Fan favorite Mr. Hot Stuff earned his first career Grade 1 stakes win on Thursday at Saratoga Race Course, taking the lead over the eighth fence and going on to a mild upset of the Grade 1, $100,000 A.P. Smithwick Memorial Steeplechase.
Ridden by Paddy Young, the 7-year-old gelding – a full brother to 2008 Travers winner Colonel John – completed the 2 1/16 miles in 3:50.92 for his fourth win in eight starts since being transformed from a stakes-placed flat horse to a jumper.
“He's still a big baby, really, in relative terms to steeplechasing,” said Young. “I'd like to think he can keep improving and get bigger and stronger and better. With steeplechasers, it's got to do with confidence. They've got to believe in themselves. Flat horses are the same, but these horses have to believe that if something goes wrong in a race they can get back up and do it. He was the utmost professional today.”
Mr. Hot Stuff, who in 2009 was 15th in the Kentucky Derby and eighth in the Belmont Stakes, ran his last race on the flat in August, 2010. In 2011, under the tutelage of trainer Jack Fisher, the son of Tiznow was turned into a steeplechaser and he won two of four starts over the fences.
Unraced in 2012, Mr. Hot Stuff finished third in his first start this year, won the restricted Marcellus Frost Stakes in May and was fourth in his first graded stakes attempt in a jump race, the Grade 3 David L. Ferguson Memorial, in June.
“He has the talent and he used it today,” said Fisher of Mr. Hot Stuff, who is owned by Mrs. S. K. Johnson. “He's taken to the jumps because he doesn't have to work that hard. Seriously. It's not as tough; he's not going down there in :23. It's just a nice easy gallop for him. Sometimes, doing this, if it's easy enough, they'll try again. He's a beautiful horse.”
Sent off at 5-1, Mr. Hot Stuff returned $12 for a $2 win bet. Finishing 2 ½ lengths behind him were favored Italian Wedding, with entrymate Divine Fortune a neck back in third. Spy in the Sky, Brave Prospect, Hunt Ball and Meganisi completing the order of finish. Demonstrative was scratched.
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