A field of veteran steeplechase horses—all but two of them running for a $30,000 claiming tag—will line up for a $65,000 optional allowance claiming hurdle on Wednesday as Saratoga Race Course begins its second week of jump racing. First post time is 12:25 p.m., and TVG will provide live coverage with expert commentator Jimmy Duggan.
Bill Pape’s El Season, who was feasting on starter allowance hurdles earlier in the racing season, will be looking to bounce back from a dull fourth in the High Hope Steeplechase’s Jay Trump starter allowance hurdle on May 18. Trained by Racing Hall of Fame member Jonathan Sheppard, El Season will have the services of current leading jockey Willie McCarthy.
Jack Fisher, who ended in a tie with Sheppard for the 2013 trainer title, will saddle Easy Reach and Virsito. Bred and owned by Sheila Williams, Easy Reach was favored in Parx Racing’s allowance hurdle on July 1 and faded late to finish second. He also was overtaken late in the Iroquois Steeplechase’s Bright Hour Stakes and collected second money. Jeff Murphy will ride.
Virsito, owned by Williams and Andre Brewster, made his first start in 20 months in a tough spot, the $150,000 Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1) on May 10, and was pulled up. Paddy Young, the reigning champion trainer, takes over the mount.
Irv Naylor, who currently leads the owner standings, will has two entrants, Charminster and Meganisi. Charminster, who has not raced since finishing fifth in the 2013 National Hunt Cup at the Radnor Hunt Races in suburban Philadelphia, made his American debut in 2012 with a second-place finish in Saratoga’s New York Turf Writers Cup (Gr. 1). Trainer Cyril Murphy named Carol-Ann Sloan to ride the Irish-bred.
Meganisi has one U.S. start, a seventh-place finish in last year’s A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1) at Saratoga. Bernie Dalton will ride for trainer William Dowling.
Leading Virginia-based trainer Richard Valentine will send out The Elkstone Group’s Bodie Island and Rose Marie Bogley’s Labonte. Bodie Island finished sixth in the Fair Hill Races’ Valentine Memorial, a starter stakes, on May 24. Labonte, one of the horses running without a claiming price, most recently was taken down by a fallen horse in a Monmouth Park hurdle on June 13. Robbie Walsh rides Labonte, and Kieran Norris has the mount aboard Bodie Island.
The other horse running without a tag is Dr. David Richardson’s Harrods Creek, winner of Saratoga’s John Call Stakes on the turf in 2012 and fourth last year. The Langfuhr gelding broke through for a maiden win over hurdles at Parx on July 1. Trainer Arch Kingsley Jr. will put hot jockey Ross Geraghty in the saddle.
Completing the field is Dale Thiel’s Call Me Sonny, a veteran starter-allowance competitor who finished third in the Valentine Memorial. Trained by Ricky Hendriks, he will be ridden by Darren Nagle, who is returning to jump races after sustaining a broken leg in a March training accident. Nagle finished second in last year’s jockey standings.
The entrants for Wednesday’s $65,000 optional allowance claiming hurdle, in post-position order, are:
Meganisi (Ire). 2007 b. g., Galileo (Ire)—Clandi di San Jore (Ire), by Lando (Ger). 2013 NSA record: 1-0-0-0, $0. . Owner: Irvin S. Naylor. Trainer: William Dowling. Jockey: Bernie Dalton. In only U.S. start, finished seventh in Saratoga’s 2013 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1). Veteran British hurdler finished second in John Smiths Handicap at Aintree in April 2013.
Virsito. 2006 b. g., Dynaformer–Turkish Gipsy, by Turkoman. Owner: Sheila J. Williams and Andre Brewster. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Jockey: Paddy Young. 2014 record: 1-0-0-0, $0. 2013 record: No starts. In first start in 20 months, pulled up in $150,000 Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1) at Nashville on May 10. Won maiden victory at 2012 Iroquois Steeplechase meet and then won a Saratoga Race Course optional allowance that summer.
El Season. 2007 b. g., El Prado (Ire) Owner: Bill Pape. Trainer: Jonathan Sheppard. Jockey: Willie McCarthy. 2014 record: 3-2-0-0, $25,000. 2013 NSA record: 6-1-1-1, $9,100. Ran an uninspired fourth in High Hope’s featured Jay Trump starter allowance hurdle in Lexington on May 18. Won Aiken Spring optional allowance hurdle by 9 1/2 lengths and a Queen’s Cup starter allowance by four. Won in Charleston Cup claimer last November to qualify for starter races.
Easy Reach. 2006 dk. b. or br. g, Arch–Brig, by Two Punch. Owner: Sheila J. Williams. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Jockey: Jeff Murphy. 2014 record: 4-1-3-0, $38,700. 2013 record: 6-2-1-0, $21,480. After second in Carolina Cup to open 2014 season, won Atlanta Steeplechase optional allowance hurdle and finished second in Bright Hour Stakes at the Iroquois Steeplechase on May 10 and Parx Racing allowance hurdle on July 1.
Bodie Island. 2008 dk. b. or br. g., Kafwain—Sweet Carolina, by Deputy Minister. Owner: The Elkstone Group. Trainer: Richard Valentine. Jockey: Kieran Norris. 2014 record: 2-1-0-1, $13,500. 2013 record: 7-1-0-2, $19,600. Won Carolina Cup starter handicap and then finished third in similar race at Queen’s Cup. Ended spring season with sixth in Fair Hill Races’ Valentine Memorial starter stakes on May 24.
Harrods Creek. 2007 ch. g., Langfuhr—Float and Sting, by Two Punch. Owner: Dr. J. David Richardson. Trainer: Arch Kingsley Jr. Jockey: Ross Geraghty. 2014 NSA record: 3-1-0-1, $18,500. Broke through for maiden win over hurdles at Parx Racing on July 1. Won Saratoga’s John Call Stakes on the turf in 2012 and finished fourth last year.
Charminster (Ire). 2006 b. g., Broadway Flyer—Monteleena, by Montelimar. Owner: Irvin S. Naylor. Trainer: Cyril Murphy. Jockey: Carol-Ann Sloan. 2014 record: No starts. 2013 record: 2-1-0-0, $14,000. 2012 NSA record: 3-0-1-1, $52,000. Coming back after more than a year on the sidelines, since a fifth-place finish in the 2013 National Hunt Cup (Gr. 3) at the Radnor Hunt Races in Malvern, Pa. Pulled away to a nine-length win in a Middleburg Spring optional allowance in his only other 2013 start. Ran second in 2012 New York Turf Writers Cup (Gr. 1), his U.S. debut.
Call Me Sonny. 2006 b. g., Posse—Chocolate Mauk, by Cozzene. Owner: Dale Thiel. Trainer: Ricky Hendriks. Jockey: Darren Nagle. 2014 NSA record: 4-0-0-1, $6,500. 2013 record: 8-2-1-2, $48,700. Finished third in Fair Hill’s Valentine Memorial starter stakes on May 24 after being pulled up in a Queen’s Cup starter handicap in late April. Finished fourth in Aiken Spring’s Budweiser Imperial Cup (Gr. 3) and a Dogwood Classic claimer.
Labonte. 2008 b. g., A.P. Indy–Wife for Life, by Dynaformer. Owner: Rose Marie Bogley. Trainer: Richard L. Valentine. Jockey: Robbie Walsh. 2014 record: 2-0-0-0, $0. 2013 record: 4-1-0-0, $12,000. Began current season with an eighth-place finish in Iroquois Steeplechase’s Marcellus Frost Novice Stakes on May 10 and then was taken down by a fallen horse in Monmouth Park optional allowance hurdle on June 13.