Shipsational adds Sleepy Hollow to growing resume

Saturday, October 30th, 2021

Shipsational improves to 3-for-4 in Sleepy Hollow Stakes to kick off Showcase Day. NYRA Photo.

By Tom Law

Shipsational came into Saturday’s $250,000 Sleepy Hollow with experience on a sloppy track, at Belmont Park, against winners and in stakes competition.

Iris Smith’s 2-year-old son of Midshipman put those attributes, along with a new front-running style, to good use Saturday and came away with a victory in the opening stakes on the Empire Showcase Day card. Shipsational won the 1-mile Sleepy Hollow by a neck over 4-5 favorite Overstep with Who Hoo Thats Me third in the field of six.

“He’s the real deal,” winning trainer Eddie Barker said. “He does everything so easy and so effortlessly. He’s a joy to train. He’s got a lot of class to him. He gained 60 pounds between his last race and this race. When you’ve got a baby doing that, it’s a really good sign.”

Shipsational improved to 3-for-4 in the Sleepy Hollow and boosted his earnings to $278,750 for Smith and trainer Eddie Barker. He was purchased by Smith, through High Point Bloodstock, for $210,000 at the OBS March sale of selected 2-year-olds in training. Then known as Hip 178, Shipsational caught Barker’s eye during his presale breeze in :20.4 before the OBS March sale. Barker described the work as “effortless” and encouraged Smith to purchase the colt.

The owner and trainer received a quick return on the investment when he broke his maiden on a sloppy track early in the Saratoga meeting. After a troubled fourth in the Funny Cide Stakes on Saratoga Showcase Day, Shipsational collected his first stakes win in the 7-furlong Bertram F. Bongard last month at Belmont.

Barker breezed Shipsational twice over the Belmont training track between the Bongard and Sleepy Hollow – 6 furlongs in 1:13.60 Oct. 16 and a half-mile in :49.27 last Saturday – and the colt met regular jockey Luis Saez in the paddock ready for his third stakes engagement.

Shipsational and Overstep looked like they could vie for the lead speed on paper and Saez seized an opportunity when the latter didn’t go early.

“I thought (Overstep) was going to go to the lead and I was going to sit right there, but when you break from the gate everything changes,” Saez said. “We broke from there, it was clear and we took it.”

Shipsational and Saez led by a half-length from Overstep over the sloppy and sealed surface with Excursionniste, Who Hoo Thats Me, Sundaeswithsandy and Sterling Hill all close through the quarter-mile in :24.09. They maintained that same margin through the half in :47.74, with Excursionniste up into second ahead of Sterling Hill and Overstep down on the inside.

Shipsational opened up a 1-length lead through 6 furlongs in 1:12.45 as Saez braced for the challenges in the lane. They opened up 2 lengths in midstretch and held off Overstep late to win in 1:38.32.

“He’s a horse that’s always been improving,” Saez said. “He gets better and better. When I saw it was raining last night, I was pretty happy because when he broke his maiden the track was pretty wet and he loved it. Today, he broke pretty sharp, took the lead, and when he came through the stretch he fought for the win. I’m very happy with him.

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 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 Regal Speaker, has five wins in 11 starts and $153,870 in earnings.

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.

Barker said he’s considering open company for Shipsational’s next start.

“I’m thinking the Remsen,” he said of the Grade 2 stakes scheduled for Dec. 4. “The numbers he’s running on the sheets are real numbers. If he goes forward today off his last race, he’s the real deal. We’ll see how he comes out of this race and how he takes everything. We’ll look at the Remsen. If not, I’ll probably give him a little break and see what happens.”

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