By Tod Marks
Demonstrating tactical speed and endurance under handicap conditions, Bruton Street-US’ Snap Decision captured the Grade 1 $150,000 Jonathan Sheppard hurdle stakes at Saratoga on Wednesday, carrying the most weight to victory in more than a generation.
Not only did the Kentucky-bred son of Hard Spun notch his second G1 of the season, but he did so with an exclamation point. Toting 164 pounds — the most since Lonesome Glory’s score under a 166-pound impost in 1995 — Snap Decision, trained by Hall of Famer Jack Fisher, took command in the 2 3/8-mile contest shortly after the start, and never looked back, drawing off by 13 1/4 lengths. That tactic showed the versatility in the eight-year-old’s game, as the gelding typically mounts his charge from off the pace. The win was all the more impressive as Snap Decision was giving away 11 to 24 pounds to his six rivals.
Fans at Saratoga realized they were witnessing something special, cheering loudly as Jockey Graham Watters stood up on the odds-on favorite and waved to the crowd in mid-stretch. For Watters, last year’s champion National Steeplechase Association jockey, it was, remarkably, his first win at Saratoga.
The race began with Irv Naylor’s Chief Justice, ridden by Barry Foley, snatching the lead on the backside. But it didn’t take long for Snap Decision to range up four wide and take charge. Chief Justice sat in second, with the rest of the field in pursuit. Throughout the two loops of the course there was little change in position among the runners. Nearing the final turn, Snap Decision increased his advantage to 10 lengths as Chief Justice tired and Going Country rallied under Danny Mullins, who traveled from Europe for the mount, to get up for second. Redicean, the longest shot in the field at 26-1, finished third. The final time of the race was 4:32.88. Belfast Banter, Song for Someone, Down Royal and Chief Justice completed the order of finish. Historic Heart was scratched.
The Sheppard was the fourth trip to the post for Snap Decision in 2022. After finishing second in his seasonal bow at Middleburg, Snap Decision was ready for a big effort and delivered in the G1 Iroquois in Nashville in May, romping by more than seven lengths. He prepped for the Sheppard with a sharp third in the Colonial Cup, a flat turf stake at Colonial Downs in Virginia, in late July. The victory brought Snap Decision’s career record to 35-13-7-7 with earnings of $822,334.
The story of Snap Decision’s ascension has become familiar. Bred by the Phipps family and trained by Shug McGaughey, Snap Decision was graded stakes-placed on the flat prior to his jumping career. He made his debut over hurdles in 2019 and reeled off nine straight wins over two seasons.
After the victory, Fisher told the NYRA press office that his star will likely turn his attention to the G1 Lonesome Glory, also a handicap, at Aqueduct on Sept. 15.