Demonstrative and Divine Fortune, the respective winner and second finisher in last year’s season-ending Grade 1 race, will meet again on Saturday, May 11, in the $150,000 Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1), the crowning race of the rich Iroquois Steeplechase in Nashville’s Percy Warner Park.
The Calvin Houghland Iroquois will conclude an eight-race program that features three other stakes races. Also on the card are the $75,000 Marcellus Frost Sport of Kings Novice Stakes for steeplechasing’s rising stars, the $50,000 Margaret Currey Henley Sport of Kings Filly and Mare Hurdle Stakes, and the $50,000 Mason Houghland Memorial over timber.
First post time is 1 p.m. for the richest racing program on the National Steeplechase Association’s spring calendar.
Jacqueline Ohrstrom’s Demonstrative collected his second Grade 1 victory of the 2012 season when he swooped from the back of the field to overtake Divine Fortune and win the $100,000 Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup by one length on Nov. 17. The stalwart Elusive Quality gelding also won the $150,000 New York Turf Writers Cup (Gr. 1), the premier steeplechase race of the Saratoga Race Course season.
He previously had won Saratoga’s Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes in his exit from American Steeplechasing’s rising-stars division. Demonstrative, now a six-year-old, would be making his first 2013 start over fences, but trainer Richard Valentine saddled him for a victory in a training flat race at the Queen’s Cup Steeplechase on April 27. Regular jockey Robbie Walsh will be in the saddle for the Iroquois’ testing three miles.
Bill Pape’s Divine Fortune has had one jump start this year, a workmanlike victory in the $25,000 Sandhills Cup at the Stoneybrook Steeplechase in North Carolina on April 6. The veteran set the pace under Darren Nagle and won by 2 3/4 lengths.
Trained by Racing Hall of Fame member Jonathan Sheppard, Divine Fortune had only one allowance win last year, but he racked up strong second-place finishes the year’s two richest races, the Calvin Houghland Iroquois and the $250,000 Grand National (Gr. 1) at Far Hills, N.J. Nagle, currently leading the jockey standings, will be in the saddle.
Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Slip Away, the 2010 Eclipse Award winner, will contest the Calvin Houghland Iroquois after finishing second behind Divine Fortune in the Sandhills Cup allowance hurdle. The Skip Away gelding has ample experience over the Percy Warner course after finishing second behind Tax Ruling in the Calvin Houghland Iroquois in 2010 and 2011.
Trainer Tom Voss named three-time champion jockey Paddy Young to ride Slip Away. Voss also will saddle Armata Stables’ Cornhusker, a distant sixth in the Temple Gwathmey (Gr. 3) at Middleburg, Va., on April 20. Kieran Norris will ride.
Trainer Bruce Miller acquired Pierrot Lunaire from overseas for Calvin Houghland and gave him his first U.S. start in the 2009 Iroquois. Pierrot Lunaire won, and last year he won the Eclipse Award as steeplechasing’s outstanding performer for Calvin Houghland’s widow, Mary Ann.
Pierrot Lunaire is returning to training after minor surgery last month, and Miller has acquired a new runner for the Calvin Houghland Iroquois. Molotof, a French-bred six-year-old, won a steeplechase handicap in February and most recently was third in a steeplechase allowance race at Royal Ascot. Bernie Dalton will ride Molotof, who will race in Mrs. Houghland’s colors.
Leading owner Irv Naylor, who raced two-time winner Tax Ruling, will send out Lake Placid and Organisateur for the Calvin Houghland Iroquois. Both are trained by Brianne Slater and both will be looking for their first 2013 victories. James Slater, the trainer’s husband, will be aboard Lake Placid, the 2011 novice champion who finished seventh in the Temple Gwathmey.
Organisateur, who missed the 2012 racing season and came back with a fourth-place finish in the Block House optional allowance hurdle at Tryon, N.C., on April 20, will be ridden by reigning champion jockey Ross Geraghty.
$75,000 Marcellus Frost
A large and well-matched field was entered for the Marcellus Frost for novices, or horses in their first seasons of competition over fences. Brianne Slater will saddle Naylor’s Black Quartz, winner of the $50,000 Queen’s Cup MPC ‘Chase at the Queen’s Cup Steeplechase in North Carolina on April 27. Also in the field is Gene Weymouth’s Wild for Gold, second in the Queen’s Cup for Racing Hall of Fame trainer Janet Elliot.
Reigning champion trainer Jack Fisher will saddle Gil Johnston’s Mr. Hot Stuff, who finished third in the Queen’s Cup. Mr. Hot Stuff, who scored two wins over fences last year, competed in the 2009 Triple Crown races and finished eighth in the Belmont Stakes after a 15th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby.
Richard Valentine will send out Anne Pape’s Fog Island, who finished second in the $50,000 Carolina Cup for novices on March 30 in Camden, S.C., before being pulled up in the Queen’s Cup. Robbie Walsh rides. Valentine also will saddle Riverdee Stable’s Royal Bonsai, who would be making his first 2013 start since finishing third in the $250,000 Grand National (Gr. 1) in his U.S. debut at Far Hills, N.J., last fall. Danielle Hodsdon will ride Royal Bonsai.
Calvin Houghland Memorial
Irv Naylor’s Tax Ruling is returning to the Iroquois Steeplechase as a timber horse and will compete in the $50,000 Mason Houghland Memorial over three miles. Brianne Slater named Paddy Young to ride the two-time Calvin Houghland Iroquois winner in Tax Ruling’s first venture over post-and-rail fences.
Tax Ruling’s chief competition is likely to come from Kinross Farm and trainer Neil Morris. Kinross’ Old Timer won a division of the John Rush Streett maiden timber race at the My Lady’s Manor meet in Maryland on April 13. Ed’s Big Bet, also owned by Kinross, won a maiden timber race at the Foxfield Spring Races in Charlottesville, Va., on April 27.
Also in the field are Harold “Sonny” Via’s Worried Man, who was second in the Foxfield race and will be ridden by Gus Dahl. Jack Fisher, who won last year’s Mason Houghland with Lion’s Double, will saddle Worried Man and Woodslane Farm’s Grand Pride, who was fourth in the Middleburg Hunt Cup in Virginia on April 20.
Margaret Currey Henley Sport of Kings Filly & Mare Stakes
Magalen O. Bryant’s Quiet Flaine, winner of last year’s $50,000 Margaret Currey Henley, is returning for a chance at a second helping in the 2 1/4-mile race for fillies and mares. Doug Fout, who trains Quiet Flaine, also entered Well Fashioned for the Virginia-based owner.
Quiet Flaine is winless since her 2012 triumph, and the Bryant homebred most recently was pulled up in the $30,000 Georgia Cup for fillies and mares at the Atlanta Steeplechase on April 13. Well Fashioned, two-time winner of the Steeplechase at Callaway’s Crown Royal Stakes, finished sixth in the Georgia Cup.
They will be looking to upset a very strong field for the Margaret Currey Henley that includes the first five finishers from the Georgia Cup. Kingfisher Farm’s Maya Charli went to the lead and drew away to a seven-length victory over Clarke Ohrstrom’s Kisser N Run, who was four lengths ahead of Gregory Hawkins’ The Grey Express.
Marilyn Ketts’ Flying Friskie finished fourth and came back a week later to run a good second against males in the Block House allowance hurdle. Cubist, Jonathan Sheppard’s 2012 Saratoga stakes winner, finished fifth.