Owner-trainer Jonathan Sheppard’s Barnstorming surged to the lead on Saratoga Race Course’s final turn, jumped the final fence with a big lead, and powered home for an easy 6 1/4-length victory in the $75,000 Michael G. Walsh Novice Stakes on Thursday, Aug. 15.
Sacred Soul, half of leading owner Irv Naylor’s favored 1.30-1 entry, held second, 4 1/2 lengths clear of Clorevia Farm’s Extraextraordinary, who overtook owner-trainer Kate Dalton’s Cat Feathers for the show spot. Black Quartz, the other half of Naylor’s entry, finished fifth in a field of nine, and Alajmal was sixth in a field of nine.
Ridden by Irish jockey Sean McDermott, Barnstorming went off at 5.90-1 and completed the Walsh’s 2 3/8 miles in 4:38.54 on turf rated as good.
With the Walsh score, Racing Hall of Fame trainer Sheppard swept both of Saratoga’s steeplechase races for novices, or horses in their first seasons of competition over fences. He sent out Bill Pape’s Martini Brother and Barnstorming for a one-two finish in the $75,000 Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes on July 25.
Barnstorming was toward the back of the pack early in the Walsh after Jacqueline Ohrstrom’s Private Equity jumped out to an early lead, with 2012 novice champion Alajmal applying pressure for the first mile and a half. As Private Equity faded, Alajmal took over the advantage on the run through Saratoga’s clubhouse turn the second time.
After jumping the next-to-last fence, Barnstorming drove effortlessly to a daylight lead and drew away on the final turn. McDermott kept Barnstorming’s mind on business through the early stretch, and the Thunder Gulch gelding cleared the final fence with a six-length lead. McDermott kept Barnstorming in stride to the finish line to wrap up an impressive victory.
In the afternoon’s first race, a $65,000 optional allowance, Riverdee Stable’s Apse wore down The Fields Stable’s Kingdom to win by three-quarters of a length. Trained by Richard Valentine and ridden by Robbie Walsh, Apse went off at 6.30-1 and ran the 2 3/8-mile distance in 4:34.54.
Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Network News went out to a big early lead under Gus Dahl, and past the finish line the second time he was succeeded by Woodslane Farm’s Sharp Numbers. Approaching the final turn, Kingdom and jockey Paddy Young took over, with Apse in pursuit. Kingdom led over the final fence, but Apse gradually reduced the margin and edged to the front in the final sixteenth.
Forgotten Man was 20 lengths farther back in third in a field of ten. Pape’s Total Command, the 5-2 favorite, lost rider Nagle at the second fence.
Converted to steeplechase racing last fall, Apse won his maiden victory for a $25,000 claiming tag at the Atlanta Steeplechase on April 13 and then finished second in a $30,000 allowance hurdle at the Virginia Gold Cup on May 4.