Gary Barber’s African Oil, who transformed from sour flat horse to a rising-star champion in a few short months last year, heads a strong field for Saturday’s $75,000 Marcellus Frost Novice Stakes, a co-feature of the 75th annual Iroquois Steeplechase at Percy Warner Park.
The headstrong gelding was shipped to trainer Kate Dalton in South Carolina last winter after he bucked through a start at Golden Gate Fields in northern California and was pulled up. Barber, the CEO of film studio MGM, decided that African Oil might benefit from a change of scene and routine.
Once sent over fences, African Oil became a different horse and closed out his championship season with three wins, culminating in a facile victory in Saratoga Race Course’s Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes.
He won his first race at Iroquois last year and will be making his first 2016 start at the Nashville meet. Bernie Dalton again will ride him.
Trainer Dalton also entered Joseph Fowler Jr.’s Express Line, who won his inaugural victory over fences at the Carolina Cup in Camden, S.C., on April 2 and then was second in the Queen’s Cup MPC ’Chase near Charlotte, N.C., on April 30. Mark Watts has the mount.
The Queen’s Cup winner, Any Taylor Rowe’s Maserati, will be shooting for his second straight novice stakes victory in the Marcellus Frost. Trainer Leslie Young also entered Dyna’s Vow, also owned by Rowe and third in a Ratings Handicap at the Queen’s Cup. Paddy Young, last year’s champion jockey, was named aboard both.
Champion trainer Jack Fisher entered DASH Stable’s Ice It, the 2015 three-year-old champion who proved that he was ready for the novice game when he won the Georgia Cup optional allowance hurdle in April. Sean McDermott will ride.
Fisher also entered Gil Johnston’s Dye Fore, who was pulled up in the Carolina Cup for novices on April 2. Jack Doyle, last year’s leading jockey by purse earnings, has the mount.
Trainer Richard Valentine entered Jacqueline Ohrstrom’s Class Cherokee, third in the Queen’s Cup, and Magalen O. Bryant’s Personal Start, a maiden winner at the Atlanta Steeplechase last month. Darren Nagle rides Class Cherokee, and Michael Byrne will be aboard Personal Start.
Here is the field for the $75,000 Marcellus Frost at 2 1/4 miles. Each horse’s National Steeplechase Association rating is in parentheses at the end of the profile.
Maserati (Brz). 2015 record: 2-2-0-0, $30,000. 2009 bk. b. or br. g., Point Given—Lady Celina (Brz), by Roi Normand. Owner: Amy Taylor Rowe. Trainer: Leslie Young. Jockey: Paddy Young. Breeder: Fazenda Mondesir (Brz). 2016 record: 1-1-0-0, $45,000. 2015 NSA record: 2-2-0-0, $30,000. Won 2016 Queen’s Cup MPC ’Chase. Won Virginia Fall’s 2015 Bon Nouvel allowance hurdle after maiden win at Queen’s Cup. Also won Suffolk Downs flat race for hurdlers. (119)
Dyna’s Vow. 2011 dk. b. or br. g., Broken Vow—Dyna’s Greeley, by Dynaformer. Owner: Amy Taylor Rowe. Trainer: Leslie Young. Jockey: Paddy Young. Breeder: Clifford Grum (Ky.) 2016 record: 1-0-0-1, $2,500. 2015 NSA record: 2-1-0-1, $26,000. Finished third in Ratings Handicap at 2016 Queen’s Cup. Began jump-racing career with third at Virginia Fall Races and then won at International Gold Cup. (116)
African Oil (Fr). 2010 dk. b. or br. g., Royal Applause—Ahdaaf, by Bahri. Owner: Gary Barber. Trainer: Kate Dalton. Jockey: Bernie Dalton. Breeder: SCA La Perrigne (Fr). 2015 NSA record: 4-3-0-1, $93,000. Novice champion in 2015 after three-race streak ending in Jonathan Kiser Novice win. Former California flat claimer took to jump racing and scored impressive victories in Iroquois maiden hurdle on and a Monmouth Park optional allowance hurdle. In first start over fences, finished third at Queen’s Cup near Charlotte, N.C. (128)
Express Line (Fr). 2012 b. g., Afleet Express—Al Beedaa, by Swain (Ire). Owner: Joseph F. Fowler Jr. Trainer: Kate Dalton. Jockey: Mark Watts. Breeder: Jean-Pierre Deroubaix (Fr). 2016 record: 2-1-1-0, $31,500. 2015 record: No NSA starts. Won Carolina Cup maiden hurdle by 2 1/2 lengths in first start over fences, then was second in Queen’s Cup MPC ’Chase. Never close in three 2015 starts on flat. (116)
Dye Fore. 2011 dk. b. or br. g., Giant’s Causeway—Homebound, by Dixie Union. Owner: Mrs. S. K. Johnston Jr. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Jockey: Jack Doyle. Breeder: Joseph Allen (Ky.) 2016 record: 1-0-0-0, $0. 2015 record: 5-2-0-0, $37,350. Pulled up in 2016 Carolina Cup. Concluded 2015 season with win in Colonial Cup Ratings Handicap division. Maiden winner on flat in France won Monmouth Park maiden race over hurdles. (119)
Ice It. (111) 2012 gr. or ro. g., Tapit—Spice Island, by Tabasco Cat. Owner: DASH Stable. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Breeder: Jockey: Sean McDermott. Qatar Bloodstock (Ky.) 2016 record: 1-1-0-0, $21,000. 2015 record: 3-1-0-0, $18,600. Won 2016 Georgia Cup optional allowance hurdle impressively. Won Far Hills’ Gladstone Hurdle to lock up 2015 three-year-old championship. Fell on the flat in Colonial Cup’s Raymond G. Woolfe Memorial. (116)
Class Cherokee. 2010 dk. b. or br. g., Cherokee Boy—Class Excells, by Class Secret. Owner: Jacqueline Ohrstrom. Trainer: Richard Valentine. Jockey: Darren Nagle. Breeder: Mede Cahaba Stable and Stud (Va). 2016 record: 1-0-0-1, $7,500. 2015 record; 4-1-0-0, $17,500. Finished third in Queen’s Cup MPC ’Chase. Closed out 2015 season with victory in a Ratings Handicap at Montpelier Hunt Races after fourth-place finishes at Virginia Fall and Virginia Gold Cup. (115)
Personal Start. 2011 dk. b. or br. g., Jump Start—Personal Doreen, by Personal Flag. Owner: Magalen O. Bryant. Trainer: Richard Valentine. Jockey: Michael Byrne. Breeder: Magalen O. Bryant (Ky.) 2016 record: 1-1-0-0, $18,000. 2015 NSA record: 1-0-0-0, $0. Won 2016 Atlanta Steeplechase maiden hurdle. Fell in his jump-racing debut at 2015 Far Hills Races. (116)
Classical Art (Ire). 2011 ch. g., Excellent Art (GB)—Ask Carol, by Foxhound. Owner: Mary Ann Houghland. Trainer: Bruce Miller. Jockey: Gus Dahl. Breeder: J. Dorrian (Ire). 2016 record: No starts. 2015 NSA record: 2-0-0-0, $3,200. Finished sixth in two U.S. starts in 2015, in Iroquois’ Marcellus Frost and Parx Ratings Handicap. Had two handicap hurdle wins in England earlier in 2015. (116)
Tempt Me Alex. 2009 b. g.., Afleet Alex—Attemptress, by Meadowlake. Owner: Robert A. Kinsley. Trainer: Elizabeth Voss. Jockey: Jack Doyle. Breeder: Robert A. Kinsley (Pa.) 2015 record: 1-0-1-0, $6,300. In his only 2015 start, finished close second in Iroquois Steeplechase Ratings Handicap. Won the 2014 Bright Hour at Iroquois. (121)
Hardrock Eleven. 2010 gr. or ro. g., Rock Hard Ten—Stark Beauty, by Unbridled’s Song. Owner: Virginia Lazenby. Trainer: Doug Fout. Kieran Norris. Breeders: Farm III Enterprises and Off the Hook Partners (Fla.) 2016 record: 2-0-0-0, $2,250. 2015 record: 6-1-1-2, $53,350. Began 2016 with sixth in Carolina Cup, then was pulled up in Queen’s Cup MPC ’Chase. Finished third in 2015 International Gold Cup allowance hurdle. Won Saratoga allowance hurdle by 4 1/4 lengths on Sept. 3 after fourth on Aug. 13. Formerly trained by owner’s late brother, David P. Banks, and won an Evangeline Downs optional allowance flat race in 2014. (116)