Jockey Michael Mitchell is prospering this summer at the flat tracks, and Bernie Dalton—always a force in the summer—isn’t doing badly, either.
Mitchell, the English-born jockey who plied his trade in New Zealand before landing in the U.S. last year, continued his productive summer season on Thursday with a victory aboard Thomas Hulfish’s Swellelegent in Monmouth Park’s $35,000 ratings handicap.
The pick of Monmouth’s bettors, Swellelegent went off as the 1.30-to-1 favorite and paid $4.60 to win after prevailing by a nose over Rosbrian Farm’s late-charging Cheers to Us.
Dalton struck for two victories in a split maiden hurdle with horses trained by his wife, Kate. Virginia Lazenby’s Dancin in the Rain danced on the lead to an easy victory at 8.10-to-1, and 7-to-5 favorite Belisarius scored a confident two-length win for owners Gary Barber, Brous Stable, and Wachtel Stable.
Monmouth, the gem of the New Jersey Shore, staged three jump races on its eight-race Thursday program.
Two prominent organizations within the steeplechase community, the National Steeplechase Foundation and the Temple Gwathmey Fund, are merging to form the Temple Gwathmey Steeplechase Foundation. The new Temple Gwathmey Steeplechase Foundation, a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit, will continue to pursue the threefold goals of the former entities: Promoting growth of the sport, investing in technology
Steeplechasing heads to the Jersey Shore on Thursday for three races at beautiful Monmouth Park, where two maiden hurdles and a $35,000 ratings handicap attracted full fields. The races will be the first, third, and fifth races on an eight-race program, with a 12:50 p.m. first post time.
The 2 3/8-mile maiden hurdle was split when 18 horses passed the entry box, and each $30,000 division will have nine starters on the Oceanport track’s turf course. The $35,000 handicap hurdle, also at 2 3/8 miles, drew a field of 11.
Virginia-based horseman Neil Morris will saddle the two highweights in the ratings handicap, which will be the fifth race. Thomas Hulfish’s Swellelegent carries the 158-pound highweight and will be ridden by Michael Mitchell.
The six-year-old Pure Prize gelding scored his maiden victory at the Montpelier Hunt Races last November, and he tuned up for his second jumps start of the current season with a flat victory at Suffolk Downs on July 8. In his first start of the year, he was pulled up in the Tryon Block House allowance hurdle on April 14.
One pound behind him is Gillian Johnston’s Ack Feisty, who will be ridden by Kieran Norris. The Birdstone six-year-old finished second in a Tryon ratings handicap before fourth-place finishes in Virginia Gold Cup and Radnor Hunt Races handicaps in May.
Three horses share the 154-pound weight assignment. Graham Watters will be aboard Irv Naylor’s Stormy Alex, a winner at the Willowdale Steeplechase on May 13 for trainer Cyril Murphy.
Bernie Dalton rides Sarah and Sheila Stables’ Wild Dynaformer, who finished fourth in the Fair Hill Races’ Valentine Memorial ratings handicap on May 26 and has been running in flat claimers at Monmouth for trainer J. K. Sweezey.
Ricky Hendriks will saddle Rosbrian Farm’s Cheers to Us, the easy, front-running winner of Radnor’s ratings handicap on May 19. Ross Geraghty has the mount.
Champion trainer Jack Fisher will put Sean McDermott aboard Mrs. Johnston’s Hanno, who was pulled up in the Radnor handicap and carries 152 pounds.
Racing Hall of Fame horseman Jonathan Sheppard, who currently leads the trainer standing by wins, will send out his Pram, a Stroll mare who won the Life’s Illusion Stakes at the Carolina Cup on March 31. Gerard Gilligan will ride Pram, who carries 151 pounds.
A flawless week at Saratoga Race Course continued Wednesday for trainer Arch Kingsley Jr. and jockey Michael Mitchell when Carrington Holdings’ Boss Man bossed around the field in a $65,000 allowance hurdle.
Two days earlier, the trainer-jockey combination had scored a victory with Mark W. Buyck’s Show Court in the $175,000 A. P. Smithwick Memorial Handicap (Gr. 1).
Show Court showed late speed, but Boss Man was on the lead except for a bit more than a furlong after the next-to-last of eight fences, when Mitchell gave the eight-year-old English Channel gelding a brief break before taking over again as the field of six neared the homestretch for the final time.
Boss Man easily repelled a late move by Serendipity Stables’ Dark Gemini and won by 2 1/4 lengths. Peggy Steinman’s First Friday, who stalked Boss Man’s pace and led over the last fence, finished third, and Whitman’s Poetry was fourth.
While Show Court went off at long odds and paid $30.20 for a $2 win ticket, Boss Man was no secret after his maiden victory over good company on April 28 at the Queen’s Cup Steeplechase, which is directed by Carrington Holdings’ Bill and Carrington Price. Boss Man, the third betting choice behind 9-to-5 Whitman’s Poetry and 5-to-2 Dark Gemini, paid $7.90 to win.
Mitchell put Boss Man on the lead at the drop of the flag, with First Friday right behind him. Whitman’s Poetry and Dark Gemini, both trained by Jack Fisher, tarried toward the back of the field.
Boss Man and Mitchell appeared intent on setting all the pace, but Barry Foley pushed First Friday to the front after the next-to-last fence. Trained by Doug Fout, First Friday opened 1 1/2 lengths on Boss Man as they broke away from the rest of the field entering the far turn.
Mitchell shifted Boss Man to the outside, and they drove to the lead nearing the top of the lane. First Friday did not give up without a fight, but he was beginning to tire and losing ground in midstretch.
Willie McCarthy put Dark Gemini into a drive through the stretch, and they cleared First Friday while making no impression on the winner, who was gearing down through the final strides. Dark Gemini, a maiden winner at the Fair Hill Races in May 2017, finished six lengths ahead of First Friday.
Mark W. Buyck’s Show Court, sent to the starter at long odds in Monday’s $175,000 A. P. Smithwick Memorial Handicap (Gr. 1), moved up impressively on Saratoga Race Course’s final turn, took command early in the stretch, and fended off favored Iranistan to win by a length.
Hudson River Stables’ Iranistan, never headed in his three prior starts, jumped well and ran on in the stretch under vigorous urging from jockey Darren Nagle, but the 11-to-10 favorite had no answer for Show Court, an Irish-bred trained by Arch Kingsley Jr.
Woodslane Farm’s Overwhelming, 10.60-to-1, closed from last to take third place, six lengths behind Iranistan, and pacesetter Personal Start finished fourth, another 12 3/4 lengths back, in a field of seven. All the Way Jose finished fifth, Modem was sixth, and overseas invader Oskar Denarius was eased to the finish line after tiring from his early exertions.
Michael Mitchell, winner of last year’s A. P. Smithwick aboard longshot Swansea Mile, again spotlighted his talents in the 2 1/16-mile race over National Fences. A day before last year’s A. P. Smithwick, he had won the Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes aboard Show Court.
Show Court scored his first victory in top company after sixth-place finishes in Grade 1 races, Saratoga’s New York Turf Writers Cup Handicap last August and the Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup in late March. He ran the A. P. Smithwick distance in 3:49 flat on turf rated as good and paid $30.20 to win.
Jack Fisher, his stable on the march again after a slow start to the 2018 season, will send out a strong pairing of Whitman’s Poetry and Dark Gemini for Wednesday’s $65,000 allowance hurdle at Saratoga Race Course. The 2 1/16-mile race on Saratoga’s inner turf course will be the afternoon’s first race with a 1