A well-matched field of nine will take to Saratoga Race Course’s inner turf course on Wednesday for a $70,000 overnight handicap.
Leading trainer Jack Fisher will saddle Woodslane Farm’s Overwhelming, a two-time novice stakes winner last year, and Special Skills, owned by Sheila Williams and Northwoods Stable.
Sean McDermott will ride Overwhelming, who most recently finished fifth in the A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1) on Aug. 4. The six-year-old Hard Spun gelding carries the co-highweight of 156 pounds. A Saratoga winner last summer, he subsequently won Belmont Park’s William Entenmann Memorial Novice Stakes and the AFLAC Supreme Hurdle at the Steeplechase at Callaway in Georgia.
Paddy Young will be aboard Special Skills, who finished third in a Saratoga handicap on Aug. 3. The Bernstein gelding will carry 148 pounds.
Sue Sensor’s Top Striker, who did everything but win the Aug. 3 handicap when beaten a nose, will share the top weight with Overwhelming. Bernie Dalton returns to ride the Van Nistelrooy gelding, who is looking for his first win since the 2014 AFLAC Supreme Hurdle.
Leading jockey Jack Doyle takes over the mount on Armata Stables’ Rudyard K, who will carry 154 pounds in the handicap. Trained by Todd Wyatt, the Ohio-bred by Kipling finished third in the Middleburg Spring Races’ Temple Gwathmey (Gr. 3) before falling in the National Hunt Cup (Gr. 3) at the Radnor Hunt Races and losing his jockey in the Smithwick Memorial.
Trainer Julie Gomena will attempt to tip the balance with Stonelea Stable’s Balance the Budget, most recently seventh in the Smithwick Memorial. Mark Watts will ride the Bellamy Road gelding, who carries 150 pounds.
Leading owner Irv Naylor will unveil Lake Champlain, a winner over fences as a three-year-old last fall in his native Ireland. He is unplaced this year over fences and on the flat. Carol-Ann Sloan will ride for trainer Cyril Murphy.
Here is the field for the $70,000 hurdle handicap over 2 1/16 miles. The horse’s handicap weight is in parentheses at the end of each profile.
Special Skills. 2010 dk. b. or br. g., Bernstein—Kentucky Whisper, by Southern Halo. Owner: Sheila Williams and Northwood Stables. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Jockey: Paddy Young. Breeder: Sierra Farm (Ky.) 2016 record: 4-0-1-1, $24,250. 2015 record: 3-2-0-0, $45,000. Finished second in 2016 Carolina Cup, then fourth in Queen’s Cup MPC ’Chase. Pulled up in Fair Hill’s Valentine Memorial Ratings Handicap before third in Saratoga handicap. Closed his 2015 season with two victories, a maiden win at Suffolk Downs and an allowance hurdle score at the International Gold Cup. (148)
Rudyard K. 2009 b. g., Kipling—Two Bridges, by Major Impact. Owner: Armata Stables. Trainer: Todd Wyatt. Jockey: Jack Doyle. Breeder: Frances Hill Myers (Oh.) 2016 record: 3-0-0-1, $5,000. 2015 record: No starts. 2014 record: 3-1-2-0, $57,000. Finished third in Middleburg Spring’s 2016 Temple Gwathmey Handicap (Gr. 3), then fell in Radnor’s National Hunt Cup (Gr. 3) and lost rider in Saratoga’s A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1). (154)
Top Striker. 2009 b. g., Van Nistelrooy—Two’s Cozy, by Cozzene. Owner: Mrs. George M. Sensor. Trainer: Arch Kingsley Jr. Jockey: Bernie Dalton. Breeder: Sycamore Hall Farm (Md.) 2016 record: 4-0-1-2, $27,100. 2015 record: No starts. Lost a tough decision by a nose in Saratoga overnight handicap on Aug. 3. Finished second in Fair Hill’s Valentine Memorial Ratings Handicap. Finished third in 2016 David Semmes Memorial (Gr. 2) at Virginia Gold Cup after fourth in Middleburg Spring’s Temple Gwathmey Handicap (Gr. 3). Won 2014 Carolina Cup and AFLAC Supreme Hurdle. (156)
Overwhelming. 2010 b. g., Hard Spun—Oh What a Windfall, by Seeking the Gold. Owner: Woodslane Farm. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Jockey: Sean McDermott. Breeder: Phipps Stable (Ky.) 2016 record: 4-0-0-0, $9,250. 2015 record: 6-3-1-0, $136,300. Finished fifth in Saratoga’s 2016 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1). Pulled up in Middleburg Spring’s 2016 Temple Gwathmey Handicap (Gr. 3), then was sixth in David Semmes Memorial (Gr. 2) at Virginia Gold Cup. Finished fifth in Radnor’s National Hunt Cup (Gr. 3). Won Steeplechase at Callaway’s 2015 AFLAC Supreme Hurdle and Belmont’s William Entenmann Memorial Novice Stakes. (156)
Lake Champlain (Ire). 2012 b. g., Manduro (Ger)—Fantasy Girl, by Marju. Owner: Irvin S. Naylor. Trainer: Cyril Murphy. Jockey: Carol-Ann Sloan. Breeder: Windflower Overseas Holdings (Ire). 2016 NSA record: No starts. Had two wins over hurdles at three in Ireland and was unplaced in five starts this year over fences and on the flat. (144)
Perfect Union. 2011 dk. b. or br. g., Purim—Blue Northern, by Top Account. Owner: Beverly Steinman. Trainer: Doug Fout. Jockey: Kieran Norris. Breeder: Nelson E. Clemmons (Ky.). 2016 record: 4-1-0-0, $15,450. 2015 record: 6-0-2-1, $21,950. Won 2016 High Hope Ratings Handicap by 12 lengths, then finished eighth in Suffolk Downs Ratings Handicap and sixth in Saratoga overnight handicap. Began 2016 with sixth in Daniel Van Clief Memorial at Foxfield Spring. Three-year-old champion of 2014 after winning Far Hills’ Gladstone. (144)
Orchestra Leader. 2009 b. g., Van Nistelrooy—Magic of Life, by Seattle Slew. Owner: S. Bruce Smart Jr. Trainer: Jimmy Day. Jockey: Darren Nagle. Breeder: Strategy Bloodstock (Ky.) 2016 NSA record: 4-0-2-0, $11,650. 2015 record: 8-1-5-1, $52,000. 2014 record: 6-1-0-2, $12,500. Finished second in 2016 Aiken Spring’s Budweiser Imperial Cup optional allowance hurdle and Daniel Van Clief Memorial before being pulled up in High Hope’s optional allowance hurdle. Finished fourth in Monmouth Park Ratings Handicap. Placed first in Penn National flat race at 73-to-1. (146)
Bodie Island. 2008 dk. b. or br. g., Kafwain—Sweet Carolina, by Deputy Minister. Owner: The Elkstone Group LLC. Trainer: Richard Valentine. Jockey: Gus Dahl. Breeder: The Elkstone Group LLC (Ky.) 2016 record: 3-0-0-1, $2,500. 2015 record: No starts. Pulled up in 2016 David Semmes Memorial (Gr. 2) at Virginia Gold Cup, then finished third in High Hope optional allowance hurdle. Finished eighth in Saratoga handicap on Aug. 3. (148).
Balance the Budget. 2009 ch. g., Bellamy Road—Every Day Is Good, by El Corredor. Owner: Stonelea Stable. Trainer: Julie Gomena. Jockey: Mark Watts. Breeder: Liberation Farm & Oratis (Ky.). 2016 record: 2-1-0-0, $45,000. 2015 record: 7-1-1-0, $37,250. 2014 record: 7-1-1-2, $27,000. Kicked off 2016 season with victory in $75,000 Carolina Cup, a novice stakes, then was seventh in Saratoga’s A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1). Won Aiken Spring’s 2015 Budweiser Imperial Cup (Gr. 3) by 21 lengths. (150).