The 51st annual High Hope Steeplechase kicks off the National Steeplechase Association’s fall season on Sunday with full fields for its six races at Lexington’s Kentucky Horse Park, two $25,000 divisions of the featured Oxmoor Steeplechase ratings handicap, and the beginning of high-definition video coverage for every NSA race meet.
First post time is 1 p.m. for the High Hope Steeplechase, which takes its new place at the start of the fall championship season after formerly racing in the spring.
The Oxmoor Steeplechase, a 2 3/8-mile handicap for horses with NSA ratings 120 or lower, drew a total of 17 entries and was split into two divisions.
Heading the first division is Team Ollie’s Orchestra Leader, a nine-year-old veteran with 10 victories on his race record. Claimed by trainer Jimmy Day from a victory at Foxfield Fall last year, Orchestra Leader finished third in a tough Iroquois Steeplechase ratings handicap on May 12. In his most recent start, he was pulled up in a Fair Hill Races allowance hurdle later in May.
Day named apprentice Keri Brion to ride, and Orchestra Leader will carry 153 pounds with the five-pound apprentice allowance.
Michael Mitchell rode two winners at Saratoga Race Course and another at Monmouth Park this summer, and he will seek to continue his success aboard Thomas Hulfish’s Swellelegent, winner of Monmouth’s ratings handicap on Aug. 9.
Trained by Neil Morris, Swellelegent subsequently finished fourth in Saratoga’s Michael G. Walsh Novice Stakes on Aug. 22. The six-year-old Pure Prize gelding carries 157.
Also in the first division’s field is Rosbrian Farm’s Cheers to Us, who finished a nose behind Swellelegent in the Monmouth race. Ross Geraghty, currently the top jockey by purse winnings, has the mount for trainer Ricky Hendriks.
Jack Doyle, who leads the jockey standings by wins, will be aboard Robert A. Kinsley’s Unsinkable for trainer Elizabeth Voss. Irish-bred Unsinkable is coming off a dominant, front-running victory in a Radnor Hunt Races allowance hurdle on May 19.
In the Oxmoor Steeplechase’s second division, trainer Billy Santoro will saddle top-rated L’Aigle Royal, who will be ridden by apprentice Alex Leventhal and will carry 153 pounds with the five-pound break in the weights.
Trainer Jack Fisher will take aim on Thursday’s $75,000 William Entenmann Memorial Novice Stakes with three contenders headed by Riverdee Stable’s Gibralfaro, winner of the Tryon Block House allowance hurdle in April. The 2 1/4-mile Entenmann Memorial will kick off Belmont Park’s Thursday program with a 1:30 post time. Also on the card as the
Rosbrian Farm’s Optimus Prime and Clarcam, owned by Rosbrian and Wendy and Ben Griswold, will share the 158-pound highweight in Belmont Park’s $175,000 Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1), the first of two top-rated races on the National Steeplechase Association’s fall schedule.
Also on Belmont’s Thursday card is the $75,000 William Entenmann Memorial Novice Stakes, which will kick off the card with a 1:30 p.m. post time. The Lonesome Glory will be the second race at 2:04 p.m.
Optimus Prime, trained by Ricky Hendriks, pulled a modest surprise with a 1 1/4-length victory in Saratoga Race Course’s $175,000 New York Turf Writers Cup Handicap (Gr. 1) on Aug. 23. The 2 1/2-mile Lonesome Glory adds a furlong to the New York Turf Writers distance.
Clarcam was unlucky in the New York Turf Writers, his first U.S. start for prominent Irish trainer Gordon Elliott. Close to the lead for more than 1 1/2 miles, Clarcam bobbled on landing after the third-from-last fence, and jockey Lisa O’Neill lost her left iron. She stayed aboard and righted Clarcam, but he had lost all chance at that point.
In his start before the New York Turf Writers, Clarcam had won the €250,000 thetote.com Galway Plate Steeplechase by six lengths at 33-to-1 odds after setting all the pace. In all, the French-bred eight-year-old has won more than $600,000 from 47 jumps starts.
Hendriks, who currently leads the National Steeplechase Association trainer standings by both wins and earnings, also will saddle Zanjabeel, who is owned by the Griswolds and Mandy and George Mahoney’s Rosbrian.
Winner of the year’s richest race to date, the $200,000 Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1), five-year-old Zanjabeel will carry 156 pounds, next in the weights. He was previously trained by Elliott and won Far Hill’s Foxbrook Champion Hurdle last October.
Winners of the National Steeplechase Association’s three most recent Grade 1 races are among the eight nominees to Belmont Park’s $175,000 Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1) on Thursday, Sept. 30.
Mandy and George Mahoney’s Rosbrian Farm owns all or part of two Grade 1 winners. Rosbrian is the sole owner of Optimus Prime, winner of Saratoga Race Course’s New York Turf Writers Cup Handicap (Gr. 1) on Aug. 23. The six-year-old French-bred is trained by Ricky Hendriks.
Pennsylvania-based Hendriks also trains Zanjabeel, winner of the $200,000 Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1) on May 12 for Rosbrian and Wendy and Ben Griswold. Optimus Prime and five-year-old Zanjabeel share a National Steeplechase Association rating of 148.
Rosbrian and the Griswolds also own Clarcam, an accomplished steeplechase horse who won the biggest race of his career, Thetote.com Galway Plate Steeplechase, on Aug. 1 as he brought down the curtain on his overseas career.
Trained by Gordon Elliott, who formerly trained Zanjabeel, Clarcam made his U.S. debut in the New York Turf Writers but lost all chance when he stumbled on landing after the third from last fence and his jockey briefly lost her left iron. Based on his stellar overseas career, Clarcam carries the 155 top current rating.
Mark W. Buyck Jr.’s Show Court, winner of Saratoga’s A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1) on July 30, is coming back in the 2 1/2-mile Lonesome Glory after a fourth-place finish in the New York Turf Writers. Trained by Arch Kingsley Jr., Show Court is rated at 133.
The High Hope Steeplechase on Sunday, Sept. 23, at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington will host three pony flat races this year in addition to their regular card of sanctioned steeplechase races. High Hope has partnered with U.S. Pony Racing, who will organize and carry out their pony races. Races to be carded are for small,
Albert L. Menefee III, a longtime member of the Iroquois Steeplechase Race Committee who served as Iroquois’ president from 2009 to 2017, died Monday, Sept. 3, after an extended illness resulting from a hunting accident. He was 59. In serving the Iroquois Steeplechase over many decades, Albert Menefee followed a family tradition. His father, Albert