Schoodic shows his class

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Ten-time champion trainer Jack Fisher has made a living out of converting hurdle horses with ability and/or potential to timber racing – quickly. Saluter, South Of Java, Atomistic, Bubble Economy, Syros, Doc Cebu…the list runs long and deep. It does not include Schoodic and will not include Schoodic.

“We tried to make him a timber horse,” Fisher said. “We had him all schooled up and ready to go, then he hit one and he stopped at the next one, then he refused to jump a log on the ground, I guess he didn’t want to be a timber horse.”

Schoodic showed he didn’t want to be a timber horse that morning back in March. On Saturday afternoon, he proved he didn’t need to be a timber horse, rallying to win the Grade 2 David Semmes Memorial over Charminster (Jack Doyle) and Simenon (Ross Geraghty). Ridden by Paddy Young for owner/breeder Edie Dixon, Schoodic earned his fifth hurdle stakes win, dating back to the Gladstone at Far Hills in 2013.

On a rainy afternoon at the Gold Cup, Fisher walked back to the barn after the race, without an explanation for the horse’s consistency of banging out a graded stakes race once a season.

“Beats the hell out of me,” Fisher said. “I didn’t expect him to win today, I thought he was in that group with Special Skills and Choral Society, but I didn’t expect him to win.”

Sent off favorite, Special Skills labored in the soft ground but still managed to be fourth while Fisher scratched Choral Society from the $75,000 stakes.

“The question is where do we go now,” Fisher said.

Definitely, not timber.

As for Young, he picked up his fourth career win aboard Schoodic and first win this season (he added a second win at Winterthur the following day).

“He obviously likes the soft ground, in fairness he’s probably as classy as any horse in the race on his best day, he has the odd bad day for whatever reason,” Young said. “He was always going well, he popped the third-to-last and Jack went chasing after Rosco, he hit a bit of a flat spot, once he got around the bend and winged the second-to-last, he jumped the last and got the split between the two, that gave him some heart. I thought he was going to always put his head down and win from there.”

Young nearly didn’t ride Schoodic after deciding to ride one for his wife, Leslie, in the 2 1/8-mile stakes. Then a dog jumped on a bed ­– yes, a dog jumped on a bed – and changed everything.

“I got lucky, Jack texted me about riding him and I said no, I had our own horse in there. I slept on it and thought…I woke up and texted him at half 11 and said I would ride the horse,” Young said. “I was lucky because the dog jumped up on the bed and woke me up, I had obviously been thinking about it, unaware to myself, it was the first thing I thought when I woke up, I said I’ll text him now before anybody gets a chance to do anything about it.”

Young cajoled Schoodic to rate in fourth behind Simenon, Charminster and Hardrock Eleven and in front of Diplomat, Alajmal and Special Skills during the early stages of the hurdle feature. Jumping well throughout, Schoodic improved into second, alongside Charminster as they stalked Simenon down the backside. Turning for home, Young stayed inside, flying the second-to-last and then slid outside a tiring Simenon at the last to finish a whip-never-turned-over 2 lengths clear of Charminster.

Young has known Schoodic since early in his 4-year-old campaign.

“He’s gotten cute, he’s definitely gotten cute, even today, he wasn’t doing 100 percent, he would have happily been third if he decided he wanted to be third, but he got some heart at the last and said, ‘Oh, OK, off I go.’ I thought he was a timber horse, that shows how cute the horse is, he’s like ‘I don’t like it, I’m not going to hurt myself, I’m just not going to do it,’ ” Young said. “He’s a bit neurotic, I don’t know if you start putting headgear on him, I’m not sure it would be a good thing. Jack knows him. He’s not really a racetrack horse any more, he likes a big, galloping track like this.”

Schoodic was a racetrack horse once, winning the Mickey Walsh at Saratoga in 2014, finishing second in the Grade 1 New York Turf Writers Cup in 2015 but failed to threaten in the A.P. Smithwick and Turf Writers last summer.

Since abandoning a 0-for-5 flat career with Michael Matz, Schoodic has earned at least $30,000 in five seasons of steeplechasing. Last year, he won just once, but it was a sweet one, taking the Grade 3 National Hunt Cup at Radnor. Young rode him that day and hadn’t ridden him again until Saturday.

“It’s nice to know what works, I get lucky and get on him on the right days,” Young said. “He hangs like a gate, Radnor is the perfect track for him, he had never run at Radnor until last year, on soft ground, he hangs but he doesn’t lug as much. On quicker ground, he’ll go out. Once you let him do it, you can’t get him back.”

With five titles engraved and on his mantle and a quiet start to the season, Young isn’t worrying about numbers. Yet.

“It’s been quiet this year, as the season has gone along, you’re thinking, ‘I’m not going to ride a winner…’ Horses running well but not winning,” Young said. “I appreciate days like today more than I would have in the past because you were always looking for the next one. It’s at that stage now, it’s win by win, I’m not thinking, ‘I’m five behind the leader…’ ”


“Now, back in Virginia in the fall…” Young said, with a laugh.

The counting never stops.