As the 2-5 favorite in Saturday’s $145,500 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes (G2), Decorated Invader was clearly the best horse in the field, even more so after the expected scratch of stablemate Gufo. The Christophe Clement trainee performed to his odds, despite a potentially tricky race shape at Saratoga.
The one possible question mark was the pace scenario – namely, that Get Smokin was the lone speed who could get away early versus just four rivals. That’s exactly how the 1 1/8-mile affair unfolded on the firm inner turf, and the 8-1 shot enjoyed a favorable set-up while plowing a wide path. Opening up by seven lengths through an opening quarter in :23.85, Get Smokin added a bit more to his margin while clocking the half in :48.98.
Decorated Invader hit the gate at the start, but had no trouble gliding into second, leading the main body of the field. A patient Joel Rosario timed his move well aboard the favorite. Decorated Invader closed the gap to 4 1/2 lengths at the 6-furlong mark in 1:13.52, and continued to gain into the stretch.
Get Smokin was not stopping; rather, he was digging in and putting up a stout defense. But Decorated Invader was too strong to resist. The son of Declaration of War caught the pacesetter in midstretch and forged 1 1/4 lengths clear of the stubborn Get Smokin. With Rosario taking a couple of discreet peeks back in an air of confidence, Decorated Invader appeared to win in hand, ears cocked, in 1:49.29.
Finishing fastest of all was the 2.60-1 second choice, Domestic Spending, who ripped his last three-eighths in :34.83 according to Trakus (compared to Decorated Invader’s :35.06). Yet his early position, as last of the quintet, proved too much to overcome, and he came up a nose shy of Get Smokin in third. Moon Over Miami also quickened well in fourth, leaving Ever Dangerous well back at the rear.
Gufo was scratched to await the August 15 Saratoga Derby, where he could get his clash with Decorated Invader. The other entrant was the main-track-only Money Moves.
“When I got to the horse on the lead (Get Smokin) turning for home, he kept running a little bit,” Rosario said. “He had been all alone on the lead but I could feel I had a lot of horse underneath me and he was moving much the best.
“I thought I would be a little closer, but the other horse was off the rail and in the middle of the track. I followed him for a little bit but I ended up letting my horse be comfortable. I took my time and made my move when it was the right time to move.”
Get Smokin’s rider, Jose Ortiz, praised him for his effort going about a furlong more than ideal.
“He ran big. The first quarter of a mile we went a little faster than I wanted to because he’s so used to going a mile (and speeding through halves) in :45 or :46 and that’s why I kept him off the rail,” Ortiz said. “When I got to the turn he relaxed and I dropped in a little bit. On the backside, I had him where I wanted him. I tried to get the jump on the other horse (Decorated Invader) but the other horse is a very nice horse. I think my horse’s game is a mile flat. It was a lot to ask him to go a mile and an eighth, but he showed up.”
Sporting the colors of West Point Thoroughbreds, Decorated Invader also counts among his owners William T. Freeman, William Sandbrook, and Cheryl Manning. The strapping bay has earned $453,035 from a 7-5-1-0 line. His two losses came as a juvenile, a fast-finishing second in his Spa debut to Field Pass (himself a four-time stakes winner including the Jeff Ruby Steaks [G3] and Transylvania [G3]) and a fourth from far back in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1).
Decorated Invader was scoring his fourth stakes victory here, and making it three straight as a sophomore. Successful in last year’s Summer (G1) on yielding going at Woodbine, he came from the clouds to capture the Mar. 28 Cutler Bay at Gulfstream Park and burst through on the rail in the June 20 Pennine Ridge (G2) at Belmont Park. The Hall of Fame showcased his growing tactical finesse.
Clement has made no secret of his high regard for Decorated Invader.
“He’s a top-class horse and has been since day one for me. I love him. I love the way he trains. I love the way he races. It’s a different scenario every time we run him, but the final outcome is the same. I thought he looked better in the last sixteenth of a mile than he did before that. He actually won going away at the end.”
Bred by Redmon Farm in Kentucky and purchased for $200,000 as a Keeneland September yearling, Decorated Invader is out of the Arch mare Gamely Girl. She is also responsible for stakes winner Jubliant Girl, herself the dam of French stakes scorer Native American.
Decorated Invader descends from the blue hen *Rough Shod II, via her champion daughter Moccasin who was voted 1965 Horse of the Year (in the TRA and Turf and Sport Digest polls). He comes from the same branch of the family as noted sire Stormy Atlantic and Lord North, recent hero of the Prince of Wales’s (G1) at Royal Ascot.