Camden, South Carolina – November 23, 2013
Alajmal upset the 44th running of the $100,000 Grade I Colonial Cup as he unleashed a powerful late kick after the last fence and drew clear to win by 3 1/2 lengths. The 5-year-old son of First Samurai covered the Colonial Cup’s 2 3/4 miles over firm going in 5:07 3/5, well off the stakes record of 5:04.60 established by Hirapour (Ire) in 2004.
Jonathan Sheppard, the year’s leading trainer by purse earnings, saddled the next three horses under the wire in the Colonial Cup, as Barnstorming made a huge late run to finish second, 1 1/2 lengths clear of Italian Wedding.
The star-studded Colonial Cup field included four horses that had earned Grade I victories this year: Demonstrative, Devine Fortune, Gustavian and Italian Wedding. A victory by one of those stalwarts would most likely have secured year-end honors, but the unlikely victory by Alajmal brought chaos instead of clarity to the steeplechase Eclipse award picture. There were six Grade I steeplechase races contested in the United States this year, and a different horse won each event.
The favorites going into the Colonial Cup disappointed their followers as Divine Fortune faded late to finish fourth, Demonstrative finished a dull fifth and Gustavian stumbled badly upon landing over the last fence dropping jockey Paddy Young. Young dusted himself off and came back to ride Kingdom to victory in the last race on the card, thereby winning the Leading Rider title for 2013. It was the fourth time in his illustrious career that the Irishman claimed year-end honors, having previously earned that distinction in 2009, 2010 & 2011.
Owned by Gregory Hawkins and trained by Racing Hall of Famer Janet Elliot, Alajmal was ridden by Xavier Aizpuru after his designated jockey, Mark Beecher, was injured in the race before the Colonial Cup. “I was a late pickup. You never like to pick up horses like that, but I certainly was glad to be on him today,” Aizpuru said.
Alajmal, last year’s novice champion and third in the Colonial Cup last year, started this year off with a victory in the $50,000 Carolina Cup for novices on the same Springdale Course in Camden, South Carolina. Alajmal had difficulty finding the winner’s circle the rest of the year, however, and appears to be a horse that loves the Springdale Course.
Divine Fortune entered the Colonial Cup with a sizable lead in the earnings standings following his dynamic victory in the $250,000 Grade I Grand National at Far Hills on October 19th. He had capitalized on an uncontested lead in the Grand National, but the Colonial Cup was a different story, as both Decoy Daddy and Gustavian challenged Divine Fortune from the start of the race.
When Decoy Daddy slipped back, Gustavian–the only horse with a chance to deny Divine Fortune the earnings title–applied steady pressure on Divine Fortune throughout the final run down the backstretch. Meanwhile, Alajmal started picking off horses under Aizpuru and reached contention at the top of the stretch.
Divine Fortune began to weaken approaching the last fence, and Gustavian briefly assumed the lead before stumbling badly upon landing over the last fence, losing jockey Paddy Young off his neck. On the run-in, Bernie Dalton, riding Italian Wedding, made a big move on the inside, but longshot Alajmal was moving fastest of all on the far outside to claim the first Grade 1 victory of his career. Barnstorming closed for second under Sean Flanagan, who had two wins for trainer Jack Fisher earlier on the card. Those two victories catapulted Fisher into a tie for leading trainer honors with Sheppard. Both conditioners finished the year with 20 victories.
Elliot said she was pleased with Alajmal’s late move. “I was happy to see him moving up down the backside and finishing, because at Saratoga [unplaced finishes in two novice stakes races] he wasn’t finishing his race. We think he probably had some kind of lung issue. We did a lot of tests, and most were inconclusive.”
Alajmal shipped to Camden two weeks before the race and was lodged with trainer Kate Dalton, Bernie Dalton’s wife. “I have to give Bernie and Kate Dalton a lot of credit. They have had the horses here for the last few weeks.”
In preparing Alajmal for the Colonial Cup, Elliot’s directions to Bernie Dalton were simply to stay on his back. “He’s ornery, but he seems to be getting over that.”
Eclipse Award Up For Grabs
There were six Grade I steeplechase races contested in the United States this year, and a different horse won each event: Demonstrative won the Iroquois in May; Mr. Hot Stuff won the A.P. Smithwick on August 1st; Italian Wedding won the New York Turf Writers Cup Handicap on August 22nd; Gustavian won the Lonesome Glory in September; and Divine Fortune won the Grand National in October before Alajmal won the Colonial Cup. Of that group, Gustavian, Italian Wedding and Divine Fortune have also finished second in a Grade I race this year.
Leading Rider: Paddy Young edged Darren Nagle 16-15 as both riders were blanked on the day before Young won the final race of the season.
Leading Trainer: Fisher won the title for the seventh time in his career; his first championship came in 2003. Sheppard claimed the title for the 25th time in his storied career, with his first coming in 1970 when he put an end the Mikey Smithwick’s dominant reign.
Jumping Around: Top Striker (Sue Sensor / Arch Kingsley / Willie McCarthy) won the maiden hurdle to start the day. Schoodic (Edie Dixon / Jack Fisher / Sean Flanagan) won the Raymond Woolfe Memorial Stakes for 3-year-old hurdlers. The son of Tiznow finished the year 2-for-2 to win the divisional championship. Straight To It (Shelia Fisher / Jack Fisher / Sean Flanagan) won the Springdale open timber race. Bodie Island (Elkstone Group / Richard Valentine / Kieran Norris) took the starter allowance hurdle race, defeating veteran All Together. Kingdom (The Fields Stable / Thomas H. Voss / Paddy Young) won the allowance hurdle, and Address Unknown (Irv Naylor / Cyril Murphy / Carol Ann Sloan) won the training flat race.
Far Hills, NJ – October 19th, 2013
Divine Fortune opened up an early lead and never looked back as he won the $250,000 Grade I Grand National by five and a half widening lengths at the 93rd edition of the Far Hills Races. Gustavian finished second, three lengths ahead of Demonstrative in third. Pierrot Lunaire, who edged Divine Fortune 3/4ths of a length to win last year’s Grand National, finished fourth in a star-packed field of 11.
Divine Fortune romped to an easy victory over Gustavian in the Grade I Grand National. Alix Michel photo.
Trained by Racing Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard and ridden by leading jockey Darren Nagle, Divine Fortune earned the first Grade I victory of his career. The 10-year-old Royal Anthem gelding, co-bred by William L. Pape and Sheppard, ran the Grand National’s 2 5/8 miles in 5:15.80 on firm turf.
Divine Fortune leads 2nd place finisher Gustavian and 3rd place finisher Demonstrative at the 9th fence of the Grade I Grand National.
Divine Fortune raised some questions after he finished a dull seventh in the Lonesome Glory at Belmont Park last month. But Sheppard said a foot infection surfaced after that race, and Divine Fortune was at his feisty best for the Grand National.
Although speed had not been holding up over the New Jersey racecourse, Sheppard had confidence in Divine Fortune’s ability and hoped that he would be on the lead. Divine Fortune broke sharply and was under no pressure from Nagle as he galloped over the lush course and jumped sharply before drawing away easily through the final furlong.
Divine Fortune and jockey Darren Nagle showing perfect form as they lead Gustavian at the 4th fence of the Grade I Grand National.
The $150,000 first-place purse placed Divine Fortune in the lead for the National Steeplechase Association’s Lonesome Glory Champions Award as the year’s leading earner. His closest competitor is Magalen O. Bryant’s Gustavian, who is trained by Leslie Young and ridden by her husband, three-time champion jockey Paddy Young.
Sheppard said he planned to send Divine Fortune into the $100,000 Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup, the year’s concluding Grade I steeplechase race to be held November 23rd in Camden, South Carolina.
Click here for the result chart of the 2013 Grand National
Bluegrass Summer holds on to win first Foxbrook division
Jockey Bernie Dalton collected his second victory of the afternoon when Bill Pape’s Bluegrass Summer fought off a game Staying On to win the first division of the $75,000 Foxbrook Champion Hurdle for novices.
Staying On (right leads winner Bluegrass Summer as the field lands over the last fence in the 1st division of the Foxbrook Novice Hurdle Stakes.
Pape’s Grand Tier closed strongly to take third place, 1 1/4 lengths behind Michael Moran’s Staying On and three-quarters of a length ahead of Congashene. Trained by Racing Hall of Fame member Jonathan Sheppard, Bluegrass Summer ran the Foxbrook’s 2 1/2 miles in 5:10 flat on firm turf.
Riverdee Stable’s Apse set a slow early pace and was pulled up when jockey Robbie Walsh lost his irons after the fourth fence. Bluegrass Summer, always in a stalking position, assumed the lead and was challenged by Staying On nearing the final fence. They jumped the obstacle together and fought to the finish line, with the gray or roan Purge gelding prevailing in a head-bob.
The Foxbrook was Bluegrass Summer’s second consecutive win over fences. He had won a Saratoga Race Course optional allowance on Aug. 29 with Dalton in the saddle.
Click here for the result chart of the 1st Division of the Foxbrook Novice Hurdle
Sacred Soul explodes to victory in second Foxbrook division
Leading owner Irvin S. Naylor’s Sacred Soul exploded to the lead on Far Hills’ final turn and overcame a stumble at the final fence to win as he pleased in the second division of the Foxbrook. Gil Johnston’s Alburj, the early leader, came back late to finish second, 1 3/4 lengths ahead of Bill Pape’s Powerofone.
Winner Sacred Soul jumped poorly at the last fence of the 2nd division of the Foxbrook Novice Stakes, causing jockey Ross Geraghty to lose his right stirrup and almost come off the back.
Sacred Soul and Powerofone tracked the pace of Alburj in the early going, and Darren Nagle put Powerofone on the lead on the final run down Far Hills’ backstretch. Sacred Soul and jockey Ross Geraghty drew even with Powerofone entering the final bend and quickly established a dominant lead.
Sacred Soul at the finish of the 2nd division of the Foxbrook Novice Stakes, Alix Michel photo.
Even with a clumsy landing after the final fence, Sacred Soul was far in front and won in a canter. The six-year-old Perfect Soul gelding ran the Foxbrook’s 2 1/2 miles in 4:41 and provided the first major victory to Cyril Murphy, who took over the training duties after Sacred Soul finished second in Saratoga Race Course’s Michael G. Walsh Novice Stakes on Aug. 15.
Click here for the result chart of the 2nd Division of the Foxbrook Novice Hurdle
Ross Geraghty and Sacred Soul in the winner’s circle. Alix Michel photo.
Kisser N Run takes second straight Peapack
Clarke Ohrstrom’s Kisser N Run made a powerful late run through the Far Hills stretch and overtook Opera Heroine to score her second straight victory in the $75,000 Peapack Stakes for fillies and mares.
Ridden by Robbie Walsh, Kisser N Run finished a half-length ahead of Arcadia Stable’s Opera Heroine, who in turn was two lengths clear of The Grey Express. Arcadia’s Take Her Tothe Top finished fourth in a field of 12.
Trained by Richard Valentine, Kisser N Run ran the Peapack’s 2 1/8 miles in 3:55 on firm turf at Moorland Farms.
Kingfisher Farm’s Maya Charli, who like Opera Heroine and Take Her Tothe Top is trained by Jack Fisher, went out immediately at the start and opened a gaping early lead. She remained in front until midway down the backstretch the last time, when Gregory Hawkins’ The Grey Express took the lead.
Entering the homestretch, Opera Heroine moved to the front under Sean Flanagan and jumped the final fence with a clear path to the finish line. But Kisser N Run unbuckled a big move in the final furlong and gained her first win since last year’s Peapack triumph.
Click here for the result chart of the Peapack Filly & Mare Hurdle Stakes
Canaveral takes off to Harry E. Harris win
Gregory Hawkins’ Canaveral took command late on the final run down Far Hills’ backstretch, jumped the final fence in stride, and held off Boxbourne for a one-length victory in the $25,000 Harry E. Harris, a Sport of Kings maiden hurdle.
Gil Johnston’s Boxbourne gave trainer Jack Fisher and jockey Sea Flanagan their second straight second-place finish. Boxbourne surged past Armata Stable’s Wildcatter for the place spot. Wildcatter finished three-quarters of a length behind Wildcatter and 5 1/2 lengths clear of Bill Pape’s Tropic Sea, the fourth finisher.
Trained by Racing Hall of Fame member Janet Elliot and ridden by Bernie Dalton, Canaveral ran the Harry E. Harris’ 2 1/8 miles in 4:02.20 on firm turf.
Canaveral went to the winner’s circle in his second start over fences. He had finished fourth in a Shawan Downs maiden race on September 28th.
Click here for the result chart of the Peapack Filly & Mare Hurdle Stakes
Schoodic wins Gladstone with late move
Edith R. Dixon’s Schoodic closed powerfully through the final furlong to overhaul Cry Vengeance and win the $25,000 Gladstone Stakes for three-year-olds by 1 1/2 lengths. Wendy Hendriks’ Cry Vengeance finished a half-length ahead of Jacqueline Ohrstrom’s Class Cherokee, who was making his first career start.
Schoodic, a Tiznow gelding bred by his owner, ran the Gladstone’s 2 1/8 miles in 4:16.40. Sean Flanagan rode Schoodic for trainer Jack Fisher.
Click here for the result chart of the Gladstone 3-year-old Hurdle Stakes
Chess Board wires New Jersey Hunt Cup
Owner Irv Naylor collected his second win of the day when Chess Board took the lead early in the $25,000 New Jersey Hunt Cup and held off Here Comes Badness for a three-quarter-length victory. Seer finished third. Willie McCarthy rode Chess Board, who ran the timber allowance’s 3 1/4 miles in 7:19.60.
Click here for the result chart of the New Jersey Hunt Cup
Edited from NSA press release
Divine Fortune and Darren Nagle accept congratulations from Janet Elliot after winning the Grade I Grand National.
Eclipse Award Up For Grabs
There have been five Grade I steeplechase races contested in the United States so far this year, and a different horse has won each event: Demonstrative won the Iroquois in May; Mr. Hot Stuff won the A.P. Smithwick on August 1st; Italian Wedding won the New York Turf Writers Cup Handicap on August 22nd; and Gustavian won the Lonesome Glory in September before Divine Fortune won the Grand National. Of that group, Gustavian, Italian Wedding and Divine Fortune have also finished second in a Grade I race this year.
Elmont, New York – September 19, 2013
Gustavian, scored the biggest victory of his career when he fought off a dead-game All Together to win the $150,000 Grade I Lonesome Glory Handicap by a nose at Belmont Park. A son of Giant’s Causeway, Gustavian was making his first start for owner Magalen O. Bryant He was ridden and trained by the husband and wife team of Paddy Young and Leslie Young, who previously had trained the 7-year-old gelding for Hickory Tree Stable.
Italian Wedding, who won the Grade I New York Turf Writers Cup in his previous start, finished third, 1 3/4 lengths behind All Together, who stumbled badly after the final fence but regained his momentum and battled Gustavian to the finish line. Jacqueline Ohrstrom’s Demonstrative was fourth in a field on nine.
Sent to starter Barry Watson as the 3.85-1 second betting choice, Gustavian paid $9.70 to win after running the Lonesome Glory’s 2 1/2 miles in 4:35.92 on firm turf. The Lonesome Glory was Gustavian’s first win since last year’s William Entenmman Memorial Novice Stakes on Belmont’s Lonesome Glory program.
Leslie Young said she followed the same pattern as last year, skipping Saratoga to target Belmont. “We freshened him up, happy and healthy coming into Belmont, a big, galloping track. He liked it last year, so we thought, ‘Why not for a big Grade 1 like this?’ “
Her husband agreed. Gustavian “doesn’t win many races; he likes running second a lot,” Paddy Young said. “He loves this big, galloping track. He’s a great jumper. The thing I liked about him today is that he actually chased that horse when it passed him, which sometimes he doesn’t do. He stuck his head out at the right time today.”
Leslie Young and All Together’s jockey, Xavier Aizpuru agreed that the stumble was critical to the race’s outcome. “I think we benefitted a little when [All Together] stumbled on landing,” Leslie Young said. “Gustavian likes a fight at the finish, he likes to aim at something. He dueled throughout the stretch, and thank God his nose was longer [than All Together's].”
Said Aizpuru: “If it wasn’t for the last jump, I think we would have won. He actually was very brave after the last fence, to keep battling away after losing so much momentum. You can’t help but feel like a mistake like that costs you when you get beaten by a head bob.”
At the start, Divine Fortune, owned by Bill Pape and Sheppard, went to the front immediately under Darren Nagle and stayed there through more than 2 1/4 miles. Part of an 8-5 entry with Italian Wedding, the 10-year-old had pressure throughout from Atlantic Equine’s Hunt Ball, also trained by Sheppard, but both tired approaching the final fence. Hunt Ball finished sixth, and Divine Fortune was seventh.
As the early leaders bore out approaching the final fence, Gustavian, All Together, and Italian Wedding made their moves. All Together, owned by Sheila Williams and Andre Brewster, jumped the fence in front, but the veteran stumbled badly on landing. Aizpuru kept the eight-year-old Danzig gelding on his feet, but they ceded the lead to Gustavian and three-time champion jockey Young.
All Together fought back valiantly. but Gustavian dug in and refused to surrender the advantage to the finish line. The victory propelled Gustavian into the middle of a hotly contested battle for this year’s Eclipse Award. The seven-year-old has not finished out of the money since winning his maiden victory nearly two years ago at Shawan Downs. The Lonesome Glory’s $90,000 first money raised his 2013 earnings to $104,000. Leslie Young said that Gustavian’s next start most likely would be the $250,000 Grand National (Gr. 1) at Far Hills, N.J., on Saturday, Oct. 19.
Italian Wedding, who had made a spectacular comeback after missing almost all of the 2012 racing season, finished 2 1/2 lengths clear of Demonstrative.
For the second straight year, the Lonesome Glory was decided by a nose. Mary Ann Houghland’s Pierrot Lunaire, won last year’s edition by a nose over Spy in the Sky and went on to be the year’s Eclipse Award winner. In this year’s edition of the Lonesome Glory, Randleston Farm’s Spy in the Sky finished fifth, a neck behind Demonstrative.
Edited from NSA press release
Click here for the result chart of the 2013 Grade I Lonesome Glory
Click here for a video replay of the 2013 Grade I Lonesome Glory
Post Script: Several days after the Lonesome Glory, the New York stewards suspended the rider of All Together, Xavier Aizpuru, for three NSA racing days as the result of “gross careless riding” by Mr. Aizpuru during the stretch-run of the Lonesome Glory. The head-on replay showed Mr. Aizpuru leaning in hard to his left with his elbows making contact with winning rider Paddy Young in a vain attempt to keep Mr. Young from passing All Together.
William Entenmann Novice Stakes: In the race immediately preceding the Lonesome Glory at Belmont Park, Staying On (Ire) won the $75,000 William Entenmann Novice Stakes for owner Michael Moran, trainer Jack Fisher and jockey Jeff Murphy defeating Powerofone by 3/4ths of a length.
Click here for the result chart of the 2013 William Entenmann Novice Stakes
Click here for a video replay of the 2013 William Entenmann Novice Stakes
August 22nd, 2013 – Saratoga Springs, New York
Owner-trainer Jonathan Sheppard’s Italian Wedding swept to the lead entering Saratoga Race Course’s homestretch, jumped the final fence boldly, and held off a determined challenge from All Together to win the Grade I $150,000 New York Turf Writers Cup Handicap by a length,
Sheila Williams’ and Andre Brewster’s All Together held off Bill Pape’s Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes winner Martini Brother for the place spot, while Gil Johnston’s A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1) victor Mr. Hot Stuff saved fourth position after leading through the final turn.
Italian Wedding and Martini Brother were part of a three-horse entry with Sheppard’s and Pape’s Divine Fortune, who failed to kick in late and finished seventh. The entry went off at .95-1 and paid $3.90 for a $2 win ticket. Ridden by Bernie Dalton, Italian Wedding ran the New York Turf Writers Cup’s 2 3/8 miles in 4:30.61 on firm turf.
The finish order marked remarkable comebacks by Italian Wedding and All Together, who went off at 10.80-1. Italian Wedding had not won for more than two years, since taking Saratoga’s 2011 Michael G. Walsh Novice Stakes. The Sheppard homebred by Alphabet Soup finished fourth in the Carolina Cup (Gr. 3) at the beginning of the 2012 season and then spent 16 months on the sidelines. He demonstrated that he had returned to form with a strong second-place finish to Mr. Hot Stuff in the Smithwick.
All Together, the 2010 novice champion, had gone two years without a win before scoring in a $65,000 optional allowance claimer at Saratoga on Aug. 1. In that race, trainer Jack Fisher entered him for a $30,000 claiming tag.
In the New York Turf Writers, Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1) Demonstrative winner broke fastest of all, but Woodslane Farm’s Brave Prospect soon took the lead and was joined by Mr. Hot Stuff as the field crossed the finish line for the first time. Mr. Hot Stuff took over on the final run down the backstretch, but Dalton placed Italian Wedding in a striking position after the next to last fence and took the lead as the field completed the final bend.
Ridden by Xavier Aizpuru, All Together moved up strongly approaching the final fence, but Italian Wedding met it in stride and gained ground over All Together and Mr. Hot Stuff. All Together launched a last-ditch bid, but Dalton kept Italian Wedding under pressure, and they drew clear in the final strides.
Dalton said that Italian Wedding responded when All Together came to him in the stretch. “The horse jumped and traveled the whole way. I felt one come to me after the last, and the horse did, too, and he came back on the bridle and kind of won a little easy in the end,” the veteran jockey said. “He just pulled away again. He was in front from the top of the lane, and he just got a little idle.”
Martini Brother closed willingly under Darren Nagle and finished a head behind All Together. Mr. Hot Stuff was another two lengths farther back and was seven lengths clear of the fifth finisher, 2009 Turf Writers winner Spy in the Sky. Jacqueline Ohrstrom’s Demonstrative, the 3.45-1 second betting choice who was seeking a second straight New York Turf Writers win, ran evenly to finish sixth.
Edited from NSA press release
August 8th, 2013 – Saratoga Springs, New York
Arcadia Stable’s Take Her Tothe Top notched her first steeplechase victory in spectacular fashion when the well-bred five-year-old mare pulled away to a 3 1/4-length victory in Saratoga Race Course’s $75,000 Mrs. Ogden Phipps Stakes for fillies and mares on Thursday, Aug. 8.
Take Her Tothe Top continued the Saratoga splurge of leading trainer Jack Fisher, who padded his lead in both the wins and earnings rankings with his third consecutive jumps victory of the young meet. Fisher trained the winners of both steeplechase races a week earlier, including Gil Johnston’s Mr. Hot Stuff in the $100,000 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1).
Ridden by Xavier Aizpuru, Take Her Tothe Top was well back early as Riverdee Stable’s Lillehammer raced out to a big lead under Bernie Dalton, with Gregory Hawkins’ The Grey Express tracking her pace. On the final run down Saratoga’s backstretch, Aizpuru moved Take Her Tothe Top closer to the pace and moved her outside for a clear run at the leaders.
As Lillehammer tired on the final turn, The Grey Express moved onto the lead under Ross Geraghty, but they were challenged by Take Her Tothe Top at the final fence. Janet Elliot trainee The Grey Express jumped the fence well and opened a clear lead, but Take Her Tothe Top closed relentlessly and spurted clear in the final sixteenth of a mile.
Magalen O. Bryant’s Well Fashioned, a multiple stakes winner, took third under Willie McCarthy, and Clarke Ohrstrom’s Kisser N Run, also a stakes winner, was fourth. Lillehammer finished fifth, and Arcadia Stable’s Opera Heroine was sixth in an entry with Take Her Tothe Top. Winner of the inaugural Mrs. Phipps in 2011, Opera Heroine was making her first steeplechase start in more than a year.
Michael Watts’ Hunter Forward fell at the third fence, and the field was routed around the obstacle on the second circuit while medical workers attended to jockey-trainer Arch Kingsley Jr. Hunter Forward was unhurt, and Kingsley was taken to Saratoga Hospital for treatment of a possible concussion.
The Arcadia entry went off as the 2.95-1 favorite, and Take Her Tothe Top ran the Mrs. Phipps’ 2 1/16 miles in 3:47.32 on firm turf. By More Than Ready and out of Ceiling, by Boundary, Take Her Tothe Top had won with a $20,000 tag at Belmont Park last fall. Acquired privately by Arcadia and turned over to Fisher, Take Her Tothe Top had made three previous starts over fences and had two seconds, including a head loss at the Fair Hill Races in her most recent start on May 25th.
Edited from NSA press release
August 1st, 2013 – Saratoga Springs, New York
Jack Fisher, American Steeplechasing’s reigning champion trainer, captured both ends of Saratoga Race Course’s jump doubleheader on August 1st , taking a $65,000 optional allowance claimer with veteran All Together and then winning the Grade I $100,000 A. P. Smithwick Memorial with Gil Johnston’s rising star Mr. Hot Stuff.
Always well placed in the 2 1/16-mile Smithwick, Mr. Hot Stuff tracked the pace of Fisher-trained Brave Prospect for the first 1 1/2 miles and spurted to the lead when Woodslane Farm’s pacesetter began to tire at the next-to-last fence on Saratoga’s inner turf course.
With three-time champion jockey Paddy Young in the saddle, Mr. Hot Stuff jumped the last fence with a 2 1/2-length lead and easily maintained that margin to the finish, holding off the 4-5 favored entry of trainer Jonathan Sheppard’s Italian Wedding and Bill Pape’s Divine Fortune.
Italian Wedding, making his first start in 16 months, finished second under Bernie Dalton, while two-time Smithwick winner Divine Fortune and Darren Nagle was a neck farther back in third. Randleston Farm’s Spy in the Sky, last year’s Smithwick winner, finished fourth in a field of seven.
Sent to the start at 5-1 odds, Mr. Hot Stuff ran the Smithwick distance in 3:50.92 through a steady rain on a firm turf course.
Mr. Hot Stuff, a seven-year-old Tiznow gelding, had a brief but eventful career on the Triple Crown trail in 2009. After a maiden win, he finished third in the Santa Anita Derby (Gr. 1). For breeder WinStar Farm, he finished 15th in the Kentucky Derby (Gr. 1) and eighth in the Belmont Stakes (Gr. 1).
Acquired by Johnston in 2010 and turned over to Fisher, he showed promise over fences in 2011 with two victories before going to the sidelines for nearly two years. He came back with a third in the $50,000 Queen’s Cup for novices on April 27 and then won the $75,000 Marcellus Frost Novice Stakes at the Iroquois Steeplechase on May 11. He disappointed with a fourth in Colonial Downs’ $50,000 David L. “Zeke” Ferguson Memorial (Gr. 3) on June 8 before scoring decisively in the Smithwick, his first-ever Grade 1 start over fences.
The Smithwick was expected to be a resumption of the rivalry between Divine Fortune and Jacqueline Ohrstrom’s multiple Grade 1 winner Demonstrative, but Demonstrative was scratched.
All Together, owned by Andre Brewster and Sheila Williams, had last visited the winner’s circle in 2011 when he won Saratoga’s Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes. He returned to Saratoga on Thursday bearing a $30,000 claiming tag under the optional allowance’s conditions.
The eight-year-old Danzig gelding was placed in the front of the second flight by jockey Xavier Aizpuru as Network News and Pleasant Woodman drew away to a gaping early lead. Their advantage evaporated on the backstretch run the final time, and All Together swept to the lead approaching the final fence and won by 1 1/4 lengths at 5.10-1. The Elkstone Group’s Albany Road took second by a nose over Peggy Steinman’s Orebanks on a head bob at the wire. All Together ran the 2 1/16-mile distance in 3:49.30.
Edited from NSA press release
May 11, 2013 – Nashville, Tennessee: Demonstrative took the lead approaching the last of 18 hurdles to win the 72nd running of the Grade I $150,000 Iroquois Steeplechase at Percy Warner Park by a head. Demonstrative covered the three miles over a soft turf course in 5:42.4.
The 6-year-old gelding, who finished second in last year’s balloting for steeplechaser-of-the-year, defeated Divine Fortune in front of an estimated crowd of 25,000.
Robbie Walsh was aboard the winner for owner Mrs. Jacqueline Ohrstrom and trainer Richard Valentine.
Valentine said it isn’t unusual for Demonstrative to start in the middle of the pack and then work his way up. But when Demonstrative dropped back to sixth on the first circuit of the course, “Even I was a little concerned,” admitted Valentine after the race.
“The last two fences were long and he picked up for me,” said winning jockey Robert Walsh. “The other horse came back at him and [Demonstrative] dug in deep. He is top class. He is probably the best horse in the country right now. Divine Fortune ran a game, game race in defeat. He was tough.”
The $90,000 winner’s check raised Demonstrative’s career steeplechase earnings to $419,300.
Valentine said he would give Demonstrative some time off and then point him for the A.P. Smithwick Stakes in July and the New York Turf Writers Handicap at Saratoga in August.
Stop the madness! No, I’m not talking about the looming “Fiscal Cliff”; I’m talking about the pending Horse of the Year vote, the “Eclipse Cliff” if you will. Turf writers too numerous to mention seem to be following each other like lemmings off the Eclipse Cliff by casting their Horse of the Year Vote for Wise Dan instead of the logical selection: Little Mike. Rather than evaluating the record of each horse in a rational manner, the majority of turf writers that have revealed their Horse of the Year vote justify their selection of Wise Dan with flimsy, subjective and often illogical arguments instead of basing their decision on cold, hard facts.
Let’s take an objective look at the facts:
On Breeders’ Cup day, Little Mike won a race worth $2,727,000 (the Breeders’ Cup Turf), while Wise Dan won a race worth $1,818,000 (the Breeders’ Cup Mile). Logic would dictate that the race with the significantly larger purse is more important and prestigious than the race with the smaller purse.
Advantage: Little Mike.
Little Mike won Grade 1 races at distances of 9 furlongs, 10 furlongs and 12 furlongs. All of the Grade 1 races won by Wise Dan were contested at 8 furlongs. There is strong precedence established long ago that in order to win the Horse of the Year award, you have to win Grade 1 races run at classic distances. Little Mike satisfies that criteria as he won two Grade 1 races run at classic distances; Wise Dan never even attempted to win a Grade 1 race run at a classic distance.
Huge Advantage: Little Mike.
Little Mike earned $2,668,742 in 2012, while Wise Dan earned $46,705 less than Little Mike.
Advantage: Little Mike.
Steven Crist points out that one of Wise Dan’s Grade 1 victories took place in Canada, while all three of Little Mike’s wins occurred on American soil. “Wise Dan’s two Grade 1 victories are historically low for an American Horse of the Year,” writes Mr. Crist, the dean of all turf writers and the heir apparent to Joe Hirsch, Red Smith & Charles Hatton.
Advantage: Little Mike.
Now let’s objectively evaluate the quality of the Grade 1 races won by each of the contenders using cold, hard facts: None of the Grade 1 races won by Wise Dan have ever previously appeared on the resume of a Horse of the Year winner. Little Mike won the Arlington Million, a race that John Henry won in 1981 and 1984 on his way to earning Horse of the Year honors in each of those years. Little Mike also won the the Breeders’ Cup Turf, a race won by Kotashaan (Fr) en route to being named Horse of the Year in 1993. In addition, the Breeders’ Cup Turf is comparable in many respects to an international turf race they used to run at Laurel – the D.C. International – a race that helped propel All Along (1983), Fort Marcy (1970) and Kelso (1964) to Horse of the Year awards.
Huge Advantage: Little Mike.
As the cold, hard facts recited above show, by almost any objective standard, Little Mike is a better, more versatile horse than Wise Dan.
So what is the rationale put forth by some of our best turf writer’s that have weighed in on the Horse of the Year subject? Why are they voting for Wise Dan instead of Little Mike?
The argument made by most of them is that Wise Dan is more worthy of the Horse of the Year title because he competed on dirt, turf, and synthetic surfaces, while Little Mike raced exclusively on turf. This line of reasoning basically boils down to “both horses won three Grade 1 races on the turf, but the ability to also win a Grade 3 race run on a synthetic surface and to finish second in a Grade 1 dirt race trumps the ability to win races run at the classic distances of 10 furlongs and 12 furlongs”. Personally, I could not disagree more with that rationale. I think winning Grade 1 races at multiple distances, and the ability to win Grade 1 races run at classic distances, trumps the ability to win a Grade 3 race on synthetics combined with a second place finish in a Grade 1 dirt race. In my book, racing the entire season on turf is not a flaw that discredits a horse’s stature, but the inability to win at a classic distance is a significant hole in a horse’s resume, making that horse unworthy of the Horse of the Year title.
A number of turf writers have stated that they plan to vote for Little Mike as champion turf horse, but then vote for Wise Dan as Horse of the Year. It seems to me that these writers are either (1) taking logically inconsistent positions, or (2) placing disproportionate emphasis on a Grade 3 victory on synthetics and a second place finish in a Grade 1 dirt race.
In contrast to the confluence of turf writers following each other over the Eclipse Cliff, there are two turf writers that have an appreciation for the history of thoroughbred racing as well as a firm grip on the criteria that has traditionally be used to select the Horse of the Year. The first is Ed DeRosa, who comes across as the voice of reason when he writes:
“….. everyone seems content to concede that Wise Dan is the best horse in the United States, which I don’t understand at all given that going a mile on the turf has never been the division to prove that in this country.”
The second is multiple Eclipse award winning author Paul Moran. Mr. Moran writes that:
“Wise Dan’s success was limited to mile races on grass – a specialty for which there is no Eclipse category — and in any other year Little Mike, winner of three Grade 1 races on grass, including the two most prestigious international races run in the United States, would be the certain turf-course champion.”
The esteemed turf writer goes on to conclude that:
“It appears that the fortune of one of these very talented and deserving horses will come at the expense of the other.
Wise Dan: Woodbine Mile, Shadwell Turf Mile, Breeders’ Cup Mile.
Little Mike: Woodford Reserve Turf Classic, Arlington Million, Breeders’ Cup Turf.
Your call, but Little Mike’s portfolio is stronger than Wise Dan’s.”
If one steps back and objectively compares the three Grade 1 races won by Little Mike to the three Grade 1 races won by Wise Dan, the vote for Horse of the Year is obvious: Little Mike won the two most important international turf races run in the United States, the Breeders’ Cup Turf and the Arlington Million, and would be a most deserving Horse of the Year winner.
There is ample historical precedence for horses that win multiple Grade 1 races at 9 furlongs or more to be selected Horse of the Year; there is no historical precedence whatsoever for horses whose Grade 1 victories all came at a mile to be voted Horse of the Year. Those who cast their vote for Wise Dan are either unaware of thoroughbred racing’s rich and glorious history, or they are intent upon on setting new precedence despite the existence of a perponderance of facts that lead to only one conclusion: Little Mike should be 2012′s Horse of the Year.
Camden, South Carolina – November 17th, 2012
Demonstrative thrust himself into the year-end Eclipse Award picture with an impressive, last-to-first victory in the $100,000 Grade I Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup, defeating Divine Fortune by a length, with Alajmal finishing third. Demonstrative completed the 2 3/4 miles over the Springdale Race Course in 5:15.80.
Demonstrative and Matt McCarron won the Grade I Colonial Cup
Owned by Jacqueline Ohrstrom and ridden by Matt McCarron, Demonstrative was still at the back of the pack as an all-star field turned for home in the 2 3/4-mile Colonial Cup at the Springdale Course in Camden, S.C. But the five-year-old Elusive Quality gelding roared over the final two National Fences and ran down Bill Pape’s Divine Fortune, who had inherited the lead from 2010 winner Slip Away.
As the field approached the homestretch, trainer Richard Valentine had little hope that Demonstrative would make much of a showing. “I thought he was beat,” he said. “His jumping was good, but I didn’t think he’d get there.”
Indeed, speed had been holding on the Springdale course, and Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Slip Away had set a sensible pace under Paddy Young as Divine Fortune and Irv Naylor’s Decoy Daddy tracked his pace. Slip Away tired early in the lane, and Divine Fortune took over under Darren Nagle.
Devine Fortune and jockey Darren Nagle finished second in both of the last two Grade I races of the year: the Grand National and the Colonial Cup.
Just to make things interesting, Demonstrative and McCarron had to maneuver around History Boy, who was pulled up before the next to last fence. Demonstrative soon found his best stride on the outside, closed ground powerfully after the last fence, and took control in the final 50 yards.
Divine Fortune ran on well, but Demonstrative’s momentum carried him to his third victory of the year, two of them in Grade I races. After graduating from the novice ranks with a victory in the Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes at Saratoga Race Course, Demonstrative picked up his first Grade I score with a one-length win in the Grade I New York Turf Writers Cup Handicap
Demonstrative was scratched from the Grade I Lonesome Glory Stakes at Belmont Park after his regular jockey, Robbie Walsh, was injured in the prior race. The Lonesome Glory was won by Pierrot Lunaire, who subsequently won the Grade I Grand National at Far Hills, New Jersey, on October 20th. Demonstrative finished fourth in that race, but Valentine was not disappointed.
“He’s not a horse that likes soft ground,” the Virginia-based trainer said. Between the Grand National and the Colonial Cup, Valentine gave Demonstrative a strong workout to set him up for the Colonial Cup’s testing 2 3/4 miles. “You have to keep him going,” Valentine said.
Demonstrative and jockey Matt McCarron, who picked up the mount when regual rider Robbie Walsh was injured at Belmont Park in September.
Demonstrative proved in the Colonial Cup stretch that he would be in the hunt for this year’s Eclipse Award. Valentine joked that he told McCarron before the race: “If you’re going to win, do it impressively so we’ll get Eclipse Award votes.” His victory certainly was impressive.
Click here for the result chart of the 2012 Colonial Cup
In addition to the Colonial Cup, there were five other races contested over the Springdale Race Course:
The NSA’s 3-year-old champion was decided in the $25,000 Raymond G. Woolfe Memorial which was won by Kinross Farm’s More Tea Vicar, with Bernie Dalton aboard for trainer Neil Morris.
Click here for the result chart of the Raymond G. Woolfe Memorial.
The day opened with Mark Beecher riding Rock Ford Stables’ Sporty to victory in the $25,000 Sport of Kings maiden hurdle. The 5-year-old Smarty Jones gelding was trained by Julie Gomena.
Click here for a result chart of the 1st race
The only timber race on the card, the 3 1/2-mile Springdale Open, was won in flag-to-wire fashion by Nondo. Owned by Sportsmans Halland trained by Alicia Murphy, the 7-year-old gelding was ridden by Jeff Murphy.
Click here for the result chart of the Springdale Open Timber Race
The final steeplechase race of the season, the $20,000 Hobkirk Hill, was won going away by Sunshine Numbers. The 10-year-old gelding, who won the 2011 Carolina Cup by more than 27 lengths, led by as many as 22 lengths before trainer/rider Arch Kingsley let him coast to a 10-length victory in just his second start over fences since winning the Carolina Cup.
Click here for the result chart of the Hobkirk Hill
The afternoon of racing came to an end with the 1 1/2-mile amateur training flat race which was won by William L. Pape’s Grand Tier with Keri Brion in the saddle for Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard.
The Colonial Cup closed the books on the 2012 NSA season, and year-end honors went to the following individuals and horses:
Jockey: With fellow Irishman Paddy Young on the sidelines for the first half of the season, Ross Geraghty garnered 17 wins, three more than Darren Nagle, to become the champion United States steeplechase jockey for the first time in his career.
Trainer: Jack Fisher notched 16 victories in 2012 to dethroned Tom Voss and Jonathan Sheppard. Sheppard and Richard Valentine tied for second place with 11 wins each.
Owner: Irv Naylor was the sport’s leading owner for the second year in-a-row racking up more than $440,000 in earnings from 13 victories.
Timber horse: Incomplete was undefeated in three starts including a victory in the Virginia Gold Cup for Bob Kinsley and trainer Ann Stewart.
Novice: Alajmal, a 4-year-old son of First Samurai bred by Shadwell Farm, topped all novices with $82,000 in earnings for trainer Janet Elliot and owner Greg Hawkins.
Three-year-old: More Tea Vicar captured the sophomore races at Far Hills and Camden to earn divisional honors for Kinross Farm and conditioner Neil Morris.
Camden, South Carolina – November 14th, 2012
Many of America’s leading steeplechase horses will face the starter in the 43rd running of the $100,000 Grade I Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup, the feature race of the Colonial Cup meet at the Springdale Course in Camden, South Carolina, on Saturday, November 17th. First post time is 12:30 p.m. for the six-race program.
Also on the card is the $25,000 Raymond G. Woolfe Memorial, which very likely will decide the year’s three-year-old steeplechase champion.
The Colonial Cup, a 2 3/4-mile race over National Fences, is the last major contest on the 2012 National Steeplechase Association calendar and often plays a role in deciding the year’s Eclipse Award winner.
Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Slip Away grabbed year-end honors with his Colonial Cup victory in 2010, and he will be bidding for a second win in the prestigious race. Trained by Tom Voss, Slip Away has missed large portions of the last two seasons and most recently finished fourth in the Noel Laing Handicap in Virginia on Nov. 3. Paddy Young, the reigning champion jockey, will ride.
Slip Away will face an uphill battle against a talented field to secure his second Colonial Cup win. One of his leading challengers will be Jacqueline Ohrstrom’s Demonstrative, who locked up the 2010 three-year-old title with his victory in the Raymond Woolfe.
Demonstrative and Robbie Walsh return to the winner’s circle after capturing the Grade I New York Turf Writers’ Cup Handicap.
This year, Demonstrative has two major victories at Saratoga Race Course: the $75,000 Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes and the $150,000 Grade I New York Turf Writers’ Cup Handicap. He finished fourth in his most recent start, the $250,000 Grade I Grand National at Far Hills, NJ on Oct. 20. Matt McCarron will ride for trainer Richard Valentine.
Returning to Springdale is 2010 Carolina Cup victor Spy in the Sky, who regained top form over the summer. Owned by Randleston Farm and trained by Jimmy Day, Spy in the Sky won Saratoga’s A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1) on Aug. 2 and then finished second by a nose in the $!50,000 Lonesome Glory Stakes (Gr. 1) at Belmont Park on Sept. 27. Danielle Hodsdon has the mount.
Racing Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard will saddle two Colonial Cup contenders, Bill Pape’s Divine Fortune and Timber Bay Farm’s History Boy. Divine Fortune, a major stakes winner in 2010 and 2011, ran a strong second in the Grand National after finishing sixth in the Lonesome Glory. Darren Nagle will ride.
History Boy won Saratoga’s $75,000 Michael G. Walsh Novice before finishing fifth in the Lonesome Glory. He was pulled up in the Grand National on soft ground. Brian Crowley will be in the saddle.
The sport’s other active Racing Hall of Fame trainer, Janet Elliot, will saddle Gregory D. Hawkins’ Alajmal and Gene Weymouth’s Wild for Gold. Alajmal, a top newcomer to steeplechase racing, won a Saratoga optional allowance and was second in Belmont’s William Entenmann Memorial, a novice stakes, on Sept. 27. Wild for Gold, winner of a Parx Racing optional allowance in June, fell in the Entenmann. Richard Boucher picks up the mount on Alajmal, and Roddy Mackenzie rides Wild for Gold.
Hickory Tree Stable’s Gustavian enters the Colonial Cup after making his mark in the novice ranks. He won the Entenmann and subsequently finished second in the Foxbrook Champion Hurdle at Far Hills. Camden resident Bernie Dalton will ride for trainer Leslie Young.
Leading owner Irvin S. Naylor entered a strong contingent headed by multiple stakes winner Decoy Daddy, who finished second in his bid for a third straight victory in the Noel Laing. The Irish-bred will be ridden by Jeff Murphy.
The rest of Naylor’s starters are new to American steeplechasing. Charminster ran second in the New York Turf Writers before finishing third in the Lonesome Glory and fifth in the Grand National. Ross Geraghty, currently leading the jockey standings, will ride for trainer Brianne Slater, who won last year’s Colonial Cup with Naylor’s Tax Ruling.
Also racing in Naylor’s silks in the Colonial Cup are Jack Cool and You’re the Top. Making their U.S. debuts in the Grand National, You’re the Top finished sixth and Jack Cool was pulled up. James Slater will ride You’re the Top, and Xavier Aizpuru has the mount on Jack Cool. Aizpuru was the winning jockey aboard Tax Ruling in last year’s Colonial Cup.
Noticeably absent from the Colonial Cup entries is Pierrot Lunaire, who won a pair of Grade I’s in his last two starts: the Lonesome Glory and the Grand National.
“He had two tough races, and we just wanted to stop with him,” said Bruce Miller, father of listed trainer Blythe Miller. “He came out of Far Hills well and is feeling well. We went back and forth for a while, but he hasn’t got much more to prove. We didn’t want to get greedy.”