I needed Arch,” Wyatt said. “I knew he would get the job done, and he did exactly what a professional does in a race like that.”

Kingsley wasn’t so sure. His last NSA win was in 2007 on one of his charges, Carrington Racing Stable’s Bold Turn, at High Hope (Ky.).

“I was rusty, worried about the weight,” Kingsley said. “It was mental as well as physical. If I could get the mental part, I knew I could get the physical part.”

The race unfolded with Miller and Kenneth Ramsey’s Mabou bolting to the lead, leaving about 15 lengths of daylight between them and the other 10 horses. Wyatt said Kingsley just waited for Mabou to come back.

“Arch didn’t chase Mabou,” Wyatt said. “He waited, and when Mabou came back he made his move. It was perfect. A lesser rider might have scrambled. I could not have asked for anything better. The horse made a few green mistakes, and maybe you could say Kingsley had a part of that, but he stayed steady and didn’t panic. He just tucked him in, and waited, and that’s what won the race.”

After the race, Kingsley was thinking of his friend.

“We were all friends, Jonathan, Todd and me,” Kingsley said. “I didn’t have many allies in racing, but Jonathan and I had mutual respect for each other and there was a real sense of camaraderie in the jock’s tent. I’m still very fond of his family.”

Kingsley added, “When I got back to the grandstand for photos and to weigh in, a wave of deep emotion settled over me. To win like this at this stage of my life was huge, and to win Jonathan’s race even more. I hadn’t even indulged in the fantasy of winning the race; I just wanted to give the horse the best chance in the world.”

Wyatt and Kingsley won’t say if You The Man will run back later in August and who exactly will be in the irons, but they haven’t exactly said “no” to a repeat pairing either.

The New Guy

With jockey Padge Whelan’s retirement last month, trainer Tom Voss found himself with a stable full of nice horses at his Maryland farm, but not enough jockeys to ride them.

In stepped Irishman Peter Buchanan, and he wasted no time getting to the winner’s circle at Saratoga Jump Start on July 26.

Just a week in the country, Buchanan snatched the $15,000 maiden hurdle with Kenneth Ramsey’s Rubicon, the $25,000 Sport of Kings maiden hurdle with Alnoff Stable’s Ground Frost and the training flat with stakes horse Fox Ridge Farm’s Planets Aligned. And he brought home second-placed money in the Kiser, with The Fields Stable’s Left Unsaid.

Born just outside of Belfast in Northern Ireland, the 30-year-old Buchanan has been living in Scotland, racing in the U.K. and has more than 150 wins to his name there.

He’s buddies with most of the Irish and English jockeys riding here in the States and said he feels at home racing in America.

“Mr. Voss has some great horses,” Buchanan said. “All I have to do is steer. Both Padge and Chip [Miller] have been helping me a great deal. Planets Aligned is brilliant. I’m looking forward to the jump races with him. Saratoga is a lovely, proper race course.”

But his U.S. holiday will be short lived.

“I have racing to attend to back home,” Buchanan said. “I hope Mr. Voss can find a full-time jockey by then.”

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