08/08/2007 11:00PM

Mixed Up wins Smithwick despite weight


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Rather than play it cute, they decided to play it straight. Mixed Up was using the Grade 2, $84,900 A.P. Smithwick Memorial on Thursday at Saratoga as a prep for the Grade 1 New York Turf Writers Handicap later this month, and he signaled his readiness for a defense of his 2006 Turf Writers title with a gutsy victory over front-running Preemptive Strike.

Now, trainer Jonathan Sheppard will have to worry about what penalty Mixed Up will pay. Mixed Up spotted eight pounds (158-150) to Preemptive Strike, and 12 pounds to his other four rivals, yet he still won. The spread figures to increase for the Turf Writers on Aug. 30. But Sheppard looked past that Thursday. He, jockey Danni Hodsdon, and Mixed Up showed they had every intention of winning.

"In this game, you've got to take your opportunities when you get them," Sheppard said after Mixed Up ($4.90), the favorite, completed 2 1/16 miles and jumped nine fences in 3:45.56. But, Sheppard admitted, "Now we're really in a rut."

Preemptive Strike led for the first two miles and was in front coming over the final jump, but Mixed Up surged in the final sixteenth of a mile to win by a half-length, with Hodsdon pumping her fist as they crossed the wire. Preemptive Strike held on for second, 1 3/4 lengths in front of the mare Sweet Shani, also trained by Sheppard.

Orison, The Looper, and Orsay completed the finish, in that order. Best Attack and Chess Board were scratched.

Hodsdon kept Mixed Up in contention early, never letting Preemptive Strike get too big a lead.

"We carried a lot of weight today, and there was one lone speed horse," she said. "I thought, 'If I'm not second or third, that horse is going to get away from us and nobody is going to chase him.' "

Mixed Up, 8, has now won 14 times in 36 starts, and he is 8 for 17 over the jumps. He was bred by Sheppard and William Pape, and is owned by Pape.

"He's actually improving as he matures," Sheppard said. "He used to be a little erratic. He was a little headstrong, and not quite fluid with his jumping. He and Danni are striking up a rapport."