Thanks to a generous referral from Maryland based thoroughbred horse trainers Larry and Connie Smith, I had the privilege of getting an up close look at the 2022 Grade 1 Jonathan Sheppard Steeplechase at Saratoga Racecourse back on Aug. 17th. First squeezing my rental into a small parking space alongside Saratoga’s Stakes Barn, I then sought out an eight year old mare out of Alphabet Soup (1996 Breeders’ Cup Classic Champion) who was rumored to be stabled inside of stall #5. Subsequent to stumbling upon the snow white equine I was in search of, I then shook hands with trainer Kate Dalton and her husband (and jockey) Bernie.
Standing statuesque as I spoke to her two handlers, the lovely Down Royal seemed solely fixated on those nine fences she’d be hurdling in just a few short hours. Having already won a Grade 1 steeplechase race at Saratoga Racecourse one month prior, my new four-legged friend consequently went post ward as the second pari-mutual choice behind the heavily favored (and ultimately victorious) Snap Decision. Now even though a consecutive score at “The Spa” eluded “Team Dalton” on this day, I for one wouldn’t bet against seeing Down Royal saunter straight into the Winner’s Circle at Colonial Downs in the not so distant future!
By Eric Floyd