Tuesday, August 05, 2008
A ROSE AMONG THORNS, CLASSY SHADOW STEPS UP IN SMITHWICK
Lilith Boucher wanted to train Class Shadow from the moment she saw her.
Now that Classy Shadow has proved herself in her last start, the 4-year-old Rock Point filly will take on eight experienced males and a reliable mare when she makes her Saratoga Race Course debut in Thursday’s 13th running of the Grade 2, $80,00-added A.P. Smithwick Memorial Steeplechase at two miles and a sixteenth.
It is tough enough that she will be facing William Pape’s 9-year-old Mixed Up, the 2007 Smithwick winner, but she will also have to contend with The Fields Stable’s Guelph, a 7-year-old Sky Classic mare who is on a two-race winning streak. Those horses are trained by Hall of Famer Jonathan Sheppard and Tom Voss, respectively.
The Ferguson was a race far beyond anyone’s expectations for Classy Shadow, with the possible exception of Boucher, who had pleaded with owner Mignon C. Smith to let her train Class Shadow. Smith, now 76, is an Alabama heiress whose great-grandfather was once that state’s governor. Following a career as a White House radio correspondent -- she was, in fact, in the White House Press Room when Richard M. Nixon resigned as President of the United States – Smith devoted her self to breeding Thoroughbreds and show horses.
“We broke two-year-olds for Mignon, and every time I would see her, I would say, `When are you going to send me Class Shadow?,” said Boucher, a self-described “army brat” who once galloped horses in Louisiana for the late Eclipse Award-winning owner John Franks. “When you see her in the paddock, you’ll know why I liked her so much. She’s big and black (dark bay), but like a lot of horses, when she was three, she was kind of gangly and not as impressive looking as she was as a two-year-old.
“Finally, Mignon came to me one day and told me she was sending me Class Shadow.”
Boucher was impressed by Class Shadow’s competitiveness, and was convinced of her quality when she ran second twice to the more experienced Guelph.
“Guelph is a very tough mare, and we’ve had two second to her while only getting four pounds,” Boucher said. “That was what convinced us to take a chance in the Ferguson. Granted, the race set up well for her: the pace was hot, she carried 130 pounds. But the winner (Four Schools) was sitting second off that pace. It wasn’t like the leaders backed up to her. She was closing and she beat a lot of other horses.”
“You always worry about your horses, and you don’t want to go to Saratoga and look bad,” Boucher said. “But this filly went from facing six- and seven-horse fields of fillies and mares to a 12-horse field of tough, experienced horses and she did very well. She proved she belong and deserves a chance here.”
Sheppard, who already earned a Grade 1 victory this meet on the flat when Forever Together won the Diana on July 26, is eager to see if Mixed Up can recapture some past glory. He won the Smithwick last year in 3:45.56 while carrying 158 pounds. He has the same weight assignment on Thursday, and will break from the far outside in post 10.
“Last year, he won the Smithwick and then had two very bad races in a row,” Sheppard said. “He ran poorly, and we discovered that he had a blood disease that had left him dehydrated. There were other factors, too: he had carried high weight and was in tough races.
“So, we decided to put him away and bring him back in the spring. He is not a big horse, and he is always going to carry top weight. And, he might have even lost a step. So, this is going to be a tough race for him to win. But, we worked him on the Oklahoma track (at Saratoga) this morning and we were very pleased.”
Mixed Up went five furlongs in 1:00.46, breezing, on the firm Oklahoma course, ranking eighth of 23 at the distance.
Danielle Hodsdon will ride.
Guelph, who will carry 142 pounds, including jockey Padge Whelan, won the Margaret Currey Henley Sport of Queens Hurdle at Percy Warner Park in Nashville, Tenn. and the Valentine Memorial Sport of Queens Hurdle at Fair Hill, Md. in succession.
Read more articles in the Saratoga category.