Reigning Eclipse Award winner Demonstrative began the defense of his North American championship with a game neck victory over Mr. Hot Stuff in the $150,000 Calvin Houghland Irouqois (Gr. 1), the signature race of Saturday’s Iroquois Steeplechase in Nashville and the richest race on the National Steeplechase Association’s spring schedule.
Barnstorming, raced by the Around the Ben partnership and trainer Jonathan Sheppard, finished third, 5 1/2 lengths farther back, and defending winner Divine Fortune was fourth, followed by 2009 winner Pierrot Lunaire.
Jacqueline Ohrstrom’s Demonstrative ran the Calvin Houghland Iroquois’ three miles in 5:47.60 on turf rated as firm to win for the second time in three years. Trainer Richard Valentine turned to Irish jockey Jack Doyle after regular jockey Robbie Walsh had a fall in a previous race. Walsh, who sustained a possible broken collarbone in the Marcellus Frost, “gave me everything I needed to know,” Doyle told Associated Press correspondent Alex Orr. “I just let the horse do the rest. If Robbie isn’t able to ride [Demonstrative] in his next race, I’ll be happy to be there.” Valentine said Demonstrative would be pointed toward Saratoga Race Course.
Bill Pape’s Divine Fortune set the Calvin Houghland Iroquois’ pace under Darren Nagle, and Gil Johnston’s Temple Gwathmey (Gr. 3) winner Mr. Hot Stuff took over on the final turn. Demonstrative made his move on the leader in the stretch and drew within a neck of Mr. Hot Stuff at the last fence. They battled head to head through the stretch, with Demonstrative securing a narrow advantage in the race’s late stages.
Doyle, again sojourning in the United States after riding at Saratoga Race Course last summer, rode Mrs. Johnston’s Syros to a 5 3/4-length victory in the $75,000 Marcellus Frost Novice Stakes for champion trainer Jack Fisher, who also trains Mr. Hot Stuff.
Mandola, bred and owned by the Stone Farm of Kentucky horseman Arthur B. Hancock III, finished second with Kieran Norris aboard. Choral Society was placed third on the disqualification from third to fourth of 2014 novice champion All the Way Jose. Syros, a leading novice last year, ran the Marcellus Frost’s 2 1/4 miles in 4:16.60.
Clarke Ohrstrom’s Kisser N Run, the 2013 Life’s Illusion Filly and Mare champion, moved to the top of this year’s female standings with a 2 1/4-two length victory over Bau Bai Gold in the $50,000 Margaret Currey Henley Stakes. Secret Reward finished third.
Trainer Valentine tapped Nagle to ride Kisser N Run after Walsh’s injury in the Marcellus Frost. She ran the Henley’s 2 1/4 miles in 4:20.
Mark Beecher continued his hot streak when he rode Armata Stables’ Cornhusker to the British-bred gelding’s second straight victory in the $50,000 Mason Houghland Memorial over timber fences. Irv Naylor’s Tax Ruling finished second for the third straight year, beaten 7 3/4 lengths in this year’s edition of the Mason Houghland. Northwoods Stable’s Peace Fire finished third.
On April 25, Beecher’s mount Raven’s Choice was placed first in the $75,000 Maryland Hunt Cup, and he rode Michael T. Wharton’s Grinding Speed to victory in the $90,000 Virginia Gold Cup on May 2. Like Grinding Speed, Cornhusker is trained by Alicia Murphy. Cornhusker ran the Mason Houghland’s three miles in 6:33.20.