Fair Hill International (FHI) has been recommended by the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) to host the second CCI4* (4*) in the United States. The recommendation will be forwarded to the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI) for a final decision in the fall.
The event, which would be first held in 2019, would be the culmination of an extensive renovation of the Maryland property and would include improvements to the historic Fair Hill Race Course, location of the Fair Hill Races each May.
In addition, the National Steeplechase Association headquarters is located on the Fair Hill property adjacent to the race course. The National Steeplechase Association’s board of directors will be updated on the renovation project by Maryland Stadium Authority officials at their Aug. 3 meeting in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
The 4* is the pinnacle of the sport of eventing, also known as the equestrian triathlon. There are currently only six events of this level in the world, including the Rolex at the Kentucky Horse Park each spring. The USEF recommended Fair Hill for the CCI4* over Great Meadow in Virginia, where the Virginia Gold Cup and International Gold Cup races are staged each year.
“We are thrilled with the USEF’s announcement,” said Trish Gilbert, co-president of Fair Hill International. “Our team has worked really hard to bring the 4* to Fair Hill. It is an honor to be selected to put on an event of this caliber – to showcase Maryland and the beautiful Fair Hill terrain on a world stage.”
A large, accomplished field containing two Grade 1 winners and several other graded victors will line up Thursday for the $150,000 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1), the first top-rated steeplechase race on the Saratoga Race Course calendar. The Smithwick will be Thursday’s first race with a 1 p.m. post time.
The Fields Stable’s Portrade, a front-running winner of last August’s New York Turf Writers Cup Handicap (Gr. 1), will attempt to improve upon his third-place finish in last year’s Smithwick Memorial, which will be run at 2 1/16 miles over National Fences.
Trained by Elizabeth Voss, Portrade again will be ridden by Gus Dahl, who partnered with the Irish-bred eight-year-old in all but one of his starts since arriving in the United States in 2015.
So far this year, Portrade has finished second in the Temple Gwathmey Handicap (Gr. 3) and most recently fourth in the National Hunt Cup (Gr. 3) at the Radnor Hunt Races in suburban Philadelphia on May 20.
Voss, whose father Tom will be inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame on Aug. 4, also will saddle Robert A. Kinsley’s Modem, who will be making his first U.S. start after racing principally in Ireland. He won a novice steeplechase at Ballinrobe Race Course on May 30 and will be ridden in the Smithwick by Jack Doyle.
Wendy Hendriks’ Surprising Soul is a surprise no more after marching to three straight victories, and he will put his spotless 2017 record on the line Wednesday in Saratoga Race Course’s $75,000 Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes, the jumps kickoff race at America’s premier summer race meet.
Trained by Ricky Hendriks, the owner’s son, Surprising Soul pulled a bit of a surprise on May 13 when he won the $100,000 Marcellus Frost Champion Hurdle for novices, or horses in their first seasons of racing over fences.
Before that, the Ontario-bred gelding by Perfect Soul had easily won a maiden hurdle at the year’s first race meet, Aiken Spring, and three weeks later won a $35,000 allowance hurdle at the Tryon Block House Races on April 15.
Ross Geraghty, who has ridden Surprising Soul in all six of his career starts over fences, will again be in the saddle.
In the Frost, Surprising Soul capitalized on a subpar performance by Mark W. Buyck Jr.’s Show Court, winner of the Carolina Cup for novices on April 1 and second in the Queen’s Cup MPC ’Chase four weeks later.
Irish-bred Show Court showed no ill effects from the Iroquois race and came back to win a Parx flat race for hurdlers at 14-to-1 odds on July 8. Trainer Arch Kingsley Jr. named Michael Mitchell to ride Show Court in the 2 1/16-mile Kiser.
Leaders from the Maryland Stadium Authority (MSA) will attend the National Steeplechase Association’s Board of Directors meeting on Aug. 3 at Saratoga Springs, N.Y., to brief members about the exciting plans to renovate Fair Hill Race Course.
Part of the organization’s vision, which emanated from a study completed in 2015, is to expand racing opportunities at Fair Hill and to make the site a true national home for steeplechasing with added training and educational facilities.
The plan places the Stadium Authority, which oversees Camden Yards Sports Complex, home of the Baltimore Orioles, and M & T Stadium, home of the Ravens, in charge of construction and project management of the property in conjunction with the equestrian organizations headquartered there, the newly formed Fair Hill Foundation, and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
Fair Hill has been the NSA’s national headquarters since 1989. Initial plans include widening the turns and irrigating the racetrack and erecting a new grandstand and judges tower.
Among the leaders attending are Tom Kelso, Chair of the Maryland Stadium Authority; Michael Frenz, the organization’s Executive Director; Terry Hasseltine, Executive Director of Maryland Sports and Vice President of the organization; and Todd Gralla, Director for Equestrian Services for Populous, an international sports design firm and Stadium Authority consultant to the Fair Hill project.
The Fair Hill renovation is part of a larger plan by the Maryland Department of Agriculture and the Maryland Horse Industry Board to develop a horse park system throughout the state in order to grow and insure the equine industry’s future.
Saratoga Race Course’s steeplechase schedule kicks off Wednesday with the $75,000 Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes for the sport’s rising stars, and the following afternoon’s $150,000 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1) attracted a high-quality group of 13 nominees.
The Field Stable’s Portrade wired last summer’s New York Turf Writers Cup (Gr. 1), and he has been nominated for a second shot at the 2 1/16-mile Smithwick after finishing third last year. Trained by Elizabeth Voss, the eight-year-old Irish-bred most recently finished fourth after setting the early pace in the Radnor Hunt Races’ National Hunt Cup (Gr. 3) on May 20.
Portrade is third highweight in the Smithwick weights at 148 pounds, and Voss also nominated newcomer Modem, who is second in the weights at 154 pounds. Now owned by York, Pa., businessman Robert A. Kinsley, Modem bid farewell to Ireland with an allowance win over steeplechase fences at Ballinrobe Race Course on May 30.
Champion trainer Jack Fisher dominated the spring season with record purses of $633,300, and he nominated the Smithwick’s highweight, Grade 1 winner Mr. Hot Stuff. Owned by Gil Johnston, Mr. Hot Stuff’s Grade 1 win came in the 2013 Smithwick. The former Triple Crown flat competitor would carry the Smithwick’s 156-pound highweight.
Saratoga Race Course opens its gates on Friday, and steeplechase racing—a Saratoga tradition since 1864—will be in the spotlight during the historic track’s first full week of racing, on Wednesday, July 26, and Thursday, July 27.
The jump-racing schedule gets off to a fast start with the $75,000 Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes on July 26 and the $150,000 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1) the following day. Both races will be at 2 1/16 miles on Saratoga’s inner turf course.
Nominations for the Smithwick closed on Saturday, July 15. Entries for the Kiser will close the following Saturday, and Smithwick entries close on Sunday, July 23.
The second full week of activity at the Saratoga Springs, N.Y., track also will be filled with steeplechase events. A $65,000 allowance hurdle is scheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 2, and the $75,000 Mrs. Ogden Phipps Stakes is on the calendar for Thursday, Aug. 3.
The following morning, two-time steeplechase champion Good Night Shirt and the late five-time champion trainer Tom Voss will be inducted into the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame in ceremonies at Fasig-Tipton’s Humphrey Finney Sales Pavilion.
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