All the Way Jose and Diplomat, both Grade 1 winners, are among nine nominees to the Saratoga Race Course’s $175,000 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1) on Thursday, July 26. The 2 1/16-mile Smithwick and the $175,000 New York Turf Writers Cup (Gr. 1) on Aug. 23 head the lineup of steeplechase races for Saratoga’s 2018 season.
Buttonwood Farm’s All the Way Jose, winner of Belmont Park’s Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1) last September, most recently fell while near the lead in the Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1) on May 19.
All the Way Jose is trained by Racing Hall of Fame member Jonathan Sheppard, who bred the eight-year-old Senor Swinger gelding. Sheppard also nominated Hudson River Farms’ Iranistan, a four-year-old who has never been headed in his three starts over fences. He won the Iroquois Steeplechase’s Marcellus Frost Champion Hurdle by six lengths.
Flying Elvis Stable’s Diplomat will be making his first start over fences since winning last year’s New York Turf Writers Cup at 17.70-to-1 odds. Trained by Kate Dalton, the nine-year-old Kitten’s Joy gelding came back to the races with a 10th-place finish in a Suffolk Downs flat allowance race on July 8.
Robert A. Kinsley’s Modem is seeking his first U.S. victory after finishing second in five straight Grade 1 races, most recently the Calvin Houghland Iroquois. Trained by Elizabeth Voss, Modem was second in the Smithwick Memorial and New York Turf Writers last summer.
Trainer Richard Valentine nominated Magalen O. Bryant’s Personal Start, a seven-year-old homebred who is unbeaten this year. After winning the Carolina Cup for novices, the Jump Start gelding blazed to an eight-length victory in the Virginia Gold Cup’s David Semmes Memorial (Gr. 2) on May 5.
The Smithwick Memorial nominations contained two Irish-breds who would be making their first U.S. starts. Indian Hawk, now owned by Irv Naylor, won his farewell race, a steeplechase allowance at Wincanton, by 10 lengths on May 15. He is trained by Leslie Young.
Oskar Denarius, a three-time winner this past spring, is trained by Ben Pauling, a young horseman based in England’s Cotswolds who secured his first Grade 1 victory this year in his third season of training.
Also nominated to the Smithwick Memorial were Woodslane Farm’s Overwhelming and Mark W. Buyck Jr’s Show Court. Trained by Jack Fisher, Overwhelming finished sixth in Fair Hill’s Valentine Memorial ratings handicap on May 26. Show Court, trained by Arch Kingsley Jr., won Saratoga’s Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes last summer.
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.
The National Steeplechase Association’s summer racing season kicks off Sunday at Suffolk Downs with two divisions of a $40,000 flat race for hurdlers at 1 1/2 mile on turf. Both divisions contain top contenders pointing toward races at Saratoga Race Course later in July and in August.
They will be the sixth and 10th races at the East Boston track, with approximate post times of 3 p.m. and 4:40 p.m., respectively. The first division will have 11 starters, and the second has a full field of 12.
Flying Elvis Stable’s Diplomat, winner of the 2017 New York Turf Writers Cup Handicap (Gr. 1) at Saratoga, will line up for the start in the first division. Trained by Kate Dalton, the nine-year-old will be ridden by Bernie Dalton. He most recently finished second by a nose in a seven-furlong training flat race at the Fair Hill Races on May 26.
Also in the first division is Mark W. Buyck Jr.’s Show Court, winner of the 2017 Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes at Saratoga. Trainer Arch Kingsley Jr. named Jack Doyle to ride Show Court, who finished sixth in the Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup (Gr. 1) on March 31.
Trainer Jack Fisher will saddle Woodslane Farm’s Overwhelming and Armata Stables’ New Member in the first division. Sean McDermott will ride Overwhelming, who finished second in the Virginia Gold Cup’s Secretariat Stakes on the flat on May 5 before a sixth-place finish in the Fair Hill Races’ Valentine Memorial ratings handicap three weeks later.
Willie McCarthy rides New Member, who most recently finished sixth in the Iroquois Steeplechase’s Marcellus Frost Champion Hurdle on May 12.
In the second division, Fisher will saddle Bruton Street US’s Lord Justice, who won an Iroquois allowance hurdle by seven lengths after a close second in the Block House, also an allowance hurdle, at the Tryon, N.C., meet on April 14. McDermott has the mount.
Fisher also will send out Whitman’s Poetry, who finished second in the Iroquois allowance for owner DASH Stable. McCarthy will ride the seven-year-old Tiznow gelding.
Neil Morris will send out Gillian Johnston’s Mutasaawy, winner of the Valentine Memorial. Michael Mitchell will be in the saddle. Also entered for the second division is Robert Kinsley’s No Wunder, who finished second in the Valentine, beaten a half-length. Doyle rides for trainer Elizabeth Voss.
Racing Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard entered graded stakes winner Parker’s Project, who will be making his first sanctioned start since a fifth-place finish in the 2016 Colonial Cup. Now owned by the trainer, who also bred him, the 12-year-old veteran will be ridden by Keri Brion.
When a jockey parts company with a mount, no longer is it a matter of the rider getting up and preparing for the next race.
A fall or lost rider in a sanctioned National Steeplechase Association race triggers an immediate evaluation by a trained physician, who looks at not only potential physical injury that might keep the rider from performing properly but also administers a cognitive test to protect against concussion.
The concussion testing and detailed medical emergency procedures are only two of the many protections mandated by the NSA Board of Directors, which regards the safety of horse and rider as its top priority.
The NSA board’s work is guided by the Steeplechase Safety Committee, instituted by the NSA board in 2012 and headed since its founding by R. Reynolds Cowles, D.V.M., the immediate past president of the American Association of Equine Practitioners. Through many initiatives, the committee looks at all aspects of the sport and recommends improvements to the Board of Directors.
The NSA has been a leader in Thoroughbred racing and all sports in protecting its participants—the jockeys in this case—from the short-term and long-term effects of concussions. With financial assistance from the National Steeplechase Foundation, the NSA launched baseline cognitive testing of its jockeys beginning in 2013.
The NSA effort drew from the experience of the British racing industry and has been a model for flat tracks and other racing organizations. Subsequent to the NSA’s initiative, other professional sports organizations have begun concussion-testing procedures as concerns over the long-term effects of head injuries have grown.
The concussion-prevention process begins with baseline testing of the jockeys. For the convenience of the riders, four locations were established for administering the tests: the National Steeplechase Museum in Camden, S.C.; the Iroquois Steeplechase in Nashville, Tenn.; the Virginia Gold Cup in The Plains; and the NSA headquarters in Fair Hill, Md.
While the baseline test is crucial for evaluating the effects of concussion, the sport lacked an adequate sideline test to be used immediately after a fall or lost rider. Again drawing on the experience of British racing, the NSA included three brief cognitive questions in its post-fall assessment form.
Any abnormal answers or other suspicion of a concussion on the part of the examining physician then triggers an immediate and more comprehensive concussion screening, which includes memory, balance, and vestibular function.
When the National Steeplechase Association’s spring season concluded at the Fair Hill Races on May 26, the leader boards disclosed tight contests for top owner and trainer as the sport headed into its summer races.
With a win by Ozmoz in the last race of the spring stanza, Irvin S. Naylor assumed the top spot on the owner board with $248,200 in purse earnings for the spring. Naylor’s diverse stable had nine wins from 50 starts.
Less than $2,000 behind him was George Mahoney Jr.’s Rosbrian Farm, which had $246,400 in purses from five wins in 19 starts. Rosbrian is a partner with Ben and Wendy Griswold in Zanjabeel, who was the spring’s leading earner with $160,500 after winning the $200,000 Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1) at the Iroquois Steeplechase.
Racing Hall of Fame member Jonathan Sheppard made a fast start in March, winning two races each at the Aiken Spring Steeplechase and the Carolina Cup Races. He maintained that lead through Fair Hill with 11 victories in the spring season. Among them was his Pram, winner of the Life’s Illusion Stakes at the Carolina Cup.
Close behind him with 10 wins is Ricky Hendriks, Zanjabeel’s trainer. The Pennsylvania-based horseman also won the $50,000 National Hunt Cup with Wendy Hendriks’ Surprising Soul. Hendriks led the money-won category with $346,600 to $324,550 for reigning champion Jack Fisher.
Jack Doyle opened a four-win bulge in the battle for the jockey championship with 13 victories to nine for 2017 wins champion Darren Nagle. Doyle also held a big advantage in the earnings category with $434,150 to $317,700 for Ross Geraghty, the regular jockey of Zanjabeel and Surprising Soul. Geraghty ranks third by wins with eight.
William “Bill” Teter, a longtime steeplechase enthusiast who was an occasional horse owner and racing official, died Thursday, June 14, while surrounded by his family at his home in Parkesburg, Pa. He was 83. He is survived by his wife of 59 years, Jane Oas Teter. Among his survivors are son Jeffrey Teter, a three-time