08/07/2007 12:00AM

Mixed Up dogged by unknowns

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Trainer Jonathan Sheppard had it all mapped out. He would run Mixed Up in the Flatterer Handicap at Philadelphia Park, then move on to the New York Turf Writers Handicap at Saratoga, just as he did a year ago, when Mixed Up won both races.

But an abbreviated run in the Flatterer, in which Mixed Up was out of the race at the fourth fence, caused Sheppard to call an audible. Instead of waiting for the Grade 1 Turf Writers on Aug. 30, he decided to bring Mixed Up right back in the Grade 2, $80,000 A.P. Smithwick Memorial here on Thursday in hopes of getting a proper prep for the Turf Writers.

"We did not plan on running here," Sheppard said at his barn on Tuesday morning. "He was better handicapped in the race at Philadelphia. It's for statebreds, and though he had to carry more weight, it was against lesser horses."

That's not the case on Thursday. Mixed Up will be taking on Preemptive Strike, who is back in good form after an absence of more than 19 months, and the 1-2-3 finishers from the National Hunt Cup - Best Attack, Orison, and Orsay.

Plus, handicappers will have to decide if Sheppard is using this as a true prep for the Turf Writers, if Mixed Up is over the troubled run he had last time, and if he can spot weight to all his rivals.

"He has to give eight pounds to Preemptive Strike," Sheppard said. "It's important to get a good race into him to have him ready for the Turf Writers."

The Smithwick will be the day's first race. It is run over national fences at 2 1/16 miles, more than two laps around the inner turf course.

Preemptive Strike fell in his first start this year following a lengthy layoff, but came back with a sharp, runner-up effort in his most recent start.

Orison gets 12 pounds from Mixed Up. He has made steady progress since moving to the jumps last year.

"He ran huge last time," his rider, Matt McCarron, said Tuesday of Orison's second-place finish in the National Hunt Cup. "Jumping the last fence, I thought I was going to get home, but Best Attack ran up the fence and got us four or five jumps before the wire."