08/03/2009 11:00PM

Dark Equation following same path in Smithwick


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Repeating an itinerary that proved successful last summer, Dark Equation returns to Saratoga on Thursday where he will use the Grade 2, $100,000 A.P. Smithwick Memorial Steeplechase as a prep for the Grade 1 New York Turf Writers Handicap later in the meet.

Dark Equation finished second behind High Action in the 2008 Smithwick over 2 1/16 miles but avenged that setback when rallying from far back to a half-length triumph three weeks later in the 2 3/8-mile New York Turf Writers Handicap. Now 8, Dark Equation finished second over soft ground in his only previous start this season on April 18.

"The soft course probably compromised his chances a little in his first start this year, because he loves hard ground. That's his favorite by far," said Douglas Fout who trains Dark Equation for owner Beverly Steinman. "This is a good quality bunch of horses on Thursday, but there is a lot of speed in the lineup and that should suit us well. It's not quite his best distance, the longer distance of the Turf Writers is better for him, so if he runs well and finishes in the top three I'll be very pleased."

Dark Equation will carry high weight of 154 pounds in the Smithwick, with Paddy Young aboard for the first time.

"Matt McCarron was his regular rider, but he's retired," Fout said. "Paddy rides first call for me now and he knows how I like to go, so I'm confident he'll give this horse a good ride."

Dark Equation will face six challengers in the Smithwick, among them pairs from the top steeplechase barns of trainers Jonathan Sheppard and Tom Voss.

Sheppard will send out both Dr. Bloomer and Mixed Up, winner of the 2007 Smithwick.

Voss counters with Planets Aligned, a Grade 3 winner in his last start, and Slip Away, a former claimer who brings a six-race win streak into the Smithwick.