SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. --Snap Decision led virtually every step of the way in the G1, $150,000 Jonathan Sheppard Steeplechase Stakes to win by 13 1/4 lengths in 4:32.88 despite carrying the high weight of 164 pounds and giving 24 pounds to second placed Going Country.
Bruton Street-US' Snap Decision, trained by Hall of Fame Jack Fisher and ridden by Graham Watters settled near the rear over the first hurdle, but went to the lead on the first turn, jumping well and cruising in front until the final turn when he began to open up and finished with ears pricked, 13 1/4 lengths over Going Country, trained by Keri Brion, with Redicean, trained by Leslie Young, third, followed by Belfast Banter, Song for Someone, Down Royal and Chief Justice..
"For us, he's a once in a lifetime horse,"said Charlie Fenwick, who is partner with Mike Hankin and Charlie Noell in Bruton Street.
"When he jumped the first fence and wasn't settling behind, I was afraid we'd gotten him too sharp when we ran him in the stake on the flat,"said Fenwick. "But then he settled in front and jumped brilliantly."
Snap Decision had run third in a stakes at Colonial Downs that Fisher said he had used as a work for the 8-year-old gelding bred by Phipps Stable and campaigned by the Phipps, for whom he was stakes placed on the flat.
"I THINK he is running to his pedigree," said Fenwick. "He's by Hard Spun, who sires winners on the flat and on turf, but he's out of Salute, who is a half sister to Personal Ensign. He has a half sister, Vigilantes Way, that Shug McGaughey trains. She's stakes placed on the flat."
Bruton Street bought Snap Decision after Fenwick began following his races on the flat.
"I pay attention to the Hard Spuns," said Fenwick. "I'd grown to like Hard Spun's get because of Doc Cebu. I began to pay attention to what McGaughey was doing with this Hard Spun,and when I saw Snap Decision was beginning to not do so well, I asked Jack to make a call to Shug, and then we bought him.
"I thought I was prepared for all eventualities in this race, but I never dreamed he would win by 13 while giving away all that weight," said Fenwick. "I rode my first race 57 years ago, and I still remember clearly how my stomach felt. I kept thinking, `Why am I doing this.' I don't think I was feeling any differently today."
Fisher had told The Horse that he wouldn't run Snap Decision if he carried more that 158 pounds, and when the weights were announced he had considered running him in the John's Call Stakes on the flat at Saratoga instead of the Sheppard.
"Then the John's Call came up very tough, and that helped us make the decision this way," said Fenwick.
This was Snap Decision's third career Grade 1 triumph, and second this year after successfully defending his title in the Iroquois in May at Percy Warner.
Snap Decision usually runs off the pace, but Fisher said of going to the front, "That was the plan."
“That was kind of my call,” said Fisher. “I told Graham that he was on the best horse, so I told him, ‘Don’t go crazy fast if they want to go crazy fast.’ If not, just go and be on the lead and say, ‘Come and get me.’”
“We jumped off, everybody jumped off sharp," said Watters. "He’s drawn wide but I didn’t want to get trapped in behind the other horses, I wanted to just let him run and jump so I passed the guys around the turn the first time and got to the front. Just had to get them and let him do his thing, run and jump. I won the Iroquois back in May on him, did the same thing, pistol whipped on there and that seems to be the best tactic on him.
“He’s got the biggest engine by far of any horse I’ve ever ridden,” Watters said. “I just let him use it. Simple.”
“The weight could have been a problem on the turn, but the way he jumped at the last fence and the way he stood back at the last kind of far, that tells me they have enough energy left,” Fisher said.
“Look, I’m 30 years of age, I’ve been riding for 15 years and he’s a horse of a lifetime and if I’m just mentioning the horse’s name, I get emotional about him,” said Watters, who has ridden Snap Decision in each of his seven graded stakes outings. “He’s an absolute legend of an animal. He’s a tiger. All I’ve got to do is unleash him. I’ll never come across another one of him. I’ve just got to soak it all up.”
Second placed Going Country, trained by Brion, was ridden by Danny Mullins, who came over from Ireland for the race.
Brion won the Sheppard last year with subsequent Champion Steeplechaser The Mean Queen, and she said her lightly-raced runner-up showed heart in his effort after finishing third at the novice level just two weeks ago.
“I am delighted with him," said Brion. "He was the most inexperienced horse in the race, obviously he got the weight which is why I took the chance.”
“I couldn’t be any more proud of him. I’m thankful that Danny came here to ride him and gave him a great ride,” Brion said. “He’s a fun horse and he was not expensive so you can’t be too upset with running second to Snap Decision. We’ll get him with The Mean Queen in a couple of weeks.”
Snap Decision, who was graded stakes-placed over the flat before his steeplechase career, began his career with Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey, finishing third in 2017 in the G3 Palm Beach at Gulfstream Park and the Better Talk Now at Saratoga.
He made his first start over jumps for Fisher in April 2019 at Charlotte and since then won his first Grade 1 in the 2021 Iroquois to cap a nine-race win streak that included two novice victories at the Spa.