Irv Naylor’s Dawalan, the 2015 Eclipse Award winner, returns to the races Saturday in a competitive edition of the $200,000 Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1), the richest race on the National Steeplechase Association’s spring calendar.
The Calvin Houghland Iroquois caps a seven-race program with purses totaling $525,000, a spring-season record. First post time is 1 p.m. Central Daylight Time at Nashville’s Percy Warner Park.
The three-mile race will provide a new starting point for the TVV Capital Iroquois-Cheltenham Challenge, which offers a $500,000 bonus for the horse who wins both the Calvin Houghland Iroquois and the Stayers’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival next March.
Nichols Canyon, this year’s Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle winner, had a strong chance of capturing the bonus but sustained an injury while shipping to the United States and was not entered. Nichols Canyon had finished third in last year’s Calvin Houghland Iroquois.
Dawalan, a French-bred import who won the 2015 North American championship with Grade 1 victories in the Grand National and Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup that fall, will be attempting to establish his championship credentials after missing last season with an injury sustained in an unsanctioned point-to-point race.
Cyril Murphy, who trained Naylor’s Rawnaq to victory in last year’s Calvin Houghland Iroquois, will put Jack Doyle in the saddle. A top Irish jockey who has been riding in the U.S. since 2015, Doyle has won the last two editions of the Calvin Houghland Iroquois, aboard Rawnaq last year and Jacqueline Ohrstrom’s Demonstrative in 2014.
Dawalan’s principal threat is Bruton Street-US’s Scorpiancer, who finished fourth in last year’s Calvin Houghland Iroquois. He subsequently picked up his first Grade 1 victory in Belmont Park’s Lonesome Glory Handicap last September.
The Irish-bred opened his 2017 campaign with a victory in the Temple Gwathmey Handicap (Gr. 3). Champion trainer Jack Fisher named Sean McDermott to ride.
Fisher, who has ruled the trainer standings for the last five years, also entered Gil Johnston’s Mr. Hot Stuff, a Grade 1 winner over fences in 2013, and Sonny Via’s Hinterland, an import seeking to make an impression in the U.S.
Champion jockey Kieran Norris rides Mr. Hot Stuff, and Hinterland will be ridden by Willie McCarthy, the 2014 champion jockey.
Paddy Young, who has reigned as champion jockey five times, will be aboard Ballybristol Farm’s Andi’amu for his wife, trainer Leslie Young. French-bred Andi’amu most recently finished fifth in the Tryon Block House Handicap on April 15.
Racing Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard will saddle Bill Pape’s Martini Brother, winner of the Georgia Cup optional allowance hurdle at the Atlanta Steeplechase on April 15. Darren Nagle has the mount.
Here is the field for the $200,000 Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1). The horses’ National Steeplechase Association ratings are in parentheses at the end of their profiles.
Scorpiancer (Ire). 2009 b. g., Scorpion (Ire)—Janebailey, By Silver Patriarch. Owner: Bruton Street-US. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Jockey: Sean McDermott. Breeder: Mary O’Connor (Ire). 2017 record: 1-1-0-0, $30,000. 2016 record: 6-1-3-1, $154,600. 2015 NSA record: 2-2-0-0, $75,000. Opened 2017 with victory in Temple Gwathmey Handicap (Gr. 3). Won Belmont Park’s 2016 Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1). Finished good second in Saratoga’s 2016 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1), then was third in New York Turf Writers Cup (Gr. 1). Finished second in Middleburg Spring’s 2016 Temple Gwathmey Handicap (Gr. 3), then fourth in Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1). (150)
Dawalan (Fr). 2010 gr. or ro. g., Azamour (Ire)—Daltawa, by Miswaki. Owner: Irvin S. Naylor. Trainer: Cyril Murphy. Jockey: Jack Doyle. Breeder: Aga Khan Studs (Fr). 2016 record: No starts. 2015 NSA record: 3-2-0-1, $255,000. Won 2015 Eclipse Award with victories in the Grand National (Gr. 1) and Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup. In first U.S. start, finished third, beaten 1 1/2 lengths, in Belmont Park’s Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1). (156)
Andi’amu (Fr). 2010 b. g., Walk In The Park—Sainte Parfaite, by Septieme Ciel. Owner: Ballybristol Farm. Trainer: Leslie Young. Jockey: Paddy Young. Breeder: Therese Bouche (Fr). 2017 record: 1-0-0-0, $1,600. 2016 record: 6-1-2-0, $77,300. 2015 NSA record: 4-1-3-0, $56,400. Opened 2017 with fifth in Tryon Block House Handicap. Finished hard-driving second in 2016 New York Turf Writers Cup (Gr. 1) and was fourth in Grand National (Gr. 1). Won Monmouth Park ratings handicap, then was fourth in Saratoga ratings handicap. Finished second in Iroquois ratings handicap. (130)
Mr. Hot Stuff. 2006 dk. b. or br. g., Tiznow—Sweet Damsel, by Turkoman. Owner: Gil Johnston. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Breeder: WinStar Farm (Ky.) 2017 record: 1-0-0-1, $5,000. 2016 record: No starts. Jockey: Kieran Norris. Finished third in 2017 Temple Gwathmey Handicap (Gr. 3) after missing 2016 season. Won 2015 Temple Gwathmey (Gr. 3) at Middleburg Spring and then was second in the Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1) Won the 2013 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1) at Saratoga. (146)
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. Breeder: Meadowview Farms (Ky). 2017 record: 1-1-0-0, $21,000. 2016 record: 3-0-0-1, $3,500. 2015 record: 2-0-1-0, $23,250. Opened 2017 with win in Georgia Cup optional allowance hurdle. Made comeback after more than a year on the sidelines with third in 2016 Noel Laing Handicap, then finished eighth in the Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup (Gr. 1). Finished second in the 2015 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1). Was one of 2013’s top novices. Grade 1-winning dam sold for $4.2-million at 2007 Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale while carrying Martini Brother. (128)
Hinterland (Fr). 2008 b. g., Poliglote (GB)—Queen’s Place, by Diamond Prospect. Owner: Harold A. “Sonny” Via Jr. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Jockey: Willie McCarthy. Breeder: Eric Aubree and Christian Bresson (Fr). 2016 record: No starts. 2015 NSA record: 2-0-1-0, $27,000. Finished second in 2015 Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1), his second U.S. start after seventh in Saratoga’s New York Turf Writers Cup (Gr. 1). (138)