Royalty: New York-bred steeplechaser wins Grade 1 at Saratoga

Wednesday, July 20th, 2022

Down Royal and Bernie Dalton on the way to victory in Wednesday’s Grade 1 A.P. Smithwick Memorial Steeplechase at Saratoga. Chelsea Durand/NYRA Photo.

By Sean Clancy

“I don’t care about that right now…but, yes.”

That’s how Kate Dalton responded when she was reminded that she and her husband, Bernie, collected the breeders’ bonus for winning the Grade 1 A.P. Smithwick Memorial Steeplechase Thursday at Saratoga Race Course.

Their homebred, Down Royal, had upset the first steeplechase stakes of the meet, rallying latest of all to nail Chief Justice in the final strides of the 2 1/16-mile stakes. Bred by the Daltons, owned in partnership with Joe Fowler’s Shadowfax Stable, trained by Kate, ridden by Bernie, shipped by Bernie and run by Kate, the 8-year-old daughter of Alphabet Soup collected $90,000 for the win, provided the Daltons with a career highlight and, oh yeah, added another $27,000 in breeders’ bonus.

Now, that’s a score.

Taking on two British-breds, two Irish-breds, a French-bred and a Kentucky-bred – all boys – the hometown girl settled off the pace, moved up after a mile, waited around the fourth turn and aimed at Chief Justice like she knew the enormity at hand. Sent off fourth choice, Down Royal slipped through on the inside of longshot Chief Justice to win by a neck.

Down Royal soaks up some love from Kate and Bernie Dalton after her victory in Wednesday’s A.P. Smithwick. Susie Raisher Photo.

Born at McMahon of Saratoga Thoroughbreds all the way back in 2014, Down Royal made three starts on the flat (beaten a combined 45 1/2 lengths) before switching to steeplechasing. She broke her maiden as a 3-year-old and earned seven checks during a tough 11-race losing streak that lasted from November 2017 to April 2021. For her 7-year-old debut, the Daltons decided to take her off Lasix, to see what happened, basically.

What’s happened has been a resurgence.

Down Royal won a handicap to begin 2021, finished second in a filly and mare stakes at the Iroquois and tacked on stakes at Colonial Downs and Far Hills to finish last season. She provided Bernie Dalton with his 100th career win (the 41st American jump jockey to accomplish it) before her Grade 1 scourge Thursday.

“You don’t even dream of days like this. I had seen her as a chestnut filly with a white blaze about three or four months at McMahon’s and she’s been the apple of my eye ever since. Daddies and their girls, I guess,” Bernie Dalton said. “I loved her mother. I couldn’t win a stake with her mother. This mare was very much like that until a year ago. I don’t know if it’s the Lasix or what but she started to improve. It’s a credit to her, that mare comes in every spring and wants to train, never, ever says so, always happy to be back in the barn, always happy to go to the races. For the last two weeks, she’s been like, ‘I’m bored. Let’s go somewhere. Let’s do something.’ They speak to you, if you listen. It’s the New York-bred in them. It’s the New York style, baby. Bring it.”

She brought it.

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