SHE might have an Irish-sounding name but there were little Irish connections when the New York-bred Down Royal, the only mare in a field of seven, came home the best over six rivals in the Grade 1 $150,000 A.P. Smithwick Memorial Steeplechase Stakes at Saratoga on Wednesday.
Ridden by Bernard Dalton, husband of trainer Kate Dalton, and bred by the Daltons, the eight-year-old grey daughter of Alphabet Soup scored the first graded victory of her career after closing from off the pace and in the final strides getting the verdict by a neck in the two-mile, half-a-furlong contest over the hurdles.
Down Royal extended her win streak to four in a row, dating back to her first stakes score in the Randolph D. Rouse Stakes last August at Colonial Downs for owners Shadowfax Stable
Sixth early, Down Royal rallied to catch the former Irish-trained Chief Justice by a neck after the latter had opened up a two-and-a-half-length lead after pressing the pace. Keri Brion’s late-running French Light, in the colours of Irv Naylor, rallied for third.
The favourite and pacesetter, Pistol Whipped with Nico De Boinville on board, was eased out of the race after a mile and a half miles and was reported to have bled. French Light also suffered a career-ending injury.
The win was the second top-level victory at Saratoga for Dalton, who sent out Diplomat to win the 2017 Grade 1 New York Turf Writers Cup Handicap, also with her husband in the saddle.
“This filly got me my 100th winner as a jockey at Nashville over jumps in America, and you can’t write that script,” Dalton said. “To come here and win a Grade 1 on a filly that you bred and have ridden probably 99.9% of the time in our eight years, you can’t describe the feeling it gives you to accomplish this.”
Barry Foley, who rode Chief Justice, was pleased with the runner-up’s effort.
“It was a big run for him. He was just very unlucky to get run down by a good filly, to be fair.
“It was a massive run out of her, and I’m delighted for Bernie and Kate Dalton. They’re hard triers, and they deserve that,” he was quoted.