Snap Decision aims for Grand National

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Snap Decision and Jack Fisher (right) eye another Grade 1 in Saturday’s American Grand National at Far Hills. Tod Marks photo

If you call Jack Fisher and tell him you want to talk about his favorite horse, be prepared for an Aaron Nola-level curveball.

“Footpad?” the trainer asked Wednesday afternoon. “I’m taking him to the hunter thing today, so he’s the one I’m thinking about at the moment.”

The hunter “thing” was a schooling event as a prep for an actual hunter trial next weekend. Footpad, Irish-based hero of the 2016 Prix Alain du Breil at Auteuil and 2018 Arkle at Cheltenham and a faller in his second and final American start, is a hunter in retirement at Fisher’s Maryland farm. The 10-year-old passed the test and will be at the hunter trial next weekend.

But that’s not why you called.

Fisher’s Snap Decision goes to the post in Saturday’s $250,000 American Grand National, the feature on a seven-race card at the Far Hills Races in Far Hills, N.J. The Bruton Street-US colorbearer faces eight foes including top-class Irish raider Hewick in the 2 5/8-mile race, the sixth race with a post time of 4:05 p.m. The card, part of the America’s Day at the Races television broadcast on FS2, gets started at 12:50.

Snap Decision (8-5 on the morning line) owns 11 wins and six seconds in 17 lifetime starts over jumps. He won a record-tying nine a row in 2019, 2020 and 2021, has captured three Grade 1 stakes, piled up $642,900 in earnings and yet brings unfinished business into Saturday. For all his achievements, he’s never been a champion. He and jockey Graham Watters can remove all doubt about the 2022 crown with a win Saturday.

“This is what we’ve been aiming for all year,” Fisher said. “You want him to get one more big one and to be a champion, to answer it.”

Snap Decision missed a chance to win the 2020 Eclipse Award when the steeplechase stakes program was canceled after Saratoga due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Last year, he won twice in the spring including the Grade 1 Iroquois only to lose twice to The Mean Queen at Belmont Park (by 2 lengths) in September and Far Hills (by a half-length) in October as she claimed the seasonal title.

This year, the son of Hard Spun opened with a second in April’s Temple Gwathmey and a 7 1/4-length score in the Grade 1 Iroquois in May. After a third in a turf stakes at Colonial Downs, Snap Decision blasted through the Grade 1 Jonathan Sheppard at Saratoga Aug. 17 – leading most of the way and winning by 13 1/4 lengths while carrying 164 pounds. Saddled with 168 in the Grade 1 Lonesome Glory at Aqueduct a month later, he was beaten 9 lengths by 41-1 and 140-pound longshot Noah And The Ark.

Fisher hates to see Snap Decision lose, but came up with a ready explanation even if the performance was a bit mystifying.

“Twenty-eight pounds, it’s like a bus and a car,” he said. “I was listening to somebody say a horse gave three pounds away in a flat race. That’s nothing.”

Still, the September defeat brings questions. Was it the weight? Was it the toll of a long campaign? Was it simply a not-as-brilliant-as-usual race? Snap Decision didn’t need the Lonesome Glory, but clearly didn’t run the way he did at Saratoga. Will he improve for the run?

The weight-for-age Grand National conditions put each horse at 156 pounds. Noah And The Ark (8-1) returns, as do Iroquois runner-up Pistol Whipped (6-1), Fisher’s 2020 Eclipse winner Moscato (15-1), seven-time winner Hewick (3-1), Cheltenham Festival winner Global Citizen (10-1), Lonesome Glory third Ask Paddington (15-1), Jonathan Sheppard fourth Belfast Banter (30-1) and Lonesome Glory fourth Song For Someone (20-1). Prohibited in New York stakes, the anti-bleeding medication Lasix is back in play at Far Hills with Snap Decision, Pistol Whipped, Song For Someone, Belfast Banter and even Global Citizen receiving it.

Like any trainer, Fisher wants his horse to produce a top effort. The result will come.

“I’m not worried about any of them,” he said. “I have the best horse. It’s just if he shows up and things go his way. I don’t think there’s necessarily a reason why he wouldn’t show up. He shows up and runs well every time.”

In front early at Saratoga and Belmont, Snap Decision isn’t necessarily a horse who wants or needs the lead. He stalked Pistol Whipped in the 3-mile Iroquois and turned up the heat over the final mile. Fisher could envision something similar Saturday though the tactics will play out.

“He’s not a front-runner, but at Saratoga I told Graham to go to the lead because everybody was going to mess around with him,” said Fisher. “I didn’t tell him anything really at Aqueduct, but I probably would have said to do the same thing.”

Going 2 1/2 miles at Aqueduct, Snap Decision set the pace, and felt pressure from Iranistan early and Song For Someone later. When the Todd McKenna-trained Noah And The Ark arrived on the final turn, the favorite had no answer but managed to hold off Ask Paddington and Song For Someone for second.

“The Aqueduct race wasn’t a bad race, he beat everybody else,” Fisher said. “Todd’s horse ran his eyeballs out. He was in good form, obviously. Hopefully that was a freak thing, but even if it wasn’t, if he runs that race back, at equal weights we might win.”

With two Grade 1 wins on the year, Snap Decision occupies the inside post in the title race, though Noah And The Ark could make a big case with a win. He’d match the Grade 1 double and be 2-0 against Snap Decision. The others are all winless in America this year, though Hewick and Global Citizen make their U.S. debuts.

NOTES: Second at Aqueduct in her first start in 11 months, The Mean Queen was not entered at Far Hills. Her 2022 season is likely over in the U.S., though trainer Keri Brion was hopeful for a potential overseas campaign. Brion blamed the latest setback on a minor, if untimely, injury during paddock turnout. “She’s fine, really,” Brion said. “It’s a small thing we couldn’t take a chance with. She finds a way to bump and bang herself out there and we have to just deal with it.” . . . Brion likes the way Ask Paddington has progressed since Aqueduct, his U.S. debut off four consecutive wins in England. “He jumped horribly at Aqueduct. I think that was just going in a race in America the first time, at a racetrack, because of how fast as they go. Jumping our fences the first time, at speed, is a new question for them. We’ve done a lot of work, but I think having the run over them will help him come a long way. If he can jump, you’d like to think he belongs. He’s come on since his run and I’m really happy with him.”