Noah and the Ark stuns Snap Decision at 41-1 in Lonesome Glory; Proven Innocent upsets The Mean Queen in Entenmann with last-minute surge
By Tod Marks
Noah and the Ark stuns Snap Decision at 41-1 in Lonesome Glory
Coming off a 16-month layoff, owner-trainer Todd McKenna’s Noah and the Ark took aim at odds-on favorite and race leader Snap Decision rounding the final turn, gained the advantage at the quarter pole, and accelerated through the lane to score by nine widening lengths under Harry Beswick in Thursday’s Grade 1 $150,000 Lonesome Glory hurdle stakes at Aqueduct Race Track in South Ozone Park Queens.
The winner, toting 140 pounds vs. 168 for the Bruton Street-US star, paid $84.50 for the victory in the 2 1/2-mile handicap. The Lonesome Glory and one of two jump races on the opening day Aqueduct card, marked the the first day of steeplechase racing at the Big A since 1974.
Noah And The Ark, owned by McKenna’s Keystone Thoroughbreds, was making his first appearance since taking the 2021 Carolina Cup at Springdale Race Course in South Carolina. The Cup was run as a handicap for horses rated at 125 or less last year, and came in the Irish-bred Vinnie Roe gelding’s third U.S. starts after a 12-race career in England.
Beswick, who also piloted Noah and the Ark to victory in the Carolina Cup, was familiar with the eight-year-old as he guided him to the winner’s circle in the Tiddesley Wood Handicap Hurdle in 2019 at Worcester, his final European start.
In the Lonesome Glory, Snap Decision, under regular rider Graham Watters, broke on top and maintained his advantage through the first two miles. In no hurry to contest the pace, Noah and the Ark was reserved early and began his advance at the eighth fence, and made his move heading around the final turn.
Under Beswick’s urging, Noah and the Ark took command with a quarter-mile to go, and extended his lead mid-way into the the stretch. As his margin widened, Beswick took a peek back at the field, where the battle was on for the place and show spots.
Despite setting the pace and carrying 18 to 28 pounds more than his rivals, Snap Decision, a two-time 2022 Grade 1 winner, was a determined second, three quarters of a length clear of Metahorse Racing’s Ask Paddington, ridden by Danny Mullins, who came over from Europe for the ride. Gill Johnston’s Song for Someone was a nose behind Ask Paddington in fourth. Completing the order of finish were Amschel, Redicean, Belfast Banter and Iranistan.
Afterwards, Beswick had this to say to the NYRA press office: “We went a Grade 1 pace but if you’re traveling comfortably, you’re sat on a pretty good horse. He did it all so well. His jumping is out of this world. He’s so quick and always, in my mind, been a Grade 1 horse, but it’s just taken this amount of time to get him to that stage. To have done that off the layoff he had is a remarkable training feat.” Beswick also credited McKenna’s daughter, jockey Skylar McKenna, and former rider Liam McVicar for Noah and the Ark’s success.
Added the trainer himself: “I saw him come from the clouds at a racetrack in England and thought if he could do it there, he can definitely do it here. Was I surprised he caught Snap Decision? I guess so. Harry made the right move when he did. He made up a ton of ground here this last time under the wire. It was perfect. He got the horse in winning position.”
Hall of Fame conditioner Jack Fisher told NYRA he was pleased with Snap Decision’s effort. “He ran well. I told him he (jockey Watters) could do whatever he wants to do. If they’re going fast, he can sit back. Or he can go to the front.”
Proven Innocent upsets The Mean Queen in Entenmann with last-minute surge
In a thrilling renewal of $75,000 William Entenmann novice stakes on opening day at Aqueduct Thursday afternoon, Bruton Street-US’ Proven Innocent captured his third race of 2022 by overtaking reigning Eclipse-Award champion The Mean Queen in the final strides to prevail over the odds-on favorite by a head.
Ridden by Jamie Bargary, one of the hottest riders of the just-completed National Steeplechase Association summer season, the four-year-old roan son of Blame sat in fifth in the field of six for the first two miles of the 2 3/8-mile contest. Nearing the head of the stretch, Proven Innocent, carrying 149 pounds, moved into contention.
Meanwhile, The Mean Queen, coming off an 11-month layoff and carrying high weight of 158 pounds, broke last under Parker Hendriks and raced three to four wide, eventually assuming a narrow lead at fence eight, with about seven furlongs to go. But it was a tenuous lead at first, as the mare dueled a closely bunched field including stablemates Going Country and Howyabud, along with State of Affair and Booby Trap.
With about a furlong remaining, The Mean Queen edged clear by a length and dug in when challenged by Proven Innocent, who had advanced on the outside. The duo battled to the wire with Proven Innocent getting the nod.
It was 6 3/4 lengths back to the show horse, Irv Naylor’s Howyabud, also trained by Brion.
For the winner, trained by Hall of Famer Jack Fisher, it has been a memorable season. After a fourth-place finish in his debut at the Queen’s Cup Races, Proven Innocent broke his maiden at the Iroquois Races, then finished second in a large field in an allowance at Saratoga, before scoring in another allowance at the Spa.
To watch a replay of Thursday’s races, click here: https://www.nyra.com/aqueduct/racing/replays
Full results can be found here: https://nationalsteeplechase.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/Aqueduct-Results-September15.pdf