08/24/2010 1:19PM

Three-way rematch in N.Y. Turf Writers Cup

Barbara D. Livingston
Divine Fortune (1A) gets the best of Arcadius and Slip Away in the A P Smithwick.

SARATOGA, N.Y.- What the field for Thursday’s $100,000 New York Turf Writers Cup lacks in quality it will more than make up for in competiveness with an evenly matched group of nine scheduled to go two miles and three furlongs over the hurdles in the premier event for the steeplechase set during the Saratoga meeting.

Divine Fortune and Arcadius are stablemates under the shed of Jonathan Sheppard. Tom Voss trains Slip Away. And both men agree the steeplechase division stabled here this summer is the weakest it has been in recent memory.

“It’s just not a real stellar group this season by any means,” said Voss. “All the good horses have either fallen by the wayside or just aren’t here. My horse is very one-paced and probably better suited to the hunt meetings, where they go up and down over hills and speed carries, than on a flat course. But he’ll run his race, and if he’s good enough he’ll win.”

Slip Away, runner-up in the Grade 1 Iroquois on May 8, led through the last jump before being outkicked to the wire by Divine Fortune and Arcadius in the Smithwick.

Sheppard, who has won the Turf Writers Cup an unprecedented 12 times, has three horses entered on Thursday, with Sermon of Love also in the lineup along with Divine Fortune and Arcadius.

“There are no superstars in here like there have been for the last seven or eight years when we had horses in this race who were practically unbeatable,” said Sheppard. “It’s a nice, open race. Divine Fortune has done very well since winning the Smithwick. He had to improve to beat Slip Away in the last one and he did.”

Sheppard said the starting status of Arcadius, who finished three-quarters of a length behind Divine Fortune in the Smithwick, remained uncertain after he injured himself slightly schooling over the jumps on Friday.

Sermon of Love, a distant second behind Spy in the Sky in the 2010 Turf Writers, outlasted Virginia Minstrel by a half-length to capture a restricted race over the hurdles earlier in the meet.

Birthday Beau, Swagger Stick, Dark Equation and Seer complete the lineup.