Mark W. Buyck, Jr.'s Show Court, a 14-1 upset winner last year, returns to defend his title in Thursday's Grade 1, $150,000 A.P. Smithwick Memorial at Saratoga Race Course.
The first steeplechase graded stakes at Saratoga's 40-day meet, the 23rd running of the 2 1/16-mile hurdle stakes will see the Irish-bred 10-year-old son of Vinnie Roe in search of his first win of the season for trainer Archibald Kingsley, Jr.
Last year, Show Court surged to the lead at the top of the lane and won a battle with favored Iranistan to earn the length score.
“It was a beautifully timed ride,” said Kingsley, Jr. “As I was watching it unfold, I liked everything I was seeing – where he was positioned, how he was going – the timing was just right. If produced at the right moment, he does well.”
Rarely off as the mutuel favorite in a 42-race career, Show Court has rewarded his backers at Saratoga including in 2017 when winning the Jonathan Kiser Novice at a healthy 6-1.
“He's been a long time looking to get respect from the bettors,” said Kingsley, Jr. “He won the Kiser the year before at a good price.
“He's going to run well again. He's a horse for the distance and that race course,” added Kingsley, Jr. “He's doing well and is a happy, healthy horse right now.”
Show Court has made four starts in 2019 and arrives at Thursday's test from a 12-furlong turf allowance at Parx where he finished seventh.
Kingsley, Jr. said he is looking forward to Thursday's Grade 1 event and a chance to showcase steeplechase racing at the highest level.
“The beauty of steeplechase horses, for those of us that get to work with these lovely animals, is they've reached a point in their career where they are galvanized by their racing experiences. They are good at what they do and like what they do,” said Kingsley, Jr. “These are seasoned performers and athletes in every regard. For Show Court, we haven't had quite the right set up for him so far this year, but he likes Saratoga and is doing well. Hopefully, it's a moment where everything comes together for us.”
Barry Foley has the call aboard Show Court from post 5.
Gary Barber's Belisarius, trained by Kate Dalton, finished one spot behind Show Court last out at Parx. The 8-year-old Montjeu gelding is a veteran of 40 career starts. He launched his steeplechase campaign in March 2018 with a third-place finish in a Camden maiden.
Belisarius graduated over the jumps in August in a Monmouth Park maiden and followed up in October with a victory in the Foxbrook Champion Hurdle at Far Hills. The hard-trying Belisarius was second in the Grade 3 Temple Gwathmey Hurdle Handicap in his seasonal debut at Glenwood Park at Middleburg.
Ross Geraghty will pilot Belisarius from post 10.
Trainer Elizabeth Voss will saddle a pair of contenders in multiple Grade 1-placed Modem and six-time winner No Wunder.
Modem, a 9-year-old son of Motivator owned by Robert A. Kinsley, finished second in the 2017 renewal of the A.P. Smithwick Memorial during a stretch that saw the talented bay complete the exacta in five consecutive Grade 1 events.
He raced twice last season earning second place in the Grade 1 Iroquois at Percy Warner Park ahead of finishing sixth in the Smithwick.
He prepared for Thursday's test in the same Parx allowance as Belisarius and Show Court.
Regular rider Jack Doyle has the call from post 7.
No Wunder, a Kinsley-owned 8-year-old son of Rock of Gibraltar, enters from a winning effort in a hurdles handicap on May 25 at Fair Hill.
He boasts a record of 3-4-1 over the jumps and will make his graded stakes debut under Kieran Norris from post 8.
A third Voss-trained contender, the Irish-bred Portrade, is on the also-eligible list with Geraghty also named.
Completing the field are Hinterland [Post 1, William McCarthy], Peppay Le Pugh (Post 2, Danny Mullins], Winston C [Post 3, Thomas Garner], Sempre Medici [Post 4, Darren Nagle], Vosne Romanee [Post 6, Sam Twiston-Davies], Bedrock [Post 9, Sean McDermott], All the Way Jose [Post 11, Gerard Galligan], and Gibralfaro [Post 12, Michael Mitchell].
The A.P. Smithwick Memorial is slated as the opening race on Thursday's 11-race card. First post is 12:45 p.m.
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