Snap Decision eyes third 2022 Grade 1; The Mean Queen returns after long layoff
By Tod Marks
The top two American steeplechasers will be back in action on Thursday at Aqueduct Race Course in Ozone Park, Queens, but their paths won’t cross. At least, not yet.
In the Grade 1 $150,000 Lonesome Glory handicap, Bruton Street-US’ Snap Decision, will be the solid favorite in the field of eight. The eight-year-old star, trained by Hall of Famer Jack Fisher, hasn’t been off the board in 16 starts since beginning his hurdle career in the spring of 2019. Over that span, Snap Decision has compiled a record of 11 wins (including nine in a row at one point) and five seconds. In his last two hurdle starts – the Grade 1 Iroquois in Nashville and Grade 1 Jonathan Sheppard at Saratoga – Snap Decision has dominated by a combined 20 ½ lengths.
In handicap racing, the price for success is added weight, and in the Lonesome Glory, Snap Decision will have his work cut out for him. The Hard Spun gelding lugs 168 pounds including jockey Graham Watters over 2 ½ miles, giving away 18 to 28 pounds to his foes, only two of whom he hasn’t faced before.
The last time a horse carried 168 pounds to victory in New York was R.D. Hubbard’s Mistico, trained by Jonathan Sheppard, in 1994. Snap Decision finished second, carrying 164 pounds, in last year’s Lonesome Glory, to Buttonwood Farm’s The Mean Queen.
Among the familiar opponents who will line up against Snap Decision is Hudson River Farm’s Iranistan, who conquered his rival by several lengths in the G2 Temple Gwathmey at Middleburg in April.
In the Gwathmey, also at 2 ½ miles, Iranistan got a 14-pound break in the weights; In the Lonesome Glory, he’ll carry 20 pounds fewer than Snap Decision, following two lackluster performances, most recently when he bled in the A.P. Smithwick in Saratoga. Leading rider Parker Hendriks will be aboard.
Leading NSA conditioner Leslie Young saddles a pair in the Lonesome Glory. Gillian Johnston’s newcomer Song For Someone is a seven-time winner over jumps in Europe, including a pair of Grade 2s at Ascot and Cheltenham. The seven-year-old German-bred, who gets the services of Tom Garner, was fifth to Snap Decision in his U.S. debut in Grade 1 Jonathan Sheppard, his first start in five months.
Young also saddles Sharon Sheppard’s Redicean, a veteran of Grade 1 competition and winner of the G2 David Semmes Memorial at Great Meadow in May. Redicean, who carries 140 pounds, finished third in the Sheppard, and British National Hunt jockey Sam Twiston-Davies crosses the Atlantic to ride.
Cyril Murphy trains two contenders from the Irv Naylor Stable. Amschel came from off the pace to get up for third in the Iroquois, his most recent outing, and finished an even-closer second to Snap Decision – beaten just 3 ½ lengths – in the 2021 Iroquois. Barry Foley rides. Amschel’s stablemate, Belfast Banter, an Irish-bred seven year-old, who finished second to Redicean in the Semmes Memorial (his NSA debut), passed tiring rivals to finish fourth in the Sheppard. Jamie Bargary, who captured six races during the just-completed summer season, will be in the saddle.
The only entries who haven’t squared off against Snap Decision are Keystone Thoroughbreds’ Noah and the Ark and Metahorse Racing’s Ask Paddington. Owner-trainer Todd McKenna is taking a big step up with Noah and the Ark, an Irish-bred eight-year-old who has made only three starts in the past three years. In his most recent outing, at the Carolina Cup Races in May 2021, Noah and the Ark slipped through on the rail just beyond the last jump to score in a handicap for horses rated at 125 or less, under Harry Beswick, who again rides.
Ask Paddington, a second entry from trainer Keri Brion, makes his stateside debut riding a four-race winning streak in handicaps in England. The eight-year-old Irish-bred has been working in company with stablemate The Mean Queen, Brion told the NYRA press office, and held his own with the 2021 Eclipse Award winner. Irish jockey Danny Mullins, who scored his biggest U.S. win aboard Mr. Hot Stuff in the 2017 Grand National, has the mount.
And in the $75,000 William Entenmann…
Away from the races since a narrow victory over Snap Decision in the Grade 1 Grand National at Far Hills last October which cemented her championship, The Mean Queen was also nominated to the Lonesome Glory, but opted for the Entenmann as a softer opportunity to ease back into competition.
At 2 ⅜ miles, the Entenmann is a furlong shorter than the Lonesome Glory, and the six-year-old daughter of Doyen gets a break in the weights compared to what she would have carried in the Grade 1 handicap. Her topweight assignment of 158 points, including jockey Parker Hendriks, is only two to eight pounds more than her rivals.
The three-time 2021 Grade 1 winner is eligible to compete in novice stakes because she didn’t capture her first victory over hurdles until April 2021. The Entenmann is open to runners who didn’t win over hurdles before March 1, 2021
If both Snap Decision and The Mean Queen exit Thursday’s races in good order, the duo is likely to hook up once again in the $250,000 weight-for-age Grand National at Far Hills, N.J., on Oct. 15.
Whereas Snap Decision’s biggest challenge might be the weight spread, The Mean Queen will need to be sharp to turn back a number of up-and-coming hurdlers who are exiting recent strong performances at lower levels of competition.
Irv Naylor’s Howyabud, one of two other Brion trainees in the Entenmann, is two for two since coming to the U.S. from Ireland this spring, most recently taking the Jonathan Kiser novice stakes at Saratoga. The other, Going Country, owned by Blue Streak Racing, Metahorse Racing, and CFC Racing, got off slow and struggled with his jumping in the Kiser, but put in a late rally to get up for third. Next, he bounced back to run second to Snap Decision in the Sheppard in his first try against more seasoned competition.
Bruton Street-US’ Proven Innocent, Snap Decision’s stablemate also trained by Jack Fisher, has taken two of his last three. After breaking his maiden at the Iroquois Races, he finished a good second to Freddy Flintshire in a non-winners of two at Saratoga followed by a hard-fought win at the Spa over Michael Smith’s Bandua in another allowance contest.
Bandua, trained by Neil Morris, broke his maiden at Colonial Downs in August, before his gallant second at Saratoga.
Gill Johnston’s State of Affair put forth a career-best effort to romp by nearly 10 lengths, at 8-1, last month in a non-winners-of-two allowance at Saratoga for trainer Todd Wyatt.
Rounding out the field is Van Cushny’s Booby Trap, trained by Leslie Young. After back-to-back maiden and allowance wins at Colonial Downs and Saratoga, Booby Trap finished second to Ritzy AP in the 2021 Entenmann and third in the Foxbrook Champion Hurdle novice stakes at Far Hills. This will be his second start of the season.
For full entry information for both races at Aqueduct, click here: https://nationalsteeplechase.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/NYRA-Aqueduct-Overnight-Sept15.pdf
The Entenmann will go off as the first race on Thursday’s 10-race opening-day card at the Big A. Post time is 1 p.m. The Lonesome Glory is race two, at 1:32 p.m.
NYRA races are broadcast live on Fox2 TV, with replays available on NYRA website, https://www.nyra.com/saratoga/racing/replays. You can also live stream via the NSA website, www.nationalsteeplechase.com.