08/24/2009 11:00PM

Mixed Up unlikely for Turf Writers


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - With a victory over this course three weeks ago in the A.P. Smithwick Memorial, the popular veteran Mixed Up would loom as a strong favorite in the Grade 1, $100,000 New York Turf Writers Cup Steeplechase, the feature on Thursday at Saratoga.

But a combination of factors has led Jonathan Sheppard, the Hall of Fame trainer of Mixed Up, to say he will likely bypass the 2 3/8-mile race with the 156-pound highweight. That boosts the chances of the other six jumpers in the Turf Writers, most notably Planets Aligned, who fell 2 1/4 lengths short of catching Mixed Up in the Smithwick.

"I'm probably not going to run Mixed Up," Sheppard said at his Saratoga barn on Tuesday morning. "He didn't have much luck running the second time at this meet two years ago. He's picking up 10 pounds off his last race. This race is 2 1/2 furlongs farther, and I think weight means more the farther you go. And there's a race for him at Belmont Park in a month. It might just be best to keep him fresh for Belmont."

Mixed Up, 10, won the Smithwick in 2007, but was flat three weeks later in the Turf Writers, finishing fifth. He did not regain his best form until earlier this year, and Sheppard does not want to risk undoing the progress he has made.

Sheppard still has Sermon of Love, who carries just 136 pounds. He won an allowance race over the jumps earlier this year, then won on the flat here against maidens on Aug. 3.

"He's basically an allowance horse, but he's lightly weighted," Sheppard said. "He could be dangerous."

Sermon of Love will have to improve significantly, though, to handle the Tom Voss-trained pair of Planets Aligned and Slip Away, who finished third and fourth in the Smithwick.

Slip Away had won six straight races, progressing from the claiming ranks, before the Smithwick. He led from start to finish in a stakes at Colonial Downs in July. Voss expects to use similar tactics in the Turf Writers.

"He looks like the lone speed," Voss said Tuesday morning. "We'll send him, let him gallop all the way."

Planets Aligned was third in the Smithwick. Remarkably consistent, he has finished in the money in nine of his last 10 starts dating over two years.