Ricky Hendriks saddled Swansea Mile (Ire) to win the G1 $150,000 A.P. Smithwick Memorial Stakes over a good field of 10 horses, while the day before Show Court (Ire) won the Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes on July 26, Saratoga's first day of jump races.
But it seems a slightly bizarre result, as Swansea Mile hadn't even won a race in the U.S., much less not winning a stakes race prior to the Smithwick, yet he won one of this nation's most prestigious stakes, while it was a horse who has not only won but also placed second in stakes races, Show Court, who won the ungraded Novice Stakes at Saratoga on the previous day.
This slightly odd result was due to the Novice Stakes conditions, which stated it was open to "four year olds and upward which have not won over hurdles prior to March 1, 2016."
Mark W. Buyck, Jr.'s Show Court, trained by Arch Kingsley, won the Carolina Cup Hurdle Stakes in Camden on April 1, 2017 and placed second in the Queen's Cup MPC Chase Hurdle Stakes in Charlotte on April 29, 2017, so his win was after the March 1, 2016 deadline.
Swansea Mile (Ire), owned by George Mahoney's Rosbrian Farm, trained by Ricky Hendriks and ridden by Michael Mitchell, dug in with determination to win the Smithwick over a field that included Portrade, who won Saratoga's other G! stakes, the New York Turf Writers, last year.
"It was very exciting," said Hendriks of the win for the 7-year-old bay gelding that was imported from England last September.
"We bought him at the Doncaster Sale last year," said Hendriks. "We had tried to buy him the year before, but we were the underbidders. He'd won a couple of races in England. Then we bought him last year for half the price he'd brought before."
"We ran him in the Belmont stake right off the plane," said Hendrik, referring to the G1 Lonesome Glory Stakes on Sept. 22, 2016. "He was a good fourth to Scorpio Dancer."
"Then we ran him at Far Hills, where he was eligible for the novice stakes," said Hendriks. "We thought it was an easy spot, but he didn't run any good."
"We restarted him this spring, and Eve (Ledyard) rode him in the flat race at Warrenton (an unsanctioned hunt meet), and he won nicely," said Hendriks. "Then Ross (Geraghty) rode him in the flat race at Camden, which he won. We ran him in an allowance/optional claiming race at Charleston, and he ran really well and was second, then he was fourth in the Temple Gwathmey in Middleburg on April 22."
Since then, Swansea Mile was third in an allowance/optional claimer at Lexington and seventh in a flat race for steeplechasers at Parx on July 8.
"He's a very nice horse, very straight-forward," said Hendriks of Swansea Mile, who won the Smithwick by two lengths over Robert A. Kingley's Modern, trained by Elizabeth Voss and ridden by Jack Doyle, with Flying Elvis Stable's Diplomate, trained by Kate Dalton and ridden by Bernie Dalton, third, while The Fields Stable's Portrade, trained by Voss and ridden by Gus Dahl, was fourth,
Hendriks win moved him into second place in the standings of Trainers, Money Won, behind Jack Fisher.
Michael Mitchell rode the winners of both the Novice Stakes and the Smithwick.
Show Court won by 1 34 lengths over Bruton Street-US's Moscato (GB), trained by Fisher and ridden by Sean McDermott, with Wendy Hendriks' Surprising Soul, trained by son Ricky and ridden by Geraghty, moved up to third on the disqualification of Armata Stable's New Member (Ire), trained by Fisher and ridden by Darren Nagle.
"Surprising Soul ran well," said Hendriks of the horse that won the Marcellus Frost Stakes at Percy Werner on May 13. "The race didn't set up for him. He was on the lead, but I was happy with him.
Surpising Soul was also repeatedly bumped and squeezed by New Member, causing him to lose ground and that certainly added to the fact that he only finished third.