On a spectacular afternoon of racing at the 72nd annual Iroquois Steeplechase, Jacqueline Ohrstrom’s Demonstrative edged past Divine Fortune at the finish line to win the $150,000 Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1) by a head on Saturday, May 11. Molotof, owned by Calvin Houghland’s widow, Mary Ann, finished a distant third in the richest race of the National Steeplechase Association’s spring season.
Demonstrative and Bill Pape’s Divine Fortune had completed the 2012 season in the same respective positions, with Demonstrative a length in front of Divine Fortune after a heady run through the stretch of the $100,000 Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup (Gr. 1) in Camden, S.C., on Nov. 17. The three-mile Iroquois was Demonstrative’s first start over fences in the current racing season, and Divine Fortune had tuned with a smart victory in the Sandhills Cup allowance race at the Stoneybrook Steeplechase in North Carolina on April 6.
Demonstrative and Divine Fortune followed the leaders in the early going of the Calvin Houghland Iroquois as Irv Naylor’s Lake Placid maintained a substantial lead for the first two miles, with Molotof and Slip Away chasing the leader. As Lake Placid tired on the final circuit of the racecourse at Nashville’s Percy Warner Park, Molotof took the lead, but the French-bred was no match for Divine Fortune, who made his move on the final turn under Darren Nagle, jumped to the lead, and opened a two-length advantage two fences from home.
Demonstrative followed Divine Fortune into contention and cut the advantage to a length at the final fence, but Divine Fortune held on gamely through the stretch. Jockey Robbie Walsh drove Demonstrative toward the finish, and the six-year-old Elusive Quality gelding seized the advantage in the closing strides. Demonstrative ran the Calvin Houghland Iroquois’ three miles in 5:42.40 on turf rated as good and became the season’s leading earner with the Grade 1 race’s $90,000 first-place check.
The Calvin Houghland Iroquois was the third victory of the afternoon for trainer Richard Valentine, who also won the first division of the George Sloan and John Sloan Jr. Sport of King maiden hurdle with Rose Marie Bogley’s Labonte and the $35,000 Bright Hour Hurdle with Augustin Stables’ Rainiero. Danielle Hodsdon rode Labonte, and Mark Beecher was aboard Rainiero.
Also claiming three victories on the eight-race program was champion trainer Jack Fisher, who kicked off his drive to the top at Iroquois last year. Gil Johnston’s Mr. Hot Stuff took the $75,000 Marcellus Frost for novices, and Woodslane Farm’s Sharp Numbers was sharp in winning the second division of the Sloan. For the second consecutive year, Fisher trained the winner of the Mason Houghland Memorial over timber fences, claiming the top prize with Worried Man over Naylor’s Tax Ruling, the two-time Calvin Houghland Iroquois winner who was making his first start over timber. Sean Flanagan rode the Mr. Hot Stuff and Sharp Numbers, while Tennessee-based apprentice Gus Dahl was aboard Worried Man.
In another exciting finish, Magalen O. Bryant’s Well Fashioned nipped Kisser N Run by a nose in the Margaret Currey Henley Sport of Kings Filly and Mare Stakes. Doug Fout-trained Well Fashioned was ridden by Willie McCarthy. Valentine trains Kisser N Run for Clarke Ohrstrom.
Armata Stables’ Embarrassed drew clear to a 4 3/4-length victory over Justpourit in the $15,000 Willowdale Steeplechase, the feature race of the Willowdale Steeplechase in Kennett Square, Pa., on Sunday, May 12. Subprime Lending finished third. Eye Said Scat Cat set most of the pace but was pulled up when his saddle slipped. Ridden by Cormac Farrell, Embarrassed won the 3 1/2-mile race on Willowdale’s steeplechase course in 8:30.60 on turf rated as good.
Trained by Kathy Neilson, Embarrassed completed a profitable eight days. A late decision to enter the Winterthur Bowl, Embarrassed had finished second on May 5. The 8-year-old Flatter gelding had won his maiden victory over timber at the 2012 Willowdale meet.