SARATOGA SPRINGS — Days after excessive heat led to the cancellation of last Saturday’s Saratoga Race Course card, the final seven races of Thursday’s card were canceled “after a series of severe summer thunderstorms.”
Four races were run before the remainder of Thursday’s card was canceled.
“Due to adverse track conditions caused by extremely heavy rainfall, live racing was canceled in the best interests of the safety of our equine athletes and horsemen,” reads part of a statement released through the New York Racing Association’s press office.
An alert issued 3:26 p.m. from the National Weather Service in Albany warned of a storm in the area that could include "winds in excess of 40 mph and pea size hail."
According to NYRA, the last time any races were canceled because of rain was Aug. 4, 2018.
Included in Thursday’s canceled races was the $100,000 John Morrissey.
NYRA’s Twitter account tweeted that rain checks were issues at all gates after the day’s cancellation.
Live racing is expected to resume Friday.
WINSTON C. TAKES A.P. SMITHWICK
Before storms hit the Saratoga Race Course, Winston C captured Thursday’s Grade 1 A.P. Smithwick Memorial by 3 1-2 lengths.
Winston C, ridden by Thomas Garner and trained by Jonathan Sheppard, was second from last heading into the race’s penultimate jump before closing to win in 3:45.99.
“That was great. A great way to start the meet,” Sheppard, who has trained six A.P. Smithwick winners, said to the New York Racing Association. “You always feel a little bit of pressure every year. We’ve had quite a few good years up here, but every year is a new challenge, and it’s nice to get that monkey off our back. The jock gave him a great ride and the horse ran well.”
Vosne Romanee finished ahead of 33-1 Hinterland for second.
“I’m not going to say I expected that flat run from him, but I hoped for it,” Sheppard said of Winston C who went off at 3-1 and returned $8.70 on a $2 win wager. “He’s a little quicker than the average European steeplechase type. He ran well in his last race at Iroquois [Steeplechase] in Tennessee, and I thought he was well enough to come back and enter here, and he showed it today. Having the race under his belt certainly helped him.”
Winston C is 4-0-2 in seven starts sincing switch to jumps.
“We had it planned in our head that we were going to line up halfway down the field,” Garner said. “It didn’t quite go to plan. We didn't get the best of starts and went a really, really quick gallop for the first mile. My lad didn’t go as well as I hoped. He wasn’t jumping.
“I just wanted to get him in the rhythm and make sure he was doing his job properly, so I took a pull on him. I got his confidence going and got him back jumping. He's a very good horse. He went four or five-wide because I had no choice and I swung into the straight and he just kept going. He’s a really nice horse and one for the future.”
Show Court, last year's A.P. Smithwick winner, was vanned off after being pulled up in the stretch.
The A.P. Smithwick was the first of two Grade 1 steeplechase races at this year’s Saratoga Race Course meet.