If there was any question as to whether William Pape’s Mixed Up was ready to race, he gave a decisive answer when he won the $80,000 A.P. Smithwick Memorial hurdle stakes, Aug. 9 in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., in fine form and under tough conditions.
After Mixed Up’s disastrous race at Philadelphia Park (Pa.) on July 28, when he and jockey Danielle Hodsdon parted ways at the fourth fence, it looked like the sometimes-fractious horse might be back to his old, unsettled ways.
Since he pulled himself up pretty quickly after the mishap, Pennsylvania trainer Jonathan Sheppard decided to run him back in Saratoga. Bettors were not deterred by his last race and promptly placed Mixed Up as the favorite. He was also carrying the most weight at 158 pounds.
As expected, Preemptive Strike (Paddy Young), known for his long speed runs on the shorter courses, left the start at a blistering pace. Hodsdon did not want to let the flashy chestnut get too far ahead, and she asked Mixed Up to follow just a few lengths behind.
It was only at the end of the 21⁄16 miles that Preemptive Strike showed any signs of tiring, and Sweet Shani (Xavier Aizpuru) was able to slip into second place. After the last fence, Mixed Up found yet another gear, leaving Preemptive Strike to scramble for second and Sweet Shani in third.
Hodsdon was uncharacteristically nervous about this race. “We did not have a good school earlier in the week,” she said. “He has always been a pretty smart little horse. He thinks a great deal, but on Monday I could feel him putting on the brakes and he show jumped his first couple of fences. By the fourth fence I had to give him a big smack on the rump, which I have never had to do, and he jumped the last one well so we ended on a good note.”
At Saratoga, when they went down to the first fence to have a look, he wanted no part of it. “He wheeled and ran off the other way, so that was a little disturbing,” said Hodsdon. “His first couple of fences were sticky, but after that he was fine.”
Hodsdon, who has ridden the horse for most of his stakes starts, said Mixed Up did one thing in this race he has never done.
“He always pecks the last fence,” Hodsdon said. “I am used to it now and expect a short one, but this time he was flawless. He hurdled it perfectly. In 17 races he has never jumped the last fence so well. If we had pecked it we might never have caught Preemptive Strike.”
An Impressive Resume
This win puts the 8-year-old son of Carnivalay in a very elite category. In 36 starts Mixed Up has had 14 wins, two seconds and six thirds and has now grossed $538,466 in earnings, $146,415 this year alone. This makes him the 10th-highest earner in U.S. steeplechasing and one of only four horses on that list still racing.
Sheppard was equally pleased with the little dark bay. “He grabbed his heel a bit at Philadelphia,” Sheppard said. “So I was a little concerned about that bothering him. I did not really want to give away 8 pounds to Preemptive Strike, especially since that horse likes the shorter distances. He really dug in at the end. And my other horse was right there. I was very happy with both of them.”
Also trained by Sheppard, the New Zealand-bred Sweet Shani arrived just this summer from racing in Australia and New Zealand. Sheppard has put the granddaughter of Danzig up against the boys a couple of times and has always picked up a check, but in this race she particularly shined.
“Everything is new,” Sheppard said. “She’s a bit quirky, and she’s just getting used to us and the way we do things; everything is so different for her. This was some very tough competition, and it’s good to know she is up for it.”
Aizpuru had better luck the week before riding Arcadia Stables Rum Squall on Aug. 2, in the $70,000 Jonathan Kiser Memorial Novice Hurdle Stakes for their third win in a row.
Trained by Jack Fisher, Rum Squall ran in company for most of the race. Baby League (Hodsdon) almost got the best of them in the stretch but had to settle for second.
This year’s schedule includes several more chances at considerable purses. After Saratoga’s $150,000 Turf Writers Cup, Aug. 30, there is a new race carded, the $150,000 Lonesome Glory hurdle stakes (Sept. 22) at Belmont Park (N.Y.). The Far Hills Breeders’ Cup (N.J.) is now a whopping $300,000, and the Colonial Cup (S.C.) offers $150,000 on Nov. 18.
Bill Gallo, the National Steeplechasing Association’s director of racing, is pleased with the increased purses and the new Grade I race at Belmont.
“When [officials at the New York Racing Association] increased all their allowance purses at Saratoga by $17,000 we were included too,” Gallo said. “It had been some time since NYRA had increased purses so this is great for the owners, and their owners are our owners. Everyone benefits.”
Gallo said they’ve been working on the Belmont race for some time. “NYRA recognized we needed a good prep for our Breeders’ Cup, and this works out perfectly. It’s four weeks out, and the Belmont race is named for Lonesome Glory because he was the last horse to win there and a name everyone is familiar with. It’s a gorgeous turf course, and this is ideal for several stakes horses that have been waiting on the sidelines.”
Sarah L. Greenhalgh