08/02/2011 2:01PM

Saratoga: Sheppard and Voss have lock on Smithwick Steeplechase

Barbara D. Livingston
Divine Fortune (1A) on his way to winning last year's A.P. Smithwick. He will try for a repeat on Thursday.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Trainers Jonathan Sheppard and Tom Voss have combined to win six of the 14 runnings of the A.P. Smithwick Memorial Steeplechase, and they have four of the six runners entered in Thursday’s renewal of the Grade 2, $75,000 event, to be run at 2 1/16 miles over nine National fences at Saratoga.

Sheppard sends out last year’s Smithwick winner, Divine Fortune, and Nationbuilder, while Voss counters with Slip Away, who was last year’s beaten Smithwick favorite, and Dynaski. Decoy Daddy, a winner of his last two steeplechase races, and Spy in the Sky, the 2009 New York Turf Writers Steeplechase winner, complete the field.

With 3 wins and 4 seconds from 7 steeplechase starts, Dynaski has done little wrong since Voss made a jumper out of him three years ago. The rub is he’s had only seven races in three years.

“He’s fragile, but he’s a very good horse,” said Voss, who noted that Dynaski has suffered from issues involving suspenories and tendons.

Dynaski, who comes from well off the pace, has not been out since winning an allowance race last October. Voss, a two-time winner of this race, noted that Dynaski finished first in a flat race held for steeplechase horses at the Saratoga Open House on July 17.

“He won on the bridle,” Voss said. “We’ll try to get another one out of him; doesn’t usually happen.”

While Dynaski, who will be ridden by Xavier Aizpuru, will come from off the pace, Slip Away will likely set the pace under Paddy Young. Slip Away led until midstretch of last year’s Smithwick before having to settle for third, beaten three-quarters of a length by Divine Fortune.

In his only start this year, Slip Away finished second in the Grade 1 Iroquois, run at three miles.

“It was a big race, huge effort,” Voss said. “He’s a big old heavy horse and he comes out and ran three miles first time and runs great. He made a horrible mistake over the last fence; he did everything wrong but fall and could never get going again.”

Divine Fortune gave Sheppard his fourth Smithwick victory last year, but the 8-year-old gelding has not been out since finishing fourth in the 2011 New York Turf Writers Cup due in part to a leg strain, Sheppard said. He finished second to Dynaski in the aforementioned July 17 flat race.

“He’s had a run,” Sheppard said. “We were happy; he closed well. There’s no reason not to run. We’re not confident – let’s say hopeful.’’

Nationbuilder finished 1 3/4 lengths behind Slip Away when those two were second and third in the Iroquois. He was recently involved in a training accident at Sheppard’s farm in which Sheppard’s go-to rider Danielle Hodsdon was injured. Sheppard said Nationbuilder was “banged up” a little bit but has made a complete recovery. He noted that following a Tuesday workout with Divine Fortune at Saratoga, Nationbuilder was “blowing a little harder” than Divine Fortune.

The A.P. Smithwick is one of two steeplechase races on Thursday’s card. Following the second, there will be eight flat races.