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.
Fisher also nominated Edith Dixon’s Schoodic, who won the $75,000 David Semmes Memorial (Gr. 2) at the Virginia Gold Cup on May 6. The homebred finished sixth in last year’s Smithwick and fourth in the New York Turf Writers. The seven-year-old Tiznow gelding carries 146 pounds.
Sharing the 146-pound level with Schoodic are Irv Naylor’s Charminster and Rosbrian Farm’s Simenon. Trained by Cyril Murphy, Charminster was second to Schoodic in the Semmes and then finished third in the National Hunt Cup.
In his second U.S. start, Simenon checked in third in the Semmes after setting the early pace. He is one of three Rosbrian nominees from the barn of trainer Ricky Hendriks, who was third in the spring standings. Rosbrian also nominated recent claim Orchestra Leader (142) and Swansea Mile (140).
Racing Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard’s unrivaled string of 47 straight years with at least one Saratoga victory ended last year, but he will have a chance to start a new streak with Buttonwood Farm’s nominee All the Way Jose, the runaway winner of the Valentine Memorial ratings hurdle at the Fair Hill Races on May 27.
All the Way Jose was assigned 144 pounds, as was Ballybristol Farm’s Andi’amu, who finished third in the Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1) on May 13.
Also coming out of the Valentine Memorial are Stonelea Stable’s Balance the Budget, second; Flying Elvis Stable’s Diplomat, third; and Virginia Lazenby’s Hardrock Eleven, fourth.
Here are the 13 nominees to the $150,000 A. P. Smithwick Memorial. The horses’ handicap weights are in parentheses at the end of their profiles.
All the Way Jose. 2010 b. g., Senor Swinger—Maternity Leave, by Northern Baby. Owner: Buttonwood Farm. Trainer: Jonathan Sheppard. Breeder: Jonathan Sheppard (Pa.) 2017 record: 3-1-1-1, $34,300. 2016 NSA record: 3-0-0-0, $7,500. 2015 record: 3-0-0-0, $3,750. Won Fair Hill’s $40,000 Valentine Memorial ratings handicap by 15 1/4 lengths. Finished third in 2017 Tryon Block House handicap, then was second in Iroquois ratings handicap. Was 2014 novice champion. (131)
Andi’amu (Fr). 2010 b. g., Walk In The Park—Sainte Parfaite, by Septieme Ciel. Owner: Ballybristol Farm. Trainer: Leslie Young. Breeder: Therese Bouche (Fr). 2017 NSA record: 2-0-0-1, $21,600. 2016 record: 6-1-2-0, $77,300. 2015 NSA record: 4-1-3-0, $56,400. Opened 2017 with fifth in Tryon Block House Handicap, then was distant third in Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1). Finished hard-driving second in 2016 New York Turf Writers Cup (Gr. 1) and was fourth in Grand National (Gr. 1). (144)
Balance the Budget. 2009 ch. g., Bellamy Road—Every Day Is Good, by El Corredor. Owner: Stonelea Stable. Trainer: Julie Gomena. Breeder: Liberation Farm & Oratis (Ky.). 2017 NSA record: 2-1-1-0, $31,200. 2016 record: 4-1-1-0, $51,600. 2015 record: 7-1-1-0, $37,250. Won 2017 Tryon Block House Handicap after setting most of the pace, then finished second in Fair Hill’s Valentine Memorial ratings handicap. Kicked off 2016 season with victory in $75,000 Carolina Cup, a novice stakes, then was seventh in Saratoga’s A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1) and sixth in Saratoga handicap. (142).
Charminster (Ire). 2006 b. g., Broadway Flyer—Monteleena, by Montelimar. Owner: Irvin S. Naylor. Trainer: Cyril Murphy. Breeder: Raymond Cahalane (Ire). 2017 record: 2-0-1-1, $18,500. 2016 record: 6-1-2-1, $93,000. 2015 record: 5-1-0-1, $63,500. 2014 record: 2-0-1-0, $11,700. Began 2017 with solid second in David Semmes Memorial (Gr. 2), a race he won in 2016, and then was third in Radnor’s National Hunt Cup (Gr. 3). Faded to fifth in 2016 New York Turf Writers Cup Handicap (Gr. 1), then was third in 2016 Lonesome Glory (Gr. 1). (146)
Diplomat. 2009 b. g., Kitten’s Joy—Waki Affair, by Miswaki. Owner: Flying Elvis Stable. Trainer: Kate Dalton. Breeders: Ken and Sarah Ramsey (Ky.) 2017 NSA record: 3-0-0-1, $8,750. 2016 record: 2-0-0-0, $3,000. 2015 record: 7-3-0-0, $126,750. Began 2017 with fourth in Georgia Cup optional allowance hurdle, then was fifth in Virginia Gold Cup’s David Semmes Memorial (Gr. 2) and third in Fair Hill’s Valentine Memorial ratings handicap. Won 2015 International Gold Cup’s Ferguson Memorial (Gr. 3). Bred by champion owners-breeders Ken and Sarah Ramsey and is a full brother to stakes-placed Kitten Love. (138)
Hardrock Eleven. 2010 gr. or ro. g., Rock Hard Ten—Stark Beauty, by Unbridled’s Song. Owner: Virginia Lazenby. Trainer: Doug Fout. Breeders: Farm III Enterprises and Off the Hook Partners (Fla.) 2017 NSA record: 3-0-0-0, $4,000. 2016 NSA record: 7-2-1-0, $105,700. 2015 record: 6-1-1-2, $53,350. Opened 2017 with fourth in Tryon Block House handicap, was pulled up in Virginia Gold Cup’s David Semmes Memorial (Gr. 2), and fourth in Fair Hill’s Valentine Memorial ratings handicap. Won 2016 William Entenmann Memorial Novice Stakes after winning Saratoga allowance hurdle for second straight year. Formerly trained by owner’s late brother, David P. Banks, and won an Evangeline Downs optional allowance flat race in 2014. (142)
Modem (GB). 2010 b. g., Motivator—Alashaan, (GB), by Darshaan (GB). Owner: Robert A. Kinsley. Trainer: Elizabeth Voss. Breeders: Mr. and Mrs. D. J. Deer (GB). 2017 NSA record: No starts. Arriving in U.S. after allowance victory in provincial Irish track Ballinrobe. Durable gelding has seven wins in 46 career starts. (154)
Mr. Hot Stuff. 2006 dk. b. or br. g., Tiznow—Sweet Damsel, by Turkoman. Owner: Gil Johnston. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Breeder: WinStar Farm (Ky.) 2017 record: 2-0-0-1, $5,000. 2016 record: No starts. Finished third in 2017 Temple Gwathmey Handicap (Gr. 3) after missing 2016 season, then was pulled up in Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1). Won 2015 Temple Gwathmey (Gr. 3) and then was second in the Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1) Won the 2013 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1) at Saratoga. (156)
Orchestra Leader. 2009 b. g., Van Nistelrooy—Magic of Life, by Seattle Slew. Owner: Rosbrian Farm. Trainer: Ricky Hendriks. Breeder: Strategy Bloodstock (Ky.) 2017 record: 2-2-0-0, $36,000. 2016 record: 10-2-2-0, $49,100. 2015 record: 8-1-5-1, $52,000. Won 2017 Daniel Van Clief Memorial, a race he won in 2015 and was second in 2016, and was claimed from win in High Hope’s James B. Holloway optional allowance hurdle. Won 2016 Foxfield Fall’s featured optional allowance hurdle. (142)
Portrade (Ire). 2009 b. g., Trade Fair (GB)—Portorosa, by Irish River (Fr). Owner: The Fields Stable. Trainer: Elizabeth Voss. Breeder: Keene Bloodstock (Ire). 2017 record: 2-0-1-0, $11,500. 2016 record: 4-1-0-2, $111,800. 2015 record: 2-0-0-0, $2,500. Opened 2017 with game second in Middleburg Spring’s Temple Gwathmey (Gr. 3), then faded to fourth in Radnor’s National Hunt Cup (Gr. 3). Wired the 2016 New York Turf Writers (Gr. 1) after finishing third in A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1). (148)
Schoodic. 2010 b. g., Tiznow—Aunt Henny, by Hennessy. Owner: Edith R. Dixon. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Breeder: Edith R. Dixon (Ky.) 2017 record: 3-1-0-0, $47,000. 2016 record: 7-1-2-0, $60,150. 2015 record: 4-0-2-2, $58,000. Won 2017 David Semmes Memorial (Gr. 2) at Virginia Gold Cup after fall in Temple Gwathmey (Gr. 3), then was a dull fifth in Radnor’s National Hunt Cup (Gr. 3), a race he won in 2016. Finished sixth in 2016 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1) and fourth in New York Turf Writers Cup (Gr. 1). (146)
Simenon (Ire). 2007 b. g., Marju (Ire)—Epistoliere, by Alzao. Owner: Rosbrian Farm. Trainer: Ricky Hendriks. Breeder: Max Morris (Ire). 2017 NSA record: 2-0-0-1, $7,500. In first U.S. start, was eased in 2017 Tryon Block House, then was respectable third in David Semmes Memorial (Gr. 2) at Virginia Gold Cup. Had two wins last summer in England, one on the flat and the other over hurdles. Had world-class speed over a distance and posted a second and two fourth-place finishes in Ascot Gold Cup (Eng-Gr. 1) at 2 1/2 miles. (146)
Swansea Mile (Ire). 2010 b. g., Dylan Thomas (Ire)—Hurry Up Helen, by In the Wings (GB). Owner: Rosbrian Farm. Trainer: Ricky Hendriks. Breeder: W. Kane (Ire). 2017 record: 3-0-1-1, $10,900. 2016 NSA record: 3-0-0-0, $7,500. Opened 2017 with second in Steeplechase of Charleston’s featured optional allowance hurdle and then was fourth in Temple Gwathmey (Gr. 3). Finished third in High Hope’s featured optional allowance hurdle. Finished fourth in Belmont Park’s 2016 Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1) in U.S. debut. (140)