The National Steeplechase Association’s Saratoga Race Course season kicks off Wednesday with a well-matched field for the $75,000 Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes. First post time is 1 p.m. for the 2 1/16-mile race over National Fences.
Jack Fisher, the perennial leading steeplechase trainer who is climbing the standings after a slow start to the year, will field Bruton Street-US’s Lord Justice and Armata Stables’ New Member.
Lord Justice, who carries the highest NSA rating in the field at 129, won an Iroquois Steeplechase allowance hurdle by seven lengths on May 11. The Irish-bred will be ridden by Sean McDermott.
Willie McCarthy will be aboard New Member, who finished sixth in Iroquois’ Marcellus Frost Champion Hurdle for novices. In his prior starts this year, the Irish-bred was third in the Carolina Cup and Queen’s Cup MPC ’Chase, both stakes for novices, or horses in their first seasons of competition over fences.
The first three finishers in the Fair Hill Races’ Valentine Memorial ratings handicap will line up again in the Kiser. Gillian Johnston’s Mutasaawy, a Saratoga allowance hurdle winner last year, won the Valentine by a half-length on May 26. The Tapit gelding is trained by Neil Morris and will be ridden by Michael Mitchell.
Robert A. Kinsley’s No Wunder, also a Saratoga allowance hurdle winner last summer, closed well to finish second in the Valentine. Trainer Elizabeth Voss named Jack Doyle to ride.
Finishing third in the Valentine, 1 3/4 lengths farther back, was Rosbrian Farm’s Officer Sydney. Ross Geraghty will be in the saddle for trainer Ricky Hendriks, who also entered Rosbrian’s Daneking for the Kiser. Fourth in a Fair Hill allowance hurdle, Daneking will be ridden by 2017 champion jockey Darren Nagle.
Completing the field is Irv Naylor’s Borderlinedecision, an Irish-bred who finished third in Aiken Spring’s Budweiser Imperial Cup ratings handicap in March and was pulled up in a similar ratings handicap at the Radnor Hunt Races on May 19. Gerard Galligan will ride for trainer Kathy Neilson.
The Jonathan Kiser honors the memory of the two-time champion jockey who died in 2000.
Here is the field for the Kiser in post-position order. The horses’ National Steeplechase Association ratings are in parentheses at the end of their profiles.
No Wunder (GB). 2011 b. g., Rock of Gibraltar (Ire)—Iwunder, by King’s Best. Owner: Robert A. Kinsley. Trainer: Elizabeth Voss. Jockey: Jack Doyle. Breeder: Executors of the late J. Ellis (GB). 2018 NSA record: 3-0-1-0, $13,500. 2017 NSA record: 8-2-1-1, $67,150. Finished close second in Fair Hill’s 2018 Valentine Memorial ratings handicap. Opened 2018 campaign with second in Carolina Cup for novices, then was fifth in Queen’s Cup MPC ’Chase. Drew away impressively to win 2017 Saratoga handicap after good second in similar race. Lost his rider in a freak incident in Belmont’s William Entenmann Memorial Novice Stakes, then was seventh in Far Hills’ Foxbrook Champion Hurdle. (125)
Officer Sydney (Ire). 2012 b. g., Lawman—Morena Park (GB), by Pivotal. Owner: Rosbrian Farm. Trainer: Ricky Hendriks. Jockey: Ross Geraghty. Breeder: Catesby W. Clay (Ire). 2018 NSA record: 3-1-1-1, $27,400. 2017 record: 1-1-0-0, $21,000. 2016 NSA record: 2-0-0-0, $750. Finished third in Fair Hill’s 2018 Valentine Memorial ratings handicap. Won Daniel Van Clief Memorial optional allowance hurdle at Foxfield Spring after second in Georgia Cup. In only 2017 start, won Virginia Fall’s Randolph D. Rouse Memorial ratings handicap. (124)
Daneking (GB). 2009 b. g., Dylan Thomas (Ire)—Sadie Thompson, by King’s Best. Owner: Rosbrian Farm. Trainer: Ricky Hendriks. Jockey: Darren Nagle. Breeder: Sir Eric Parker (GB). 2018 NSA record: 3-0-0-0, $1,800. 2017 NSA record: No starts. After being pulled up in 2018 Carolina Cup, finished fifth in Iroquois ratings handicap and fourth in Fair Hill apprentice allowance hurdle. Missed the 2016 and 2017 racing seasons after being imported. For champion Irish trainer Willie Mullins in 2015, had two second-place finishes in hurdle handicaps at Thurles in County Tipperary after unseating his rider in a Cork allowance hurdle. (120)
New Member (Ire). 2011 b. g., Alhaarth (Ire)—Sincere, by Buhhare. Owner: Armata Stables. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Breeder: Jockey: Willie McCarthy. Golden Garden Stud. 2018 NSA record: 3-0-0-2, $10,500. 2017 NSA record: 4-0-1-2, $28,500. Began 2018 with thirds in Carolina Cup and Queen’s Cup MPC ’Chase, then was sixth in Iroquois’ Marcellus Frost Champion Hurdle. Finished second in Belmont Park’s 2017 William Entenmann Novice Stakes after well-beaten third in Saratoga’s Michael G. Walsh Novice Stakes. Finished third in Far Hills’ Foxbrook Champion Hurdle. Finished good third in Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes but disqualified for going off-course in tight quarters. Had allowance and handicap wins in England in 2016. (127)
Lord Justice (Ire). 2013 b. g., Zoffany (Ire)—Roselita, by Sadler’s Wells. Owner: Bruton Street-US. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Jockey: Sean McDermott. Breeder: Whisperview Trading (Ire). 2018 NSA record: 2-1-1-0, $36,300. 2017 NSA record: 2-0-2-0, $12,600. Won 2018 Iroquois Steeplechase’s allowance hurdle after close second in Block House allowance hurdle. In two U.S. starts in 2017, finished second in Foxfield Fall’s optional allowance hurdle and International Gold Cup allowance hurdle. Showed good form on flat and over hurdles in Ireland. (129)
Mutasaawy. 2010 b. g., Tapit—Pretty Proud, by Mr. Greeley. Owner: Gillian Johnston. Trainer: Neil Morris. Jockey: Michael Mitchell. Breeder: Pretty Proud Syndicate (Ky.). 2018 record: 3-1-0-0, $24,000. 2017 NSA record: 6-2-1-1, $66,900. Won Fair Hill’s Valentine Memorial ratings handicap after seventh in Queen’s Cup MPC ’Chase and fall in Iroquois’ Marcellus Frost Champion Hurdle. Impressed in winning 2017 Saratoga allowance hurdle, then finished third in Belmont Park’s William Entenmann Novice Stakes. Stumbled and lost his jockey early in Far Hills’ Foxbrook Champion Hurdle, then was sixth in Aflac Supreme Hurdle. Broke through at Parx Racing with a dominant victory in a $25,000 maiden hurdle. (127)
Borderlinedecision (Ire). 2012 b. g., King’s Theatre—Dani California, by Beat All. Owner: Irvin S. Naylor. Trainer: Kathy Neilson. Jockey: Gerard Galligan. Breeder: Kevin McCarthy (Ire). 2017 NSA record: 1-0-0-0, $0. Finished third in Aiken Spring’s 2018 Budweiser Imperial Cup ratings handicap and was pulled up in Radnor’s James M. Moran ratings handicap. In first U.S. start, fell in 2017 Aiken Fall handicap. Won a Uttoxeter handicap, his second career win, before being imported. (107)