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Friday, September 29, 2023

Awakened won the G1 Jonathan Sheppard, giving Jack Fisher his second straight win in the race

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y.--The beautifully bred Awakened lived up to his breeding and won the G1, $150,000, 2 3/8 mile Jonathan Sheppard Handicap on Wednesday, Aug. 23.

Awakened defeats Jimmy P in Sheppard 5Awakened defeats Jimmy P in the Sheppard (Photo by Tod Marks)Riverdee Stable and Ten Strike Racing's Awakened, trained by Jack Fisher and ridden by Tom Garner, won by 1 length over Jimmy P, trained by Keri Brion,, with McTigue, trained by Cyril Murphy, third.

Awakened settled well off the pace set by West Newton, who led until the final turn. with Noah And The Ark, Jimmy P and L'Impertore close behind.

Awakened made up ground entering the stretch under steady urging from Garner, taking command to the inside of Jimmy P passing the eighth pole with McTigue gaining on Jimmy P,  but Awakened prevailed, finishing in 4:32.51.

Merry Maker finished fourth another seven lengths back,followed by L’Imperator, Redicean, Caramelised, Noah And The Ark, West Newton and Theocrat.

"He's always been a nice horse," said Fisher. "Having the Kiser under his belt helped him, and so did the added distance."

The Kiser was run at 2 1/16 miles, while the Sheppard was 2 3/8 miles.


“I WAS pretty confident, just because I knew he’d like the distance and I knew he’d like the ground being firm,” said Fisher. “I thought he was too far back and it would be tough to get through, but knowing here it opens up in the stretch so he could just wait. It is what it is. You take what you can get. It’s the first Grade 1 win for Riverdee Stables, which I train a lot of horses for.”

“Look, I was just a passenger the whole way, the horse did everything,” Garner said. “He traveled great, jumped great. I wasn't in the position that I wanted to be in, I wanted to be further forward. I got a lovely run down inside. I haven't panicked, last down the back, which is the last hurdle nowadays, he's winged it. I've been right there. I just had to wait a little bit to get into the straight, I let him open up.”

Sean Clancy of Riverdee Stable looks for well bred flat horses that might convert to jumpers for steeplechase trainers, and keeps a few of them for Riverdee.

Clancy has found a number of horses that have become top hurdle horses, including Snap Decision for Bruton Street-US.

Clancy won this race, then called the New York Turf Writers Cup, as a jockey in 1998 on track record-setter Hokan.

Clancy said Awakened had the makings of a jump horse ever since he broke his maiden on the flat.

“We actually watched him win a mile and a quarter turf race at Ellis from the press box here and I said, ‘That’s a jumper, that’s a jumper.’ So, I had been following him, and then Shug called me and said, ‘You want to do something with Awakened?’ He needed a little time then and we gave him the rest of the year off,” Clancy said. “We bought him around August 2021 and we didn’t put a saddle on him. He wasn’t inside a stall from Aug.15 to Jan. 15. He just had some bone bruising, nothing major. He lived out and he’s just been perfect ever since. He’s a trier and loves firm ground.”

"He'll probably run next in the novice race at Aqueduct,"said Fisher. "He won't run in the Lonesome Glory. We have Snap Decision for that, so that was an easy decision."

Fisher skipped the Smithwick and Sheppard with Snap Decision because, as handicaps, Snap would have been given much too much weight.

Clancy added that weather will determine if Awakened will make the trip to Far Hills for the upcoming meeting on Oct. 21 after he finished sixth in the Foxbrook Championship Hurdle over yielding footing at last year’s meet.

“I wouldn’t go to Far Hills on soft ground. His only bad race on his form was at Far Hills on soft ground,” said Clancy. “He’s still a novice, too. This was a Grade 1, but there was no Snap Decision, no The Mean Queen, and no Belfast Banter, so this was as much of a novice stake as anything. So, he still has his novice condition and I can still go that direction.”

Prior to the Sheppard, Awakened had run over fences nine times with three wins, three seconds, a third, fourth and six, but had only run in a stakes race once, and that was also his most recent start, the Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes, where he was second to McTigue.

But, although the Sheppard was a G1 Stakes, with the field it drew it was more like a very high class allowance race or a novice race, as the last two winners, Snap Decision and The Mean Queen, didn't run, nor did the top four finishers in the previous grade one race,the Smithwick.

Awakened, a half-brother to multiple graded stakes-winning millionaire Imagining, is out of the multiple graded stakes-winning A.P. Indy mare Daydreaming, who is a full-sister to G1 winner Girolamo and graded stakes-winner Accelerator.

He was bred and raced on the flat by Phipps Stable, where he won only once, in a maiden special weight,his final race before Clancy got him.

Awakened was a $725,000 RNA at the 2018 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.


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