OZONE PARK,, N.Y.--Arch Kingsley swept the board in the $150,000, G1 2 1/2 mile Lonesome Glory Hurdle Stakes, saddling the first, second and third placed horses to beat the heavy favorite Snap Decision.
Hurricana Farm's Merry Maker (Ire), ridden by Parker Hendriks, closed strongly to beat Hudson River Farm's L'Imperator (Fr), ridden by Sephen Mulqueen, by 1/2length, with Richard Colton and Stella Thayer's Barbados third.
Snap Decision, who was giving 20 pounds to Merry Maker and I'Imperator, finished fourth after leading until the final turn.
Snap had been hard pressed by Restitution and L'Imperator throughout the race.
City Dreamer, Proven Innocent and Restitution rounded out the order of finish.
Merry Maker ran last of the seven entries until the final turn, when he unleashed a powerful run that swept him into the lead as he neared the wire.
Hendriks, 18, stood up in triumph, waving his crop, as they crossed the line, celebrating his first G1 win.
He had been National Steeplechase Leading Rider, Races Won and Money Won, last year, but suffered a concussion and this was his first win after that.
"Parker was out back, doing less than anyone else," said Joe Clancy, one of the television commentators, adding that Snap Decision had been pressed into doing more than he'd wanted throughout the race and came up empty in the stretch.
"IT WAS INCREDIBLE," said Hendriks. "He jumped beautifully and traveled sweetly. Arch did an incredible job. I was just a passenger. Arch told me to drop out the back. He said when you ride him handy he just lights up."
“It doesn’t get any better," said Kingsley. "L’Imperator ran a winning race and Parker got him at the last run. L'Imperator is a very good horse. I think Parker beat his with his tactics today."
“After we jumped the last, I went for him [Snap Decision],” Hendriks said. “Half-way around the bend I was like, ‘I could get here.’ I knew the horse to beat was Snap Decision, and I could see he was fading, and L’Imperator, who I had ridden previously, I thought he would run a big race today, too. He stopped a little bit and my guy just kept grinding to the wire. He was all guts and all heart to get it done today. It’s a massive credit to the team.”
"I had schooled Merry Maker once, and I had ridden him out a couple of times at Saratoga," said Hendiks. "It was great to have gotten a feel of him."
Kingsley has had the 6-year-old Merry Maker for three years.
Merry Maker won his first start in a maiden special weight at Great Meadow in 2021.
"He walked out of that race with a broken tibia," said Kingsley. "We gave him a year off."
Merry Maker ran twice in 2022, finishing fourth in an allowance and sixth in a stakes.
"Taylor started riding him on the flat," said Kingsley, referring to his daughter who has won numerous flat races this year. "She took him back in a race and found he had a big run from the back."
"Merry Maker is Show Court''s little brother," said Kingsley. "How many times do you get two stakes winners out of the same mare."
"I'm so happy for Parker," he said. "I wouldn't have been a champion jockey if it hadn't been for his father Ricky. And his mother Sanna and I go way back. It's great to share a grade one win with people like that."
Merry Maker had run third in the Jonathan Kiser Novice in August at Saratoga and then was a rallying fourth on Aug. 23 in the G1 Jonathan Sheppard Handicap in which he closed from last of 10 to finish 8 1/4 lengths back of the victorious Awakened.
Kingsley, Jr. said Merry Maker benefited from his first Grade 1 experience.
“The horse is relatively lightly-raced next to a horse like City Dreamer or Snap Decision,” Kingsley, Jr. said. “He ran down a little bit in front in the Sheppard, so I had rundowns on everybody today. I have to believe that probably took a little bit away from him. It’s a journey with these horses, they develop over time and it takes time to grow into this kind of horse. You’re looking at a progression of a horse in his development.”
L'Iimperator, who was a G2 stakes winner on the flat, won an allowance at Saratoga and then finished fifth in the Sheppard.
“L’Imperator is a horse that’s been thrust into Grade 1s probably before you would ideally do it, but it’s a confluence of circumstances that make it possible,” Kingsley said. “With the last jump far from the wire, you’re inclined to take a shot with a horse like him. I wouldn’t want to run down two fences in the stretch toe to toe with Snap Decision. Experience counts for so much in steeplechasing and with the format at the major tracks now, it’s a little better for the lesser experienced horses to take a shot in a race like this."
“I followed the one [Snap Decision], who I thought was the one to beat," said Mulqueen. "We turned in and I quickened up to go on and win the race, but I just got beat late. It’s difficult when on paper there’s one horse to beat like there was in here. I didn’t want to let him [Snap Decision] have a freebie in front. Ideally, we’d drop him a little further back and make one big run. If Graham was getting a freebie in front, someone had to put the pressure on him. But he ran a great race to finish second.”
It's quite a feat, and very unusual, to train the top three in a grade one race, but both Clancy and Kingsley agreed that Jonathan Sheppard had probably done it more than once.
"I'd be glad to be following Jonathan," said Kingsley. "He taught me everything."
Kingsley said he is aiming all three horses towards the G1 Grand National on Oct. 21 at Far Hills.