Jacqueline Ohrstrom’s Demonstrative and Bill Pape’s Divine Fortune, the undisputed front-runners in the battle for the 2013 steeplechase Eclipse Award, have been nominated to meet again in Saratoga Race Course’s $100,000 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1) on Thursday, Aug. 1.
The 2 1/16-mile Smithwick will be a feature of Saratoga’s first Steeplechase Thursday doubleheader. Also on the program will be a $65,000 optional allowance hurdle.
In all, ten championship contenders were nominated to the Smithwick, including three newly arrived imports and 2012’s upset winner, Randleston Farm’s Spy in the Sky.
Demonstrative and Divine Fortune met most recently in the $150,000 Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1) in Nashville on May 11. With his characteristic late charge, Demonstrative edged ahead in the three-mile race to win by a neck over Divine Fortune.
Trained by Richard Valentine, Demonstrative would be making only his second start of the year over fences. Last year, the Elusive Quality gelding won two Saratoga stakes races, the Jonathan Kiser Novice and the $150,000 New York Turf Writers Cup (Gr. 1). He capped his season with a stunning drive past Divine Fortune to win the $100,000 Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup (Gr. 1) at Camden, S.C., on Nov. 17.
Racing Hall of Fame member Jonathan Sheppard, who trains Divine Fortune, nominated three others to the Smithwick. Two of them, Italian Wedding and One Giant Step, are owned by Sheppard and are coming back from long layoffs.
The third, Atlantic Equine’s Hunt Ball, would be making his first U.S. start. The veteran Irish-bred steeplechaser won a handicap at England’s Taunton Race Course in April.
Irv Naylor, the National Steeplechase Association’s three-time leading owner, nominated two newcomers, Changing Times and Meganisi. Now trained by Kathy Neilson, Changing Times was third in the Jewson Golden Miller at England’s Cheltenham Festival in March and the Betfred Manifesto Steeplechase at Aintree in April.
Willie Dowling, in his debut season as a trainer, handles Meganisi, who finished second in the John Smiths Hurdle at Aintree in April.
Spy in the Sky has only one start this year, a seventh-place finish in the $50,000 National Hunt Cup (Gr. 3) at the Radnor Hunt Races in Pennsylvania on May 18. But the Jimmy Day-trained veteran loves Saratoga. In addition to his 2012 Smithwick score, he won the 2009 New York Turf Writers at long odds.
Looking to bounce back from a puzzling fourth in Colonial Downs’ $50,000 David L. “Zeke” Ferguson Memorial (Gr. 3) in June is Gil Johnston’s Mr. Hot Stuff, who looked to be hot stuff indeed when winning Iroquois’ Marcellus Frost Novice Stakes by 2 1/2 lengths. Mr. Hot Stuff also had a flat career than included a fourth in the 2006 Belmont Stakes (Gr. 1).
Jack Fisher, the reigning champion trainer, nominated Mr. Hot Stuff and Woodslane Farm’s Brave Prospect, the second finisher in the Valentine Memorial at the Fair Hill Races in Maryland on May 25.
Here are the A. P. Smithwick nominees in alphabetical order:
Brave Prospect. 2007 b. g., Purge—Issaqueena, by Mr. Prospector. Owner: Woodslane Farm. Trainer: Jack Fisher. 2013 record: 3-1-1-1, $27,700. 2012 record: 9-1-4-0, $53,200. Finished second in Valentine Memorial at Fair Hill Races on May 25. Won Virginia Gold Cup starter allowance on May 4 after third in featured allowance hurdle at Dogwood Classic at Colonial Downs on April 4. Finished second in the 2012 AFLAC Supreme Hurdle at Callaway Gardens in Georgia after fourth-place finish in Belmont Park’s William Entenmann Memorial Novice Stakes on Sept. 27.
Changing Times (Ire). 2006 b. g., Dr Massini (IUre)—Pharenna (Ire), by Phardante (Fr.). Owner: Irvin S. Naylor. Trainer: Kathy Neilson. 2013 NSA record: No starts. Recent import finished third in the Jewson Golden Miller Steeplechase at the Cheltenham Festival and then was third in the Betfred Manifesto Steeplechase at Aintree’s Grand National meet.
Demonstrative. 2007 b. g., Elusive Quality–Loving Pride, by Quiet American. Owner: Jacqueline Ohrstrom. Trainer: Richard Valentine. 2013 record: 1-1-0-0, $90,000. 2012 record: 6-3-0-0, $209,000. 2011 record: 8-2-4-2, $96,300. Surged to a neck victory in the $150,000 Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1), his first 2013 start. Made an amazing late charge to win 2012 Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup (Gr. 1) by a length. Drew clear to a one-length victory in the 2012 New York Turf Writers Cup Handicap (Gr. 1) after two-length score in Saratoga’s Jonathan Kiser Novice. Finished fourth in 2012 Grand National (Gr. 1). Was 2010 three-year-old champion.
Divine Fortune. 2003 ch. g., Royal Anthem–My Tombola, by Northern Fling. Owner: William Pape. Trainer: Jonathan Sheppard. 2013 record: 2-1-1-0, $42,000. 2012 record: 7-1-3-0, $113,500. 2011 record: 4-1-1-0, $64,000. Finished solid second in $150,000 Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1) on May 11. Cruised to a convincing victory in the Sandhills Cup in North Carolina on April 6. Took lead at last fence of 2012 Colonial Cup (Gr. 1) and held on well for second, beaten a length. Set pace in Grand National (Gr. 1) and finished good second at Far Hills, N.J. on Oct. 20. Two-time winner of the A. P. Smithwick Memorial, in 2010 and 2011.
Hunt Ball (Ire). 2005 b. g., Winged Love (Ire)—La Fandango (Ire), by Taufan. Owner: Atlantic Equine. Trainer: Jonathan Sheppard. 2013 NSA record: No starts. Veteran British steeplechaser won Taunton handicap in April. Also won at the 2012 Cheltenham Festival.
Italian Wedding. 2005 b. g., Alphabet Soup–Effervescent, by Citidancer. Owner-trainer: Jonathan Sheppard. 2012 record: 1-0-0-0, $2,500. 2011 record: 6-1-0-0, $55,200. Would be making first start since fourth-place finish in the 2012 Carolina Cup. Won 2011 Michael G. Walsh Novice at Saratoga.
Meganisi. 2007 b. g., Galileo (Ire)—Clandi di San Jore (Ire), by Lando (Ger). 2013 NSA record: No starts. Owner: Irvin S. Naylor. Trainer: William Dowling. Veteran hurdler finished second in John Smiths Handicap at Aintree in April.
Mr. Hot Stuff. 2006 dk. b. or br. g., Tiznow—Sweet Damsel, by Turkoman. Owner: Gil Johnston. Trainer: Jack Fisher. 2013 record: 3-1-0-1, $52,500. 2012 record: No starts. 2011 record: 4-2-0-0, $35,000. Won Iroquois Steeplechase’s $75,000 Marcellus Frost for novices by 2 1/2 lengths on May 11 before fourth in Colonial Downs’ David L. “Zeke” Ferguson Memorial. Began 2013 campaign with a third, beaten 3 3/4 lengths, in the Queen’s Cup MPC ‘Chase on April 27. Maiden flat winner finished third in 2006 Santa Anita Derby (Gr. 1), 15th in the Kentucky Derby (Gr. 1), and fifth in the Belmont Stakes (Gr. 1).
One Giant Step. 2005 b. g., Mojave Moon–Gemini’s Gem, by Gemini Dreamer. Owner-trainer: Jonathan Sheppard. 2013 record: No starts. 2012 record: No starts. Would be making his first start since 2011 Michael G. Walsh Novice Stakes, in which he finished fourth. Won his 2011 debut at Aiken, S.C., in a $25,000 allowance race over a tough field and subsequently was second in William Entenmann Novice Stakes at Belmont Park.
Spy in the Sky. 2004 ch. g., Thunder Gulch—Monaassabaat, by Zilzal. Owner: Randleston Farm. Trainer: Jimmy Day. 2013 NSA record: 1-0-0-0, $0. 2012 record: 6-1-1-1, $111,250. 2011 record: 6-0-0-3, $12,000. Finished seventh in Radnor’s National Hunt Cup in seasonal debut on May 18. Ended 2012 season with a sixth in the Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup (Gr. 1). Missed by a nose in Lonesome Glory Stakes (Gr. 1) at Belmont Park on Sept. 27. Upset 2012 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1) at 25-1 on Aug. 2 and then was a respectable third in the New York Turf Writers Cup (Gr. 1), a race he won in 2009.