Stonelea Stables’ Balance the Budget, winner of the Tryon Block House Handicap in April, will carry the 156-pound highweight Thursday in Saratoga Race Course’s $70,000 handicap hurdle, the Upstate New York track’s final jump race this year.
Trained by Julie Gomena, the eight-year-old Bellamy Road gelding will be ridden by Mark Watts in the 2 1/16-mile race over eight fences. In his most recent start, Balance the Budget finished fifth in Saratoga’s A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1) on July 27.
Second in the weights at 152 pounds is Virginia Lazenby’s Hardrock Eleven, who has closed out the last two Saratoga meets with allowance victories.
The hard-working Rock Hard Ten gelding also won last year’s William Entenmann Memorial Novice Stakes at Belmont Park. Most recently, he finished fourth in a Saratoga handicap hurdle on Aug. 9. Shane Crimin will ride for trainer Doug Fout.
Several members of Thursday’s well-matched field are coming out of the Aug. 9 handicap. Robert A. Kinsley’s No Wunder closed well to finish second behind Choral Society, who subsequently finished fourth in the New York Turf Writers Cup Handicap (Gr. 1). Jack Doyle will be aboard No Wunder for trainer Elizabeth Doyle.
Leading trainer Jack Fisher will saddle Matthew T. Groff’s Selection Sunday, who finished fifth in the Aug. 9 handicap. Sean McDermott again will ride the Harlan’s Holiday gelding.
Rosbrian Farm’s Orchestra Leader tasted defeat for the first time this year when seventh in the Aug. 9 race at the same distance. Ross Geraghty returns for trainer Ricky Hendriks.
Darren Nagle, currently atop the jockey standings, will be aboard Bill Pape’s Giza, who hit a fence on the second circuit of the course and was pulled up in the Aug. 9 race. Racing Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard will be looking for his first victory in the current Saratoga meet.
Completing the field is Joseph F. Fowler’s Strongbox, who finished fifth in a Parx Racing handicap hurdle on July 11. Trainer Kate Dalton will put husband Bernie Dalton in the saddle of the five-year-old Offlee Wild gelding, who is carries the race’s bottom weight at 142 pounds.
Here is the field for the $70,000 handicap hurdle in post-position order. The horses’ handicap weights are in parentheses are the end of their profiles.
No Wunder (GB). 2011 b. g., Rock of Gibraltar (Ire)—Iwunder, by King’s Best. Owner: Robert A. Kinsley. Trainer: Elizabeth Voss. Jockey: Jack Doyle. Breeder: Executors of the late J. Ellis (GB). 2017 NSA record: 5-1-1-1, $25,150. 2016 NSA record: No starts. Won his maiden victory at 2017 Fair Hill Races after third at Iroquois, then was moved up to sixth in Saratoga’s Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes. Finished second in Saratoga handicap. (144)
Balance the Budget. 2009 ch. g., Bellamy Road—Every Day Is Good, by El Corredor. Owner: Stonelea Stable. Trainer: Julie Gomena. Jockey: Mark Watts. Breeder: Liberation Farm & Oratis (Ky.). 2017 NSA record: 3-1-1-0, $37,200. 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. Finished fifth in Saratoga’s A.P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1). Kicked off 2016 season with victory in $75,000 Carolina Cup, a novice stakes. (156).
Hardrock Eleven. 2010 gr. or ro. g., Rock Hard Ten—Stark Beauty, by Unbridled’s Song. Owner: Virginia Lazenby. Trainer: Doug Fout. Jockey: Shane Crimin. Breeders: Farm III Enterprises and Off the Hook Partners (Fla.) 2017 NSA record: 4-0-0-0, $7,500. 2016 NSA record: 7-2-1-0, $105,700. Opened 2017 with fourth in Tryon Block House handicap, was pulled up in Virginia Gold Cup’s David Semmes Memorial (Gr. 2), and finished fourth in Fair Hill’s Valentine Memorial ratings handicap. Tired to finish fourth in Saratoga 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. (152)
Selection Sunday. (125) 2009 b. g., Harlan’s Holiday—Ntombi, by Quiet American. Owner: Matthew T. Groff. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Jockey: Sean McDermott. Breeder: Dr. John A. Chandler (Ky.) 2017 NSA record: 3-0-1-0, $9,100. 2016 record: No starts. 2015 record: 2-1-1-0, $58,500. Finished second in 2017 Atlanta Steeplechase’s Georgia Cup optional allowance hurdle and lost rider in Iroquois ratings handicap. Finished fifth as lukewarm favorite in Saratoga handicap. Missed the 2016 season. Won the 2015 Queen’s Cup MPC ’Chase. (150)
Orchestra Leader. 2009 b. g., Van Nistelrooy—Magic of Life, by Seattle Slew. Owner: Rosbrian Farm. Trainer: Ricky Hendriks. Jockey: Ross Geraghty. Breeder: Strategy Bloodstock (Ky.) 2017 record: 3-2-0-0, $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. Led early and faded to seventh in Saratoga handicap. (150)
Strongbox. 2012 b. g., Offlee Wild—Wild Goose Chase, by Dynaformer. Owner: Stephen E. Johnson. Trainer: Kate Dalton. Jockey: Bernie Dalton. Breeder: Stephen E. Johnson (Ky.). 2017 record: 3-0-0-1, $6,200. 2016 NSA record: 4-1-0-0, $21,000. Finished third in 2017 Iroquois Steeplechase allowance hurdle after fall in Queen’s Cup. Finished fifth in Parx Racing handicap. Won 2016 Colonial Cup maiden hurdle, his only career win. (142)
Giza. 2012 b. g., Eskendereya—Make Believe, by Crowd Pleaser. Owner: Bill Pape. Trainer: Jonathan Sheppard. Jockey: Darren Nagle. Breeders: Bill and Anne Pape. 2017 record: 4-1-1-1, $24,300. Won maiden hurdle at 2017 Foxfield Spring and then ran second in key Radnor allowance. Struck fence in Saratoga handicap hurdle and was pulled up. (144)