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Thursday, August 13, 2020

Moscato out-finishes Optimus Prime to win the G1 A.P. Smithwick

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y.--Bruton Street-US's Moscato ran down Optimus Prime in deep stretch, overtaking him from the far outside in the final sixteenth to win the G1, $100,000 A.P. Smithwick Memorial at Saratoga on July 23.

Moscato tight at wire in Smithwick1Moscato edges Optimus Prime at the wire in the Smithwick (Photo by Tod Marks)Trained by Jack Fisher, Moscato had the advantage of having had a winning prep race prior to the Smithwick, while Optimus Prime, trained by Ricky Hendriks hadn't run for over a year.

Lacking a prep race may easily have left Optimus Prime just that little bit short in the very long run-in from the final fence on the backside, giving Moscato just the edge he need to slip past and go on to win by 3/4 length.

Surprising Soul, also trained by Hendriks, led up to the last fence but tired and was eased, while Optims Prime and Moscato bided their time early in the race.

Redicean, trained by Leslie Young, went to the lead over the last fence and was in front heading into the final turn before Optimus Prime, the winner of the 2018 G1 New York Turf Writers Cup of the Spa, took the lead from the outside.

But 8-5 favorite Moscato, under rider Michael Mitchell, put in a furious finish from even further outside, finishing strong under an aggressive hand ride for a three-quarter length victory, completing the approximate 2 1/16 miles on the firm inner turf in a final time of 3:47.51.


"I HAD TO work to keep him in position early," Mitchell said. "The pace was good early on. I was comfortable with where we were, and he jumped fantastically. He really met every fence nicely and covered the ground well. They just started to slow up coming into the turn and we had to weave through a couple of horses. Coming out of the turn, he got trapped for a little bit of room but his stamina kicked in and he really went well to the line and got his head in front at the right time."

Moscato improved to 2-for-2 in his 9-year-old year, adding to his victory in the G3 Temple Gwathmey Hurdle on June 13 at Glenwood Park at Middleburg.

The English-bred son of Hernando gave trainer Jack Fisher his fourth career A.P. Smithwick triumph.

"I thought we were in serious trouble on the turn," Fisher said. "Optimus Prime cruised up there, but he hadn't run in a year and I think he might have needed the race and just ran out of gas in the last sixteenth. I think he'll be very tough next time."

Moscato, who ended his 2019 season with a third-place finish in the prestigious G1 Grand National at Fair Hill in October, improved to 12-7-3 in 33 lifetime starts.

He returned $5.40 on a $2 win wager and improved his career earnings to $414,677.

"The ground suits these jumpers," Mitchell said. "It's good a good grass cover and we had a little bit of rain last night which helps these horses. Being foreign-bred they like a bit more sponginess and cut in the ground, so it wasn't an issue being wide it was more about keeping the momentum throughout the race."

Optimus Prime, who entered with wins in four of his previous five starts including three graded stakes wins, dating to 2018, finished 2 1/2 lengths in front of Gibralfaro, also trained by Fisher, for second.

Redicean and Chief Justice, trained by Cyril Murphy, completed the order of finish.

Pravalaguna, Surprising Soul and Winner Massagot were all eased.

The G1, $100,000 New York Turf Writers Cup at 2 3/8 miles, is slated for Thursday, Aug. 20.

Fisher said both Moscato and Snap Decision, who won Wednesday's Jonathan Kiser Novice at Saratoga, are likely participants.

"We'll probably run them both in the Turf Writers," he said.

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