Under strong handling by jockey Brian Crowley, Hudson River Farms’ Arcadius surged through Monmouth Park’s stretch to win the $100,000 Helen Haskell Sampson Stakes (Gr. 1) on Saturday, Sept. 25, and give Racing Hall of Fame trainer his 1,000th victory under National Steeplechase Association rules. Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s pacesetting Slip Away finished second, a length back, and Seer closed ground to finish third, a nose in front of Move-Up Stable’s Quiet Approval.
Also in Saturday action, Arcadia Stable’s Delta Park prevailed by 4 1/2 lengths over Manown Kisor Jr.’s Gather No Moss in the $25,000 Ski Roundtop Trophy, feature of the Races at Shawan Downs in Hunt Valley, Md. Trained by Jack Fisher and ridden by Fritz Boniface, Delta Park ran the Ski Roundtop’s three miles over timber fences in 6:04.40 on ground rated as hard. Prospectors Strike, also trained by Fisher, finished third. On Sunday, Hamilton Farm’s Great Halo won the $15,000 Barracks Maiden Hurdle by three-quarters of a length over Zula Road at the Foxfield Fall Races in Charlottesville, Va.
In Sheppard’s spectacular 2010 season, Arcadius has largely been overshadowed by other members of the trainer’s Pennsylvania-based stable. With Crowley aboard, the six-year-old Giant’s Causeway gelding had finished second to Bill Pape’s Divine Fortune in Saratoga Race Course’s $75,000 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 2) on Aug. 5, and the Irish jockey took the New York Turf Writers Cup Handicap (Gr. 1) aboard Pape’s Sermon of Love, with Arcadius again second.
Sheppard switched tactics and put Crowley on Arcadius for the Haskell Sampson, with Danielle Hodsdon riding Sermon of Love. As expected, Slip Away went to the lead under jockey Paddy Young, and Crowley placed Arcadius in a stalking position while in the clear on the outside.
As the field of seven completed the final circuit of the firm Monmouth course, Crowley sent Arcadius after Slip Away, who was jumping comfortably. Slip Away jumped the last fence in front, but Arcadius steadily wore him down to win going away.
“I did win it this time,” Crowley shouted to Hudson River Farms owner Edward P. Swyer as he left the winner’s circle to weigh in. The jockey had been disappointed that he had not gotten clear until late in the Smithwick and had no chance of catching Divine Fortune. Sent off as the 1.70-to-1 favorite, Arcadius ran the Haskell Sampson’s 2 1/2 miles in 4:37.55.
Seer, owned by Sheila J. Williams and Andre W. Brewster, closed well to get the place. Sermon of Love never was a factor in the late stages of the race and finished seventh.
Sheppard, who scored his first training victory with Haffaday in 1966, said was aware that he was closing in on the 1,000 mark but did not expect it to happen this year. He currently leads the 2010 trainer standings by both wins and earnings by wide margins, and he won all but one of Saratoga’s steeplechase races.
He moved within one of the milestone win earlier on the Monmouth program when Augustin Stables’ Port Morsbey scored a head victory over even-money favorite Good Request in a $25,000 Sport of Kings maiden hurdle.
Ridden by Hodsdon, Augustin’s homebred four-year-old Pleasantly Perfect gelding went off at 5.10-to-1 and ran the 2 1/4-mile distance in 4:28.78. Nina S. Strawbridge’s Salinja, the 3-to-1 second betting choice, finished third in a field of eight.
Easy Red takes Metcalf Memorial Novice
Crowley, who has been nearly as hot as Sheppard, gave a well-timed ride to Dumbarton Farm’s Easy Red to win the $70,000 Metcalf Memorial Novice for young steeplechase horses.
Trained by Tom Voss, Easy Red validated his victory in a Saratoga allowance-optional claimer with his three-quarter-length victory at 6.80-to-1. James Piper’s Call You in Ten broke out of traffic late to finish second, a half-length ahead of Alnoff Stable’s Ground Frost, who also is trained by Voss.
Owner-trainer Michele C. Sanger’s Birthday Beau, who set the early pace by as many as 12 lengths under Ross Geraghty, took fourth in the field of eight.
Ironically, it was Easy Red who had denied Pape and Sheppard a Saratoga sweep when he turned back Lead Us Not, ridden by Crowley, in the Sept. 2 race at Saratoga. Always in good position, Easy Red rallied through the stretch to secure the victory in the Metcalf Memorial.
Ptarmigan nips Miss Crown in Guelph
Doug Fout, who trains Call You in Ten, won the Monmouth card’s first steeplechase race with Magalen O. Bryant’s Ptarmigan, who closed relentlessly through the final yards on to nip owner-trainer Kate Dalton’s Miss Crown by a nose in the $30,000 Guelph Stakes.
Ridden by Jeff Murphy, Ptarmigan raced toward the back of the six-horse field as Flying Horse Farm’s Farah T. Salute set the pace under Xavier Aizpuru, with Miss Crown shadowing the front-runner through the first two miles of the 2 1/4-mile Guelph, a Sport of Kings race for fillies and mares.
Ptarmigan kicked in shortly before the next to last fence and jumped powerfully into contention from the outside. Miss Crown, the 2-to-1 favorite ridden by Bernie Dalton, dispatched Farah T. Salute entering the stretch and jumped the last with a slight advantage over Ptarmigan.
Miss Crown appeared to spurt away slightly after the fence, but Ptarmigan made steady progress and gained a narrow advantage just before the finish line. “She put her head down and went on,” Murphy said.
Moon Dolly finished third, 1 1/4 lengths behind Miss Crown, and Farah T Salute held fourth. Sent off at 2.60-to-1, Ptarmigan ran the Guelph’s 2 1/4 miles in 4:31.25 on firm turf.
–Written by Don Clippinger