The queen of the steeplechase game takes on the king in a Grade 1 showdown in Thursday’s $150,000 Lonesome Glory Stakes, which helps kick off the 28-day Belmont Park fall meet.
The Mean Queen, the mare who defeated the boys as the favorite in the Grade 1 Jonathan Sheppard Steeplechase at Saratoga, will now be the hunter when she meets Snap Decision, who seeks his 10th consecutive triumph, in the 2 1/2-mile Lonesome Glory over National fences.
Trainer Jack Fisher, recently inducted into racing’s Hall of Fame, kept Snap Decision out of the two Grade 1 steeplechase events in Saratoga due to concern over how much weight Snap Decision would have to concede to his opponents following his two graded victories earlier in the year.
In the Sheppard, Fisher understood Snap Decision would have conceded 17 pounds to The Mean Queen. Thursday, the weight spread is seven pounds (164 to 157). Snap Decision is a 7-year-old gelding by Hard Spun out of the dam Salute, who has thrown stakes winners Mr Speaker and Vigilantes Way. He is a grandson of the undefeated champion Personal Ensign.
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Trained by Shug McGaughey, Snap Decision was 2 for 18 over the flats before finding a home over the jumps.
“He’s the type of horse I’m looking for,” Fisher said. “He’d gone through his conditions. Wasn’t good enough to win a stakes on the flat, though he was close. I think what makes him great is that dam.” Snap Decision’s nine-race winning streak contains a victory in the William Entenmann Memorial here in 2019.
His most recent start was a 3 1/2-length victory in the Grade 1 Iroquois at Percy Warner in June. Fisher said he thought about running Snap Decision in last Saturday’s $1 million Calumet Cup at Kentucky Downs as a tune-up for the Lonesome Glory.
“I think he’s about 80 percent fit,” said Fisher, who is using the Lonesome Glory as a stepping-stone to the Grade 1 Grand National at Far Hills on Oct. 16. “This will push him to 100. I think he’s good enough, even though he’s giving a lot of weight away.”
The Mean Queen has won the last four races she finished with a rider on her back. Two starts back, in the Jonathan Kiser Stakes at Saratoga, she unseated jockey Thomas Garner despite having a clear lead in midstretch. Last out, The Mean Queen won the Sheppard by 4 3/4 lengths, leading a 1-2-3 finish for trainer Keri Brion, who also sent out Baltimore Bucko and French Light.
Brion is looking forward to the challenge of taking on Snap Decision on Thursday. “She’s never been better,” Brion said of The Mean Queen. “She came out of the Sheppard better than she went into it. This is probably going to be the first time she’s really been asked. Snap Decision is a very, very good horse, but I wouldn’t trade her, that’s for sure. She just seems to get better and better with every run. I don’t know how good she is.”
Brion thinks The Mean Queen will love every bit of the 2 1/2 miles this race offers. “This should be more her trip,” she said. “I don’t think she’s run the distance she really wants to run yet, so happy with the distance.” Both Fisher and Brion will run a second horse.
Fisher will run Brianbakescookies, who won a restricted stakes by 17 lengths in April before finishing 27 1/4 lengths back of Galway Kid in the David Semmes Memorial at Great Meadows in May. Galway Kid is Brione’s other runner on Thursday.
Brion said Galway Kid got sick after finishing fifth in the Smithwick, which is why he didn’t run back in the Sheppard. The opener on the card is the $75,000 William Entenmann Memorial at 2 1/4 miles. Brion sends out Baltimore Bucko and French Light, who finished noses apart when second and third in the Sheppard.
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