08/20/2013 2:10PM

Saratoga: Fisher has 3, Sheppard 4 in nine-horse New York Turf Writers

Barbara D. Livingston
Mr. Hot Stuff wins the A.P. Smithwick on Aug. 1.

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Trainer Jack Fisher will try to put an exclamation point on what has been a fabulous 2013 Saratoga meet when he sends out a trio of horses led by Mr. Hot Stuff in Thursday’s Grade 1, $150,000 New York Turf Writers Cup Steeplechase.

Fisher’s trio will take on a quartet of runners from the barn of Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard – who has won this race 13 times – as well as Demonstrative, who won this race last year.

The New York Turf Writers Cup, scheduled at 2 3/8 miles, is carded as the opener on a nine-race card that begins at 1 p.m.

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Fisher has won 5 of 16 starts at this meet, including three steeplechase races. Mr. Hot Stuff, a full brother to 2008 Travers winner Colonel John, won the Grade 1 A.P. Smithwick here on Aug. 1. In its previous 16 runnings, only one Smithwick winner – Campanile (1999) – has come back to win the Turf Writers.

The Turf Writers is five-sixteenths of a mile longer than the Smithwick, but Fisher doesn’t see that as an issue.

“I don’t think so. As long as the ground stays firm, it should be fine for him,” Fisher said. “He stepped it up big time last time. He’s a beautiful horse. I just don’t think he tries that hard all the time.”

Fisher also sends out All Together and Brave Prospect. Fisher said Brave Prospect is entered to assure a fast pace for Mr. Hot Stuff in the Turf Writers Cup as he did in the Smithwick.

All Together ended a 12-race losing streak when he dropped down into the claiming ranks last time. Two years ago, All Together defeated Demonstrative in the Jonathan Kiser Stakes here.

Demonstrative, trained by Richard Valentine, won the New York Turf Writers Cup last year and is seeking to become just the fourth horse to repeat, the last being Yaw in 1991-92.

Trainer Richard Valentine said a cough prevented Demonstrative from running in the A.P. Smithwick, so this will be his first start since winning the Grade 1 Iroquois at three miles in May. As the 158-pound highweight, Demonstrative is spotting eight to 20 pounds to his eight rivals.

“The weight is a concern. He’s giving a lot of weight away to some nice horses,” Valentine said. “He’s been training well,” he said, noting a half-mile breeze in 52 seconds Monday. “He looks well and he’s going in the right direction.”

Sheppard sends out four horses in quest of his 14th New York Turf Writers Cup. The 10-year-old Divine Fortune heads a three-horse coupled entry that includes Italian Wedding and Martini Brother. Hunt Ball is Sheppard’s fourth starter.

Divine Fortune was third in the Smithwick, but has raced within a neck and a length of Demonstrative in his last two meetings with that 2012 Eclipse Award finalist.

“He’s a solid horse and he’s got proven form. He needs to be perhaps ridden slightly more aggressively,” said Sheppard, who will use Sean McDermott on Divine Fortune. “He stays really well. He’s old. He’s probably lost a step, but the longer distance should help him.”

Martini Brother has won three consecutive races in the novice ranks and now steps up in class for the first time.

“He’s a very nice young horse,” Sheppard said. “He’s got talent. [Darren Nagle] has won three in a row on him. I think he’s coming into the race well. We’re hopeful.”

Italian Wedding surprised Sheppard by his solid second-place finish in the A.P. Smithwick off a year layoff. Sheppard said Hunt Ball will be taken further off the pace than he was when sixth in the Smithwick, his first U.S. start.

Spy in the Sky, the 2012 Smithwick winner who was third in this race last year, comes in off a nonthreatening fourth-place finish in the Smithwick.