08/30/2006 11:00PM

Mixed Up wins 'chase; Hirapour off the board

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Adam Coglianese / NYRA
Mixed Up, ridden by Danielle Hodsdon, wins the New York Turf Writers Steeplechase.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Mixed Up overtook pacesetter Mark the Shark at the final fence and held off Top of the Bill in the run to the wire Thursday to win the Grade 1 at Saratoga.

Hirapour, the 2004 Eclipse Award winner and the 1-2 favorite in the field of seven, never moved into contention and finished fifth. As they entered the backstretch run for the final time about a half-mile from the finish, jockey Matthew McCarron moved Hirapour to the outside to begin his run. But the 10-year-old gelding, carrying high weight of 164 pounds, had trouble getting over the jump.

"He should have fallen," McCarron said. "Maybe the weight was getting to him and he was starting to feel the pressure."

Mixed Up, a 7-year-old gelding, gave Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard his 12th New York Turf Writers Cup victory since 1979 and provided his rider, 29-year-old Danielle Hodsdon, with her first Grade 1 win. He completed the 2 3/8-mile journey over 10 fences on the inner turf course in 4:27.48 and finished a length in front of Top of the Bill, paying $10 to win. Mark the Shark was third.

Hodsdon said that Mixed Up bobbled slightly coming off the final fence but quickly recovered.

Sheppard smiled at the suggestion that it had become routine winning a race a dozen times.

"Not at all, no," he said. "Most of those races were some years ago. To be truthful, I don't really think about that stuff that much, but when you read it, then you start looking at the dates and the years. I think it's been five years. You could say maybe we're due for one.

"We've knocked at the door most of those other years, seconds and thirds and stuff, but that's not quite the same as winning. We're real, real happy. It was great."

Earlier, Meribel edged Amansara by a nose after a stretch duel to win the $72,450 Dynasty for 3-year-old fillies on the grass.

Ridden by Garrett Gomez for trainer Christophe Clement, Meribel completed the 1 1/16 miles on the Mellon Turf Course in 1:42.57. She paid $5.20. Better Now finished third.

Gomez had Meribel at the back of the nine-horse field, swung her to the outside entering the stretch, and quickly engaged Amansara, ridden by Eibar Coa.