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Trainer Kate Dalton walked Belisarius in the Iroquois paddock before his close second-place finish in the maiden hurdle. (Tod Marks photo)

Under modest pressure from Bernie Dalton, Belisarius prevailed in the second and fastest division of two $40,000 allowance flat races for hurdlers at Suffolk Downs on Sunday. The first division was won by Thomas A. Hulfish’s Swellelegent, who scored by 1 1/2 lengths under Graham Watters.

Belisarius, owned by Gary Barber, Brous Stable, and Wachtel Stable, is still a maiden over fences, but he was competitive in the claiming ranks at Golden Gate Fields late last year. Transferred to Kate Dalton over the winter, he went off at 6.70-to-1 in a competitive field for the 1 1/2-mile turf race.

The seven-year-old Irish-bred clocked Gregory Hawkins’ Canaveral for more than a mile before taking command and easily drawing clear. Whitman’s Poetry, owned by DASH Stable, closed ground in deep stretch under Willie McCarthy to draw a neck at the finish line. Ballybristol Farm’s Alshibaa finished third, 1 1/2 lengths farther back, and Gillian Johnston’s Mutasaawy was fourth.

A close second in an Iroquois Steeplechase maiden hurdle in his previous start, Belisarius ran the 1 1/2-mile distance in 2:38.11 on firm turf.

Swellelegent, trained by Neil Morris, won over hurdles last fall but was pulled up in his previous start at Tryon Block House in mid-April. Suffolk’s bettors sent him off as a modest longshot at 8.60-to-1. Always well placed in a field of 11, Swellelegent wore down Buttonwood Farm’s front-running Junonia inside the furlong pole and drew clear late.

Show Court, the 2017 Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes victor for owner Mark W. Buyck, finished third, and Woodslane Farm’s Overwhelming finished fourth. Swellelegent ran the distance in 2:39.56.

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Like most years, the NSA Spring season was full of surprises and.predictable outcomes. With a win in the Iroquois, George Mahoney and Wendy and Ben Griswold's Zanjabeel assumed the top spot in open hurdle competition; Ed Swyer's Iranistan, who was three for three, proved the sport's most exciting novice jumper; while Senior Senator made it two wins in the Maryland Hunt Cup in three tries. On the human side, Irv Naylor stood atop the owner list in earnings; Hall of Famer Jonathan Sheppard reasserted himself as the top trainer by wins -- with Ricky Hendriks the leader by purses -- and perennial powerhouse Jack Fisher making a move after a slow start. Among jockeys, so far it's a virtuoso performance by Jack Doyle, who has a huge lead in earnings and comfortable edge in wins over Ross Geraghty and Darren Nagle, who are having stellar years, too. Here's a rundown of the leaderboard with Saratoga just a few weeks away.

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SOME FACTS ABOUT JUMP RACING IN NORTH AMERICA

$6,140,000

NSA PURSES IN 2016

498 HORSES

RAN IN 2016

+1,000,000

SPECTATORS EACH YEAR

12 STATES

HOST STEEPLECHASE RACES
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