07/27/2017 4:38PM

Swansea Mile ends win drought in A.P. Smithwick Memorial Steeplechase

Barbara D. Livingston
Swansea Mile and jockey Michael Mitchell win the Grade 1 A.P. Smithwick Memorial Steeplechase by two lengths.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Swansea Mile, winless in his last 11 starts, including all seven in the U.S., rallied from midpack under Michael Mitchell to pull a 28-1 upset in Thursday’s Grade 1, $150,000 A.P. Smithwick Memorial Steeplechase Handicap at Saratoga.

Swansea Mile defeated Modem, the 5-2 favorite, by two lengths. It was 14 3/4 lengths farther back to Diplomat in third. He was followed by Portrade, Balance the Budget, Charminster, Schoodic, and Andi’amu. All the Way Jose unseated his rider after jumping over the sixth fence, and Simenon was eased.

The win gave Mitchell a sweep of the first two steeplechase races run at the meet. He also won Wednesday’s Jonathan Kiser Stakes on Snow Court.

Noting that it’s his first time riding at Saratoga, Mitchell said, “I think I’m starting to like this track.”

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Trainer Richard Hendriks had only one win at Saratoga since Tres Touche won the Grade 1 New York Turf Writers Cup here in 2004. He wasn’t necessarily pointing Swansea Mile to the Smithwick since he was eligible for seemingly easier races.

However, owner Eve Ledyard of Rosbrian Farm suggested to Hendriks that he run Swansea Mile in the Smithwick because Saratoga is a flat course.

“She said he doesn’t like running up and down the hills, and I listened to her,” Hendriks said. “We took a shot. He got in with light weight, and he ran a great race. Mikey gave him a wonderful ride. I still can’t believe the horse won.”

Swansea Mile did get in light with 140 pounds, 14 fewer than Modem, who was making his first start in the U.S. and his first for trainer Elizabeth Voss, who had her string of three consecutive Grade 1 steeplechase stakes wins at Saratoga snapped.

Swansea Mile covered 2 1/16 miles in 3:48.37 and returned $59 to win.

Swansea Mile and Modem are likely to run back in the Grade 1 New York Turf Writers Cup here on Aug. 24.