The $40,000 Valentine Memorial Sport of Kings Filly & Mare Hurdle, feature race of the 44th annual Fair Hill Races, drew a strong, well-balanced field for the 2 1/4-mile race over National Fences on Saturday, May 26.
First post time is 1 p.m. at the historic steeplechase race course in northern Maryland; pari-mutuel wagering will be conducted on all races under Maryland Racing Commission supervision.
Trainer Doug Fout will have a strong hand for the Valentine Memorial with two runners owned by Magalen O. Bryant. Topping his entry is Ptarmigan, the 2010 filly and mare champion. The six-year-old Unbridled Jet mare came back after a nearly year-long absence to finish second in the $50,000 Margaret Currey Henley, a length behind her half-sister Quiet Flaine, at Nashville’s Iroquois Steeplechase on May 12. In her previous start, Bryant homebred Ptarmigan had finished fifth in last year’s Valentine Memorial. Jeff Murphy has the mount.
Fout also entered Well Fashioned, who finished fourth in the Henley. Well Fashioned wrapped up her 2011 season with a 5 1/4-length victory in the Crown Royal Stakes for fillies and mares at the Steeplechase at Callaway in Georgia on Nov. 5. Bernie Dalton will be in the saddle.
The Valentine Memorial also attracted the Henley’s third finisher, Arcadia Stable’s Opera Heroine. The eight-year-old Partner’s Hero mare won last summer’s major filly and mare stakes race, the Mrs. Ogden Phipps at Saratoga Race Course. Maryland-based trainer Jack Fisher named Darren Nagle to ride. Fisher also nominated Kingfisher Farm’s Maya Charli, who won the Henry Collins maiden claiming hurdle at the Radnor Hunt Races on May 19. Xavier Aizpuru will ride.
Racing Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard will be represented by his Cubist, who was placed first in a maiden special weight race at the Atlanta Steeplechase on April 14. Danielle Hodsdon will ride.
Also trying to break into the ranks of stakes winners is W. Russell Cline’s Better Than Even, who handily defeated males in her steeplechase debut. She subsequently was placed first in a claiming race at the Willowdale Steeplechase on May 13. Trainer Simon Hobson named Carl Rafter to ride.
Completing the field is Joseph Davies’ Eat Cake, a flat winner seeking her first win over fences. The owner’s wife, former champion jockey Blythe Miller Davies, trains the Louis Quatorze mare, and Barry Walsh has the mount.