Jack Fisher, all but assured his eighth straight National Steeplechase Association trainer championship by wins, crossed the $1-million mark in purses for the fifth time in Colonial Downs’ first race, a $30,000 maiden hurdle, on Friday.
Gill Johnston’s Knockholt, favored at 9-to-5, just lasted to win by a nose over Ballybristol Farm’s Silver Crescent, who went past the winner just past the finish line. Wimborne Farm’s Drilliant finished third in a field of nine.
Sent to the starter as the 9-to-5 favorite, Knockholt paid $5.60 to win after running the maiden hurdle’s 2 ¼ miles in 4:08.82 on a firm Secretariat Turf Course.
The Colonial race, on the next to last day in August, was the earliest that Fisher has crossed into seven figures. He crossed that line in mid-October in 2017, when his stable accumulated a record $1,321,150 in purses. He is the only trainer in National Steeplechase Association history to earn more than $1-million in a year.
Knockholt was his only starter on the Colonial card, and the $18,000 first-place purse raised his total earnings to $1,003,800.
Ridden by Willie McCarthy, Knockholt followed the pace set by Sudden Victory, who led by as many as eight lengths in midrace before he and chief pursuer, Midnight Clear, tired on the final turn. Knockholt surged early in the lane and led by four lengths at the furlong pole.
But Jack Doyle had Silver Crescent taking aim on Knockholt, and they were gaining quickly in the shadow of the finish line in a solid effort. Drilliant finished 5 ¾ lengths farther back under Barry Foley.
The evening’s $20,000 ratings handicap for horses rated at 110 or lower went to Jonathan Sheppard, the only trainer ahead of Fisher on the all-time earnings list, when Taking The Lead Stable’s Lead Investor scored a 2 ½-length victory under Gerard Galligan.
Leipers Fork Steeplechasers’ Querry Horse came back on six days rest from a second in a Colonial ratings handicap to finish second again under Doyle. Morning Star Farm’s Shoreline finished third, a length farther back, in a field of seven.
Irv Naylor’s Av A Word set the pace under pressure from 9-to-10 favorite Querry Horse before tiring in the stretch. Lead Investor stalked their pace, went past them in midstretch and drew away to the finish line. Largely ignored at 8.30-to-1, the second-longest price on the board, Lead Investor paid $18.60 to win after running the 2 ¼-mile distance in 4:13.89.
Racing Hall of Fame member Sheppard is second in the trainer ranks by wins this year with 11 victories to Fisher’ 27.