08/22/2013 1:18PM

Saratoga: Italian Wedding wins New York Turf Writers Cup Steeplechase Handicap

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Barbara D. Livingston
Italian Wedding (left), ridden by Bernie Dalton, wins the Grade 1 New York Turf Writers Cup Steeplechase Handicap by a length Thursday at Saratoga.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Jonathan Sheppard took his rightful place in the Saratoga winner’s circle Thursday following the Grade 1, $150,000 New York Turf Writers Cup Steeplechase Handicap after Italian Wedding outsprinted All Together to the wire to win by one length.

It was the 14th win in this race for the 72-year-old Hall of Fame trainer, who has won a race at Saratoga every year since 1968.

“Not really, no,” Sheppard said when asked if winning the Turf Writers Cup ever gets old. “I hope I can do it again.”

The bonus to winning this edition with Italian Wedding is that Sheppard owns and bred the 8-year-old gelding by Alphabet Soup.

“I own his dam and his grandmother, and it means a lot,” Sheppard said. “It was a fun race, and Bernie gave him a great ride.”

Bernie Dalton kept Italian Wedding in midpack for most of the race before opting to move into contention after the ninth of 10 fences. He took over from Mr. Hot Stuff – to whom he had finished second in the A.P. Smithwick earlier in the meet – cleared the final fence adeptly and outkicked All Together, trained by Jack Fisher, to the wire.

Italian Wedding, part of a three-horse Sheppard-trained entry along with Martini Brother and Divine Fortune, completed the 2 3/8 miles in 4:30.61 and returned $3.90 to win. Sheppard also ran Hunt Ball, who finished eighth.

“The horse jumped and traveled [well] the whole way,” Dalton said. “I felt one come to me after the last [fence], and the horse did, too, and he came back on the bridle and kind of won a little easy in the end.”

Italian Wedding was making just his second start off a 17-month layoff, owing to minor issues, including a popped splint that occurred last fall, according to Sheppard.

All Together, who was coming off a win in a claiming race Aug. 1, finished second by a head over Martini Brother.

Mr. Hot Stuff finished fourth and was followed by Spy in the Sky, Demonstrative, Divine Fortune, Hunt Ball, and Brave Prospect.