Monday, May. 20, 2024

Good Night Shirt Tops Lonesome Glory Stakes At Belmont

After a summer off, the chestnut gelding gets back to business.

For the second year in a row, Good Night Shirt ran true to form, winning the $150,000 Lonesome Glory grade I hurdle stakes at Belmont Park, in Elmont, N.Y., Sept. 21, with ease.

A warm day, most of the horses had a bit of sheen if not lather as they came onto the course. Good Night Shirt was the odds-on favorite, with only the $150,000 Turf Writers (N.Y.) winner Dark Equation (Matt McCarron) making the bettors vaguely interested.
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After a summer off, the chestnut gelding gets back to business.

For the second year in a row, Good Night Shirt ran true to form, winning the $150,000 Lonesome Glory grade I hurdle stakes at Belmont Park, in Elmont, N.Y., Sept. 21, with ease.

A warm day, most of the horses had a bit of sheen if not lather as they came onto the course. Good Night Shirt was the odds-on favorite, with only the $150,000 Turf Writers (N.Y.) winner Dark Equation (Matt McCarron) making the bettors vaguely interested.

Carrying the lion’s share of the weight at 158 pounds, Good Night Shirt was up against a strong field of seven, including the newest invader from across the pond, Justin Carthy’s Dalucci (David Casey).

Good Night Shirt was the only horse entered who had not been busy racing all summer. After winning the $150,000 Iroquois Stakes (Tenn.) in May, trainer Jack Fisher pulled his shoes and kicked him out into the big field.

When New Yorker Gregory D. Hawkins’ Red Letter Day (Robert Walsh) stole the start, jockey William Dowling struggled to keep the fresh Good Night Shirt under control and missed one fence badly. But by the last of the hurdles in the 2 1⁄2-mile race, Dowling had the horse exactly where he wanted him and cut the big chestnut loose, speeding away to leave a hotly contested race for second.

And battle they did. Good Night Shirt was not the only one with some awkward fences. Dalucci had been jumping to his right, and at the last he not only jumped sideways but nearly took Dark Equation out of the game with a hard bump.

Seemingly out of nowhere, Calvin Houghland’s Sermon Of Love (Danielle Hodsdon) took advantage and sped to the wire, just beating a still strong Red Letter Day by a neck while the equally bold Duke Of Earl (Xavier Aizpuru) took fourth.

With money added, the total purse was $159,200. Good Night Shirt paid $2.80 for the win. Dowling was actually happy he missed that one fence.

“He was getting pretty fast,” Dowling said. “I don’t think he even saw that one fence; he ran right through it. It was good for him; it made him back off a bit.”

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Fisher agreed: “It’s the same fence he missed last year. Actually he missed three so he is getting better. He jumped pretty well after that.”

The 7-year-old son of Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Concern is scheduled to take on the $250,000 Grand National at Far Hills (N.J.) next. Last year, Good Night Shirt had a poor showing on the soft turf against four-time Eclipse Award winner McDynamo.

Now that McDynamo is retired to a life of leisure, and many big stakes horses in trainer Jonathan Sheppard’s barn (like Calvin Houghland’s Sweet Shani and Hudson Bay Farm’s Sovereign Duty) are now on injured reserve, Good Night Shirt stands a good chance at the 2 7⁄8-mile race.

This win puts Good Night Shirt’s owner Harold “Sonny” Via at the top of the National Steeplechase Association list with $245,520 over Houghland’s $220,628 so far this year.

Delay Of Game

The 2007 Eclipse Award winning Good Night Shirt has such a special place in his jockey’s heart that the young Irishman postponed his honeymoon to help prepare the horse for the race.

Dowling, 31, married Tara Elmore the weekend before, but the two only had a couple of days before Dowling had to get back to training the champion.

“He could have given up the ride if he wanted,” Fisher said laughing, knowing full well that was highly unlikely.

The two met at Fisher’s farm. Elmore rides timber races and won a point-to-point on Via’s stakes champion Mr. Bombastic, who was retired last year to her care.

Dowling said he chose wisely: “Any other horse and I might not have cut my honeymoon short, and any other woman would not have been so accommodating. I married the right girl. She knows I will make it up to her.”

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Stepping Up

Danielle Hodsdon and Pennsylvania trainer Sheppard are pleased with the newest addition to their dwindling stakes barn.

The 5-year-old Sermon Of Love has been quite the puzzle all year. At first, Hodsdon said the horse ran up front in his races, then he was out the back and not really interested. After a few good races this summer they thought they might have him figured out, but the real test would be in this race.

“He’s a quirky little horse,” Hodsdon said. “He was one extreme or the other. We took a shot with this race, and we thought there wasn’t a great field other than the top two horses, and we might be able to get a piece of it and get his confidence up.”

She added, “He ran absolutely perfectly. When I called on him he was right there to the end. We are obviously thrilled with the result.”

Trainer Janet Elliot was equally pleased with Red Letter Day’s performance.

The 5-year-old son of Rokeby Stable’s Red Ransom won the $30,000 allowance race at Philadelphia Park (Pa.) in July and was fourth in a $70,000 novice stakes race at Saratoga Springs (N.Y.).

“He really ran well,” Elliot said. “He tried so hard, even to the end. He just doesn’t have the kind of kick the
others do.”

Fourth-placed finisher Duke Of Earl has run all spring and summer. Jockey Xavier Aizpuru was impressed with his grit at the end.

“If only he was a foot taller with longer legs,” Aizpuru said. “He was right there. He always gives it his best.”

Sarah L. Greenhalgh

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