By Tod Marks
Once again shouldering top weight – and conceding 20 to 22 pounds to his far less accomplished rivals – Bruton Street-US’ Snap Decision emerges from lengthy downtime on Thursday, seeking to avenge two previous losses in the $150,000 2 ½-mile Lonesome Glory handicap hurdle stakes on opening day of the Belmont at Aqueduct meet.
The battle-hardened, Phipps-bred nine-year-old son of Hard Spun, trained by Hall of Famer Jack Fisher, took the summer off following a second-place finish in the G1 Iroquois at Percy Warner Park in Nashville in May so he would be fresh to contend for year-end honors. Last year, after a tough-but-outstanding six-race campaign in which he captured the G2 Temple Gwathmey at Middleburg along with the Iroquois and G1 Jonathan Sheppard at Saratoga, Snap Decision was upset by 41-1 Noah and the Ark in the Lonesome Glory and finished off the board in the National Steeplechase Association’s biggest race, the Grand National at Far Hills in October, a stinging defeat that came at the hands of Shark Hanlon’s Irish star Hewick. Though Snap Decision was a two-time G1 winner, Hewick’s victory on the sport’s grandest stage earned him the championship in his lone U.S. start.
So after taking this year’s Gwathmey to begin 2023 and his runner-up performance to European invader Scaramanga in the Iroquois, Fisher gave his star some time off. But it wasn’t purely for rest, relaxation, and to avoid giving away large amounts of weight to his foes. Fisher told the NYRA press office that Snap Decision “made a noise” coming up the hill late in the 3-mile Iroquois, according to jockey Sean McDermott, and had surgery to repair an entrapped epiglottis following the race. In the Lonesome Glory, Snap Decision will be ridden by Graham Watters, his regular jockey. Fisher also saddles Snap Decision’s Bruton-Street stablemate, the 2022 National Steeplechase Association novice champion, Proven Innocent (142 pounds), and Riverdee Stable’s City Dreamer (142 pounds).
A five-year-old son of Blame, Proven Innocent captured last year’s William Entenmann novice stakes at the Big A, upsetting 2021 Eclipse Award winner, The Mean Queen. In a pair of 2023 starts, Proven Innocent has not been a factor. Tom Garner, who recently captured the Jonathan Sheppard stakes with Awakened, gets the mount. Garner has said he will retire from race riding at the conclusion of the season.
The Irish-bred City Dreamer, age 9, was a distant sixth in the Iroquois and hasn’t won since the 2021 AFLAC Supreme novice stakes at Callaway Gardens. Harry Beswick, who guided Noah and the Ark to victory over Snap Decision in last year’s Lonesome Glory, is the rider.
Not to be outdone, trainer Arch Kingsley sends out four runners to take on Snap Decision. Hurricana Farm’s Merry Maker (142 pounds, Parker Hendriks) took a huge class leap in the Sheppard, and though he was beaten eight lengths, the six-year-old closed from 10th to fourth. Hudson River Farms’ L’Imperator (142 pounds, Stephen Mulqueen), a six-year-old graded stakes-winner on the flat, posted an impressive allowance romp on July 26 at the Spa where he notched his first triumph against winners over hurdles, coming from far back to win easily by 8 ¾ lengths. In the Sheppard, he contended but came up empty late to finish fifth. Richard Colton and Stella Thayer’s Barbados (140 pounds, Gerard Galligan), a seven-year-old Irish-bred, broke his maiden at Iroquois, then took a shot in the $250,000 Belmont Gold Cup at two miles on the turf in his next start in June, finishing eighth at 60-1. Though favored in the Jonathan Kiser novice stakes at Saratoga, he finished a distant fourth. A recent convert to jump racing, Hudson River Farms’ Cibolian (140 pounds, Jamie Bargary) broke his maiden in his second NSA start, at Colonial Downs in July. Before that, he, too, tried the Belmont Gold Cup and closed from 13th to fifth, beaten 4 ½ lengths at 82-1.
Rounding out the field is USA Steeplechase’s Restitution (140 pounds, Bernie Dalton), a five-year-old French-bred son of Frankel. Trained by Keri Brion, Restitution made his NSA debut in the Kiser, where he was a DNF. Before that, he had four wins (three in handicap hurdle races) in 18 starts in England, and finished in the top three 11 times.
The Lonesome Glory is the first race of the day, with a 1:05 p.m. post time. NYRA races are broadcast live on Fox2 TV, with replays available on NYRA website, https://www.nyra.com/saratoga/racing/replays.
For complete entries, click here: https://nationalsteeplechase.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/09/Aqueduct-.pdf