Dale Thiel’s Call Me Sonny returns to Fair Hill Race Course in northern Maryland on Saturday, May 24, for a shot at a second straight victory in $30,000 Valentine Memorial, a starter handicap stakes that highlights the 46th edition of the Fair Hill Spring Races. First post time for the eight-race program with pari-mutuel wagering is 1 p.m.
The Valentine Memorial, which honors leading steeplechase owners Miles and Joy Valentine, is open to horses who have run for a claiming price of $30,000 or less in 2013 and 2014. Call Me Sonny will be attempting to regain the form that carried him to a dominant 8 1/2-length score in last year’s Valentine Memorial.
The eight-year-old Posse gelding finished fourth in the Budweiser Imperial Cup (Gr. 3) at the Aiken Spring meet on March 22 and was pulled up in his most recent start, a starter handicap at the Queen’s Cup near Charlotte on April 26. Trainer Ricky Hendriks tapped current leading jockey Willie McCarthy to ride Call Me Sonny.
Hendriks also entered Rosbrian Farm’s Wantan, winner of a Virginia Gold Cup starter race on May 3. In the saddle will be four-time champion jockey Paddy Young.
The Elkstone Group’s Bodie Island carries the 152-pound highweight in the handicap prepared by Bill Gallo Jr., the National Steeplechase Association’s director of racing. The six-year-old Kafwain gelding won a Carolina Cup starter handicap on March 29 and then finished third in the Queen’s Cup starter handicap. Trainer Richard Valentine named Kieran Norris, last year’s top apprentice jockey, to ride.
Current leading owner Irv Naylor will have two British-bred starters in the 2 1/4-mile Valentine Memorial. American Ladie won a Willowdale Steeplechase conditioned claiming hurdle on May 11, and Nearby finished second in an Atlanta Steeplechase optional allowance hurdle on April 19. Both are trained by Cyril Murphy; Carol-Ann Sloan will ride American Ladie, and 2012 champion jockey Ross Geraghty will be aboard Nearby.
Jack Fisher, last year’s co-champion trainer, will send out Sheila J. Williams’ Popplestone and Jeremy Batoff’s Certain Swagger, who finished second and third, respectively, behind American Ladie in the Willowdale claimer. Jeff Murphy rides Certain Swagger, and Xavier Azipuru has the mount on Popplestone.
Three other winners in the current racing season complete the field. Why Not Racing’s Class Bopper, a Grade 3 winner in 2010, won a Dogwood Classic maiden hurdle at Colonial Downs on April 5. Richard Boucher will ride the nine-year-old gelding for his wife, trainer Lilith Boucher.
Move Up Stables’ Ez Mac won a Stoneybrook Steeplechase claimer on April 5 for trainer Kathy Neilson, who tapped Gerard Galligan to ride. Elizabeth C. Carey’s Capture le Prix won a maiden claimer this spring, and Bernie Dalton will ride for trainer Ted Gregory.
Who do you like in the Valentine Memorial?
Nearby (GB). 2004 b. g., King’s Best—Contiguous, by Danzig. Owner: Irvin S. Naylor. Trainer: Cyril Murphy. Jockey: Ross Geraghty. 2014 record: 1-0-1-0, $5,400. 2013 record: 1-0-0-0, $0. 8-1 odds. Finished second in Atlanta Steeplechase optional allowance hurdle on April 19. Pulled up in 2013 Budweiser Holiday Cup at Aiken Fall.
Call Me Sonny. 2006 b. g., Posse—Chocolate Mauk, by Cozzene. Owner: Dale Thiel. Trainer: Ricky Hendriks. Jockey: Willie McCarthy. 2014 record: 3-0-0-0, $3,500. 2013 record: 8-2-1-2, $48,700. 5-1 odds. Finished fourth in Aiken Spring’s Budweiser Imperial Cup (Gr. 3) and Dogwood Classic claimer before being pulled up in Queen’s Cup starter handicap. Won the 2013 Valentine Memorial and an optional claiming hurdle at the Virginia Fall meet.
Bodie Island. 2008 dk. b. or br. g., Kafwain—Sweet Carolina, by Deputy Minister. Owner: The Elkstone Group. Trainer: Richard Valentine. Jockey: Kieran Norris. 2014 record: 2-1-0-1, $13,500. 2013 record: 7-1-0-2, $19,600. 7-2 odds. Won Carolina Cup starter handicap and then finished third in similar race at Queen’s Cup. Maiden winner at 2012 Saratoga Open House.
Capture le Prix. 2007 dk. b. or br. g., Prized—La Vezere, by Chenin Blanc. Owner: Elizabeth P. Carey. Trainer: Theodore C. Gregory. Jockey: Bernie Dalton. 2014 record: 2-1-0-0, $6,750. 2013 record: 1-0-0-0, $0. 10-1 odds. Has only three career starts, all in the past year. Won Aiken Spring maiden claimer and then was fourth in a Queen’s Cup starter handicap on April 26.
Certain Swagger. 2009 b. g., Arch—Comedy, by Theatrical (Ire). Owner: Jeremy Batoff. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Jockey: Jeff Murphy. 2014 record: 2-0-0-1, $2,000. 2013 record: 4-2-0-0, $19,200. 15-1 odds. Finished third in Willowdale Steeplechase’s Rose Tree Cup conditioned claiming hurdle on May 11 after being pulled up in Foxfield Spring’s Daniel Van Clief Memorial optional allowance hurdle.
Class Bopper. 2005 ch. g., Bop—Class Vim, by Class Secret. Owner: Why Not Racing. Trainer: Lilith Boucher. Jockey: Richard Boucher. 2014 record: 1-1-0-0, $12,000. 2013 NSA record: No starts. 8-1 odds. Resumed jump racing career after spending 2013 on the flat, with a claiming win in two starts. Began 2014 with a victory in Dogwood Classic claiming hurdle at Colonial Downs on April 5. Won the 2010 David L. “Zeke” Ferguson Memorial (Gr. 3) at Colonial.
Wantan (Arg). 2005 dk. b. or br. g., Pure Prize–Water Proof, by Turkoman. Owner: Jubilee Stables. Trainer: Ricky Hendriks. Jockey: Paddy Young. 2014 record: 2-1-0-1, $21,000. 2013 record: 2-0-1-0, 6,500. 4-1 odds. Claimed from Atlanta Steeplechase race in which he finished third, then won Virginia Gold Cup starter handicap. In 2013, finished second by a nose in a $25,000 allowance hurdle at International Gold Cup meet in The Plains, Va., then was fifth in AFLAC Supreme Hurdle in Georgia.
Ez Mac. 2004 dk. b. or br. g., Bianconi—Easy Weekend, by Red Ransom. Owner: Move Up Stables. Trainer: Kathy Neilson. Jockey: Gerard Galligan. 2014 record: 2-1-0-0, $6,000. 2013 record: 4-2-0-0, $4,100. 15-1 odds. For former owner, won Stoneybrook claimer on April 5, then was pulled up in Winterthur maiden timber race on May 4. Won $15,000 maiden claimer at 2013 Dogwood Classic and then scored in Queen’s Cup starter handicap.
American Ladie (GB). 2006 b. m., Monashee Mountain—Dounine (GB), by Kaldoun (Fr). Owner: Irv Naylor. Trainer: Cyril Murphy. Jockey: Carol-Ann Sloan. 2014 NSA record: 1-1-0-0, $6,000. 10-1 odds. Absent from races since late 2011, returned with a one-length victory in the Willowdale Steeplechase’s Rose Tree Cup, a conditioned claiming hurdle, on May 11. Had two wins in England in 2011 before going to the sidelines.
Popplestone. 2008 gr. or ro. g., Arch—Brig, by Two Punch. Owner: Sheila J. Williams. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Jockey: Xavier Aizpuru. 10-1 odds. 2014 record: 2-1-1-0, $11,700. 2013 record: 3-0-0-0, $0. After failing to finish in three 2013 starts, won a Queen’s Cup maiden claiming hurdle on April 26 and finished second in Willowdale Steeplechase’s Rose Tree Cup conditioned claiming hurdle on May 11.