Champions and longtime arch-rivals Demonstrative and Divine Fortune will face off again in Thursday’s $125,000 A. P. Smithwick Memorial, the first of two Grade 1 jump races at historic Saratoga Race Course. Post time will be 1 p.m. for the 2 1/16-mile race over National Fences.
Jacqueline Ohrstrom’s Demonstrative won last year’s Eclipse Award as champion steeplechase horse with three consecutive Grade 1 victories after finishing second by a nose in the A. P. Smithwick.
The Elusive Quality gelding, now 8, kicked off his championship string with a win in the New York Turf Writers Cup, the second of Saratoga’s Grade 1 steeplechase races. He subsequently won Belmont Park’s Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1) and the Grand National (Gr. 1) at Far Hills, N.J., to lock up the title.
Trainer Richard Valentine will saddle Demonstrative, who won his only 2015 start over fences, the $150,000 Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1) at Nashville on May 9, and tightened with a Parx Racing flat win on July 12. Robbie Walsh will ride.
Bill Pape’s Divine Fortune, the 2013 Eclipse champion, was pulled up in last year’s Smithwick, skipped the New York Turf Writers, fell at the last fence of the Lonesome Glory, and finished a valiant second in the Grand National.
But the Royal Anthem gelding, now 12, twice defeated Demonstrative last year, in the Iroquois, in which Demonstrative finished sixth, and in the Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup (Gr. 1) at Camden, S.C., where Demonstrative finished third.
Divine Fortune also has only one start this year, a fourth-place finish in the Calvin Houghland Iroquois. Racing Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard will put 2014 champion jockey Willie McCarthy in the saddle for the Smithwick.
Sheppard also will saddle Pape’s Martini Brother, who is coming back after 16 months on the sidelines, and Parker’s Project, owned by the Hudson River Farms of Albany developer Edward P. Swyer.
Parker’s Project won the David Semmes Memorial (Gr. 2) at the Virginia Gold Cup on May 2 and finished third two weeks later in the National Hunt Cup (Gr. 3) at the Radnor Hunt Races in suburban Philadelphia. Darren Nagle rides Martini Brother, and Ross Geraghty will be aboard Parker’s Project.
Elizabeth Voss, who took over the stable of her late father, Tom Voss, early last year, will send out The Fields Stable’s Bob Le Beau, who had a breakout victory in the National Hunt Cup. The Irish-bred gelding, who also won a Parx flat race on July 12, will be ridden by Jack Doyle.
Jack Fisher, currently the jumping sport’s leading trainer by a wide margin, will take two shots at the Smithwick Memorial, with Petticoats Loose Farm’s Choral Society and Harold A. “Sonny” Via’s Hinterland.
Formerly trained in England by Paul Nicholls, Hinterland will be making his first U.S. start and will be seeking his first win since a novice steeplechase in late 2013. Choral Society most recently was placed third in the Marcellus Frost Novice Stakes after encountering interference at the Iroquois Steeplechase. Sean McDermott rides Hinterland, and current leading jockey Paddy Young will be aboard Choral Society.
Completing the field is Diplomat, a Kitten’s Joy gelding who made his American debut with a win in the Carolina Cup for novices and subsequently finished fifth in the Semmes. Owned by the Daybreak Stables of trainer Jimmy Day, Diplomat will be ridden by Bernie Dalton.
Here is the A. P. Smithwick Memorial field in post-position order.
Hinterland (Fr). 2008 b. g., Poliglote (GB)—Queen’s Place, by Diamond Prospect. Owner: Harold A. “Sonny” Via Jr. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Jockey: Sean McDermott. Breeders: Eric Aubree and Christian Bresson (Fr). 2014 NSA record: No starts. Making U.S. debut after modest success in England over taller steeplechase fences. Winless last year but finished third in Tingle Creek Steeplechase at Sandown. May benefit from faster ground in his new home.
Demonstrative. 2007 b. g., Elusive Quality–Loving Pride, by Quiet American. Owner: Jacqueline Ohrstrom. Trainer: Richard Valentine. Jockey: Robbie Walsh. Breeder: Gainsborough Farm (Ky.) 2015 record: 2-2-0-0, $105,000. 2014 record: 6-3-1-1, $362,500. Scored his second victory in the $150,000 Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1) on May 9 and surged late to win flat race for hurdlers at Parx Racing on July 12. Secured 2014 Eclipse Award with consecutive Grade 1 victories in New York Turf Writers Cup, Lonesome Glory Handicap, and Grand National. Narrowly second in 2014 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr 1). Also won 2012 New York Turf Writers Cup (Gr. 1) and Colonial Cup (Gr. 1). Was 2010 three-year-old champion.
Parker’s Project. 2006 dk. b. or br. g., Parker’s Storm Cat–Let’s Canoodle, by Oh Say. Owner: Hudson River Farms. Trainer: Jonathan Sheppard. Jockey: Ross Geraghty. Breeder: Jonathan Sheppard (Pa.) 2015 record: 2-1-0-1, $50,000. 2014 record: 3-0-1-1, $55,000. Began 2015 campaign with neck victory in Virginia Gold Cup’s David Semmes Memorial on May 2, then finished third in National Hunt Cup (Gr. 3) at Radnor Hunt Races two weeks later.
Diplomat. 2009 b. g., Kitten’s Joy—Waki Affair, by Miswaki. Owner: Daybreak Stables. Trainer: Jimmy Day. Jockey: Bernie Dalton. Breeders: Ken and Sarah Ramsey (Ky.) 2015 record: 3-1-0-0, $49,250. 2014 NSA record: No starts. Began 2015 season with half-length victory in $75,000 Carolina Cup for novices, then finished fifth in David Semmes Memorial (Gr. 2) at Virginia Gold Cup on May 2 and fourth in Parx Racing flat race for hurdlers on July 12. Veteran competitor in Ireland for trainer Dermot Weld mixed hurdle racing with flat starts but was winless in eight outings in 2014. Bred by champion owners-breeders Ken and Sarah Ramsey and is a full brother to stakes-placed Kitten Love.
Bob Le Beau (Ire). 2007 dk. b. or. br. g., Big Bad Bob—Shine Silently, by Bering (GB). Owner: The Fields Stable. Trainer: Elizabeth Voss. Jockey: Jack Doyle. Breeder: Anamoine Ltd. (Ire). 2015 record: 2-2-0-0, $45,000. 2014 record: 4-0-1-0, $9,450. Opened 2015 with win in National Hunt Cup (Gr. 3) at Radnor Hunt Races in suburban Philadelphia on May 16 and won Parx flat race for hurdlers on July 12. Finished second in Virginia Fall’s 2014 W. Gary Baker Memorial, then was pulled up in David L. “Zeke” Ferguson Memorial (Gr. 3) at International Gold Cup.
Divine Fortune. 2003 ch. g., Royal Anthem–My Tombola, by Northern Fling. Owner: William Pape. Trainer: Jonathan Sheppard. Jockey: Willie McCarthy. Breeders: Bill Pape and Jonathan Sheppard. 2015 record: 1-0-0-0, $7,500. 2014 record: 5-2-1-0, $195,000. In only 2015 start, set early pace in Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1) in Nashville on May 9 and faded late to finish fourth. Eclipse Award winner in 2013 had two Grade 1 wins in 2014, in Iroquois and Colonial Cup at Camden, S.C. Secured Eclipse with brilliant victory in 2013 Grand National (Gr. 1).
Martini Brother. 2008 dk. b. or br. g., A.P. Indy—Island Sand, by Tabasco Cat. Owner: Bill Pape. Trainer: Jonathan Sheppard. Jockey: Darren Nagle. 2015 record: 1-0-0-0, $750. 2014 record: 1-0-0-0, $1,500. Making a comeback after more 16 months on the sidelines. Won his first three races in 2013, including a victory in Saratoga’s Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes, and was one of the year’s top novices. Ran sixth in a flat race for hurdlers at Parx Racing on July 12.
Choral Society. 2009 gr. or ro. g., Holy Bull—Star Singer, by Awesome Again. Owner: Petticoats Loose Farm. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Jockey: Paddy Young. Breeder: Mayo West Farm and Liam Benson (Fla.) 2015 record: 2-0-0-1, $7,500. 2014 record: 6-2-1-1, $39,250. Finished fourth, placed third, in Marcellus Frost Novice Stakes at Iroquois Steeplechase on May 9. Lost rider in Queen’s Cup MPC ‘Chase, his 2015 debut.