08/01/2013 2:23PM

Saratoga: Mr. Hot Stuff wins Smithwick Memorial Steeplechase

Barbara D. Livingston
Mr. Hot Stuff, Grade 1-placed during his flat racing career, wins the Grade 1 A. P. Smithwick Memorial Steeplechase Stakes at Saratoga on Thursday with Paddy Young aboard.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. –  Mr. Hot Stuff had a brief fling with stardom as a 3-year-old in 2009 after finishing third in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby and competing in both the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes later that spring.

Four years later, the former flat runner stamped himself as an up-and-coming star in the steeplechase world by virtue of his 2 1/2-length victory over the Jonathan Sheppard-trained duo of Italian Wedding and Divine Fortune in the Grade 1 A. P. Smithwick Memorial Steeplechase Stakes on a soggy Thursday afternoon at Saratoga.

The Smithwick lost some of its allure earlier in the day when the likely favorite, Demonstrative, the runner-up in the 2012 Eclipse Award balloting for top steeplechase horse, was scratched.

Mr. Hot Stuff, who ran for his breeder, WinStar Farm, during his flat racing career, is now owned by Mrs. S.K. Johnston Jr. and trained by Jack Fisher. A son of Tiznow, Mr. Hot Stuff began his steeplechase career during the spring of 2011, missed his entire 2012 campaign, but has come back better than ever this season, adding the Smithwick to a stakes win earlier this spring against restricted company.

With Paddy Young aboard for the first time, Mr. Hot Stuff stalked the pace of longshot Brave Prospect for nearly two miles, readily moved into command after the eighth of nine fences, quickly edged clear, then easily withstood a fruitless final surge from the 4-5 Sheppard entry once clearing the final hurdle flawlessly.

Italian Wedding outlasted the two-time Smithwick winner Divine Fortune by a neck to finish second in a field of seven.

Mr. Hot Stuff covered the grueling 2 1/16 miles over a wet but still firm course under showery conditions in 3:50.92 and paid $12.  

“He’s taken to the jumps because he doesn’t have to work that hard,” Fisher said. “It’s not as tough on him; he doesn’t have to go down there in 23 [seconds]. It’s just an easy gallop for him.”