08/29/2007 12:00AM

Mixed Up tries to double up

Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Mixed Up (right) clears a jump on the way to his victory in the A.P. Smithwick on Aug. 9 at Saratoga. He could sweep the steeplechase stakes at the Spa with a win in Thursday's Grade 1 Turf Writers Cup.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Thanks to a stumble, Mixed Up enters the Grade 1, $150,000 New York Turf Writers Cup Thursday in position to sweep the two steeplechase stakes at Saratoga Race Course.

Three weeks after winning the A.P. Smithwick by a half-length, Mixed Up will face 10 other starters in the 2 3/8-mile race over 10 hurdles. At 162 pounds, he will spot the field from 10 to 29 pounds. Next on the weight scale at 152 is Preemptive Strike, a speedy 9-year-old who is the likely pacesetter and was the runner-up in the Smithwick.

The top five finishers in the Smithwick are in the New York Turf Writers Cup, which begins on the backstretch of the inner turf course. The 66th running of the stakes will be race 8 on the program.

Mixed Up won the New York Turf Writers Cup last year, and Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard decided to use a similar schedule to get to the race this summer. But the plan had to be scrapped when Mixed Up stumbled and dropped rider Danielle Hodson early in the running of the Flatterer Handicap on July 28 at Philadelphia Park.

"He only jumped four fences that day," Sheppard said. "He went like three-quarters of a mile. We thought that's not a very good way to be coming up to the Turf Writers, so we better go to Plan B and run him in the Smithwick, too."

Mixed Up and Divine Fortune form an entry owned by William Pape, but Sheppard said that Divine Fortune will start only if Mixed Up cannot. Sheppard, who has won the New York Turf Writers Cup 12 times, will also saddle the 7-year-old New Zealand mare Sweet Shani.

Should he win the Turf Writers Cup, Mixed Up would become the first horse since Campanile in 1999 to sweep the two steeplechase stakes at Saratoga. He also would tie Campanile for winning three consecutive Saratoga steeplechase races.

Sheppard said that Mixed Up has made the transition from being a winner on the flat to being a standout over hurdles.

"He's a quality horse," he said. "He's fast. He's athletic. He's a good, fast, bold jumper.

"He used to have a problem of being a little bit headstrong when he started out. He was campaigned strictly as a flat horse for two or three years. He was expecting to go a mile and a sixteenth when the race started and all of a sudden he's going two and a sixteenth. So we had to teach him."