A talent-packed field, including graded stakes winner Balance the Budget, will line up Saturday in the $40,000 Valentine Memorial Handicap, the co-feature of the 48th annual Fair Hill Races in Northern Maryland.
The 2 1/4-mile Valentine will be one of nine races on the traditional Memorial Day Weekend card. Pari-mutuel wagering will be offered on all races, and first post time is 1 p.m.
Stonelea Stables’ Balance the Budget, winner of the Tryon Block House Handicap in his only 2017 start on April 15, was entered for the David Semmes Memorial (Gr. 2), but trainer Julie Gomena scratched him because of soft ground. Mark Watts will ride.
Second in the weights at 157 is Virginia Lazenby’s Hardrock Eleven, who finished fourth behind Balance the Budget in the Tryon Block House and was pulled up in the Semmes. Jack Doyle has the mount for trainer Doug Fout.
Looking to regain his best form is Flying Elvis Stable’s Diplomat, a graded stakes winner in 2015 who finished fifth in the Semmes in his most recent start. Bernie Dalton will ride Diplomat for his wife, trainer Kate Dalton.
Apprentice Keri Brion will ride Buttonwood Farm’s All the Way Jose for Racing Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard. In his most recent start, All the Way Jose finished second in an Iroquois Steeplechase ratings handicap after a third in the Tryon Block House.
Champion trainer Jack Fisher will saddle Matthew T. Groff’s Selection Sunday, who won the Steeplechase of Charleston’s featured optional allowance hurdle on April 8 in his only 2017 start. Newcomer Quinn Scala has the mount.
Here is the field for the $40,000 Valentine Memorial Handicap. The horses’ National Steeplechase Association ratings are in parentheses at the end of their profiles.
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 record: 1-1-0-0, $24,000. 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. 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. Finished second in Shawan Downs Ratings Handicap. Kicked away powerfully to win Aiken Spring’s 2015 Budweiser Imperial Cup (Gr. 3) by 21 lengths. (128).
Fantastic Song. 2009 b. g., Lemon Drop Kid—Fantastic Shirl, by Fantastic Light. Owner: Gil Johnston. Trainer: Fenneka Bentley. Jockey: Sean McDermott. Breeder: Del Ridge Farm (Ky.) 2017 record: 1-1-0-0, $18,000. 2016 record: No starts. Ran a big race after missing 2016 season to win Steeplechase of Charleston’s featured optional allowance hurdle. Won 2015 High Hope optional allowance hurdle and was third in similar race at Saratoga that year. (116)
Hardrock Eleven. 2010 gr. or ro. g., Rock Hard Ten—Stark Beauty, by Unbridled’s Song. Owner: Virginia Lazenby. Trainer: Doug Fout. Jockey: Jack Doyle. Breeders: Farm III Enterprises and Off the Hook Partners (Fla.) 2017 record: 2-0-0-0, $2,000. 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, then was pulled up in Virginia Gold Cup’s David Semmes Memorial (Gr. 2). Won 2016 William Entenmann Memorial Novice Stakes after winning Saratoga allowance hurdle for second straight year, then finished fifth in Far Hills’ Foxbrook Champion Hurdle. Formerly trained by owner’s late brother, David P. Banks, and won an Evangeline Downs optional allowance flat race in 2014. (127)
Selection Sunday. (125) 2009 b. g., Harlan’s Holiday—Ntombi, by Quiet American. Owner: Matthew T. Groff. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Jockey: Quinn Scala. Breeder: Dr. John A. Chandler (Ky.) 2017 record: 2-0-1-0, $6,300. 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. Coming back after missing the 2016 season. Won the 2015 Queen’s Cup MPC ’Chase and then finished second in the Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes at Saratoga Race Course. (125)
Diplomat. 2009 b. g., Kitten’s Joy—Waki Affair, by Miswaki. Owner: Flying Elvis Stable. Trainer: Kate Dalton. Jockey: Bernie Dalton. Breeders: Ken and Sarah Ramsey (Ky.) 2017 record: 2-0-0-0, $4,750. 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). In 2016 debut, finished fifth in International Gold Cup’s David L. “Zeke” Ferguson Memorial (Gr. 2), then fell in Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup (Gr. 1). Won 2015 International Gold Cup’s Ferguson Memorial (Gr. 3) before sixth in Colonial Cup. Bred by champion owners-breeders Ken and Sarah Ramsey and is a full brother to stakes-placed Kitten Love. (123)
Curve of Stones 2011 gr. or ro. g., Arch—Exceptionally, by El Prado (Ire). Owner: Sarah Rebecca Shepherd. Trainer: David M. Bourke. Jockey: Ross Geraghty. Breeder: Audley Farm (Va.) 2017 NSA record: No starts. 2016 record: 3-2-0-0, $56,400. Won maiden victory at 2016 Virginia Gold Cup and came back two weeks later to win $35,000 allowance hurdle at Radnor. Finished fifth in Monmouth Park ratings handicap. (118)
All the Way Jose. 2010 b. g., Senor Swinger—Maternity Leave, by Northern Baby. Owner: Rodman W. Moorhead III. Trainer: Jonathan Sheppard. Jockey: Keri Brion. Breeder: Jonathan Sheppard (Pa.) 2017 record: 2-0-1-1, $10,300. 2016 NSA record: 3-0-0-0, $7,500. 2015 record: 3-0-0-0, $3,750. Finished third in 2017 Tryon Block House handicap, then was second in Iroquois ratings handicap. Finished sixth in David L. “Zeke” Ferguson Memorial (Gr. 2) at 2016 International Gold Cup. Started season with fifth in David Semmes Memorial (Gr. 2) at Virginia Gold Cup, then fourth in Fair Hill’s Valentine Memorial Ratings Handicap. Clinched 2014 novice championship with Foxbrook Champion Hurdle victory. (125)