Shipsational bounces back in Bertram F. Bongard

Sunday, September 26th, 2021

Shipsational improves off fourth in Funny Cide with victory in Sunday’s Bertram F. Bongard Stakes at Belmont Park. NYRA Photo.

By Tom Law

Eddie Barker walked out of his Saratoga barn office the last Friday of the recent meeting, welcomed a writer looking for horses to include in the Fasig-Tipton Stable Tour with the Little Guys and stepped into the sunshine of Clare Court to start the annual visit.

Barker talked first about his lone winner at the meet, the 2-year-old New York-bred Midshipman colt Shipsational purchased in March for six figures, before extolling the positives of six other members of his small stable. After about 15 minutes of talking about the promising and proven members of the string, good and bad beats at the windows and the positive vibes of Saratoga, Barker returned to his shedrow and found himself in front of Shipsational’s stall.

“You have to watch his race in the Funny Cide,” Barker said of the race that came exactly a week before, when Shipsational finished fourth. “He got in all kinds of trouble. He really ran a giant race.”

Shipsational finished fourth, beaten 4 1/2 lengths by Senbei, in the Funny Cide Stakes on New York Showcase Day, somewhat remarkable considering he was bumped and knocked sideways twice in the first 40 yards. He encountered no such trouble Sunday at Belmont Park, where he turned the tables on Senbei with a 2-length victory in the $139,500 Bertram F. Bongard Stakes for 2-year-old New York-breds.

“He’s a really nice, nice colt,” Barker said after Shipsational won in 1:23.64. “He’s trained well since the day we got him. He’s going to be a special New York-bred. The last race was a throw out. He had trained super coming into this race and I am really, really happy for Mrs. Iris Smith and the whole team.”

Shipsational improved to 2-for-3 in the 7-furlong Bongard, adding the stakes to his impressive 6 3/4-length debut victory during opening weekend at Saratoga. He also picked up $82,500 for owner Iris Smith Stable.

Senbei went to the post at 4-5 and took the lead from the outset. The Funny Cide winner and jockey Manny Franco led by 1 1/2 lengths through the opening quarter-mile while Whittington Park and Shipsational battled side-by-side in second and third. Senbei still led by a length through the half in :46.48 while Sensational edged away from Whittington Park and into contention around the turn.

Saez stayed busy on Shipsational into the stretch while Franco called on Senbei. Shipsational pulled alongside between the eighth and sixteenth poles and edged away just outside the sixteenth.

“We had to work a little bit, but he gave me a good kick. He ran pretty great,” Saez said. “Last time, he had a lot of trouble in the race. He missed the break and got bothered a lot. Today, things went our way. He got a good break, he was right there and he won.”

Senbei, the 4-5 favorite in the field of five, wound up 16 1/2 lengths clear of the official third-place finisher Surprise Boss after presumptive third Happy Happy B broke down just before the wire and tossed Jose Ortiz. Happy Happy B, a half-brother to graded stakes winner Keepmeinmind, was euthanized on the track and Ortiz took off the remainder of his mounts after reportedly going to the hospital for an examination of his left ankle.

Barker, along with Richard Saba of High Point Bloodstock, picked Shipsational out of the OBS March sale of selected 2-year-olds in training and bought Hip 178 for $210,000 for Smith. The chestnut colt had previously sold as a weanling for $27,000 at last year’s Keeneland November breeding stock sale.

“His conformation was flawless, the way he moved, his breeze was flawless and he galloped out really well. He hit all the boxes,” Barker said after that July 18 victory at Saratoga. “He’s been showing it in his training, he’s got a great mind, he does everything right. I’m happy for the owner, she’s been very supportive.”

Smith is the daughter-in-law of Barker’s longtime former client Seymour Smith.

Bred by Diana and the late Bertram Firestone and foaled at Berkshire Stud in Pine Plains, Shipsational is the 10th foal out of the winning Thunder Gulch mare Regal Approach. All nine of Regal Approach’s foals are winners, including her new stakes winner, the $330,753-earning New York-bred First Appeal, $115,821-earner Regal Force and $111,739-earner Rain Forest. Regal Approach’s 2017 foal, the New York-bred Mr Speaker colt, has four wins in 10 starts, $107,120 in earnings and is entered in a 1 1/16-mile turf allowance-optional Sept. 30 at Belmont.

The Firestones raced Regal Approach after purchasing her for $75,000 out of the 2003 Keeneland September yearling sale. She won five of 21 and earned $118,721 for the couple and various trainers including Bill Mott, Jimmy Murphy and Ralph Nicks.

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