08/09/2006 11:00PM

Hirapour takes Smithwick in style

Adam Coglianese / NYRA
Hirapour, Matthew McCarron up, romps in his return to the races Thursday in the Smithwick.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Trainer Doug Fout brought Hirapour back to the races this year at age 10 with one goal in mind, to win an Eclipse Award for the second time in three years. Hirapour on Thursday was making his first start since November, when he chipped an ankle, and was racing over a distance considered short of his best, but the old man looked as spry as ever by romping to a four-length victory in the Grade 2, $79,500 at Saratoga.

Hirapour ($4) and second-choice Good Night Shirt moved as a team on the final turn and quickly reeled in early leaders Mauritania and Mark the Shark, who at one point were 20 lengths in front of their six rivals. Hirapour and Good Night Shirt were alongside one another heading to the last of eight fences, but Hirapour proved strongest after that last jump and was drawing off at the finish. Mauritania was third, 2 1/2 lengths behind Good Night Shirt.

The Eclipse Award-winning steeplechaser in 2004, Hirapour completed 2 1/16 miles over eight National fences in 3:42.26 to record his 11th victory in 20 starts over the jumps. And the crowd at Saratoga, well aware of Hirapour's comeback, gave him a polite cheer when he crossed the line and an even more appreciative cheer when he left the winner's circle.

Matthew McCarron, Hirapour's jockey, pumped his right arm enthusiastically after crossing under the wire, then leaped from Hirapour with a flying dismount - like Angel Cordero Jr. or Frankie Dettori - after the winner's circle photos were taken.

"Going down the backside, he was struggling a little bit," McCarron said. "He's an amazing animal. He is so genuine. When you call on him, he digs in so deep and finds whatever it takes."

Fout, who trains Hirapour for Ken Luke's Eldon Farm, said Hirapour will be retired at the end of this year. His upcoming schedule includes the New York Turf Writers Handicap later this meet, followed by the Breeders' Cup Steeplechase and the Colonial Cup.

"We want to win the Eclipse," Fout said. "He's got three more races to get it done."

Morrissey: Gold and Roses draws off by six

In the day's flat racing feature, Gold and Roses battled for the early lead, shook off his pace rivals, and pulled away for a six-length victory in the $69,850 John Morrissey Stakes for New York-bred sprinters.

Garrett Gomez rode Gold and Roses, who set fractions of 21.99 seconds and 45.26, en route to a final time of 1:17.15 for 6 1/2 furlongs on the fast main track.

Gold and Roses ($5.80) had faced the likes of Grade 1 winners Commentator and Flower Alley in his last two starts. The Morrissey came up easier, but Gold and Roses was still the second choice because of the presence of Big Apple Daddy, an accomplished sprinter in open company.

Big Apple Daddy, however, broke a step slowly. He still found himself in a good stalking position, but when Gold and Roses kicked away, Big Apple Daddy could not keep up. Big Apple Daddy rallied for second in the five-horse field, finishing 1 1/4 lengths in front of third-place Casper Peterson.

"He broke half a step slow, but he had every opportunity," said Richard Migliore, who rode Big Apple Daddy.

Gold and Roses, whom Tom Bush trains for Henry Gregory, has now won seven times in 23 starts.