Gil Johnston’s Syros hit all the high notes in his most recent start in Nashville, and he leads a powerful group from trainer Jack Fisher’s stable for Saratoga Race Course’s $75,000 Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes on Thursday. The Kiser will be the first race with a 1 p.m. post time.
Jump racing’s emerging stars are spotlighted in the National Steeplechase Association’s novice division, and Syros will be looking to graduate into the championship division with a victory in the 2 1/16-mile Kiser.
The seven-year-old Dynaformer gelding set all the pace in the $75,000 Marcellus Frost Novice Stakes at the Iroquois Steeplechase on May 9 and kicked away to a 5 3/4-length victory. His prior victory was in a Saratoga allowance hurdle last August.
Syros will carry the silks of Chattanooga resident Johnston, who currently leads the steeplechase sport’s owner standings. Fisher has a big lead by both wins and earnings as he pursues his fourth straight training title. Jack Doyle, the current leader by purses and second by wins, will ride Syros.
The current top jockey by wins, Paddy Young, will be aboard Edith Dixon’s homebred Schoodic for Fisher. An impressive winner of Saratoga’s Michael G. Walsh Novice Stakes last August, the five-year-old finished second in the Queen’s Cup MPC ’Chase near Charlotte, N.C., on April 25 in his 2015 debut.
Fisher also trains the Queen’s Cup winner, Selection Sunday, who is owned by Andre W. Brewster and Sheila Williams. The six-year-old Harlan’s Holiday gelding will be ridden by Sean McDermott in the Kiser.
Racing Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard, who is looking to keep alive his record of at least one Saratoga victory each year since 1969, will saddle Stone Farm’s homebred Mandola, who finished second in the Marcellus Frost. Kieran Norris has a return call on the Bluegrass Cat five-year-old.
Trainer Kate Dalton will send out Gary Barber’s African Oil, who has marked himself as an emerging star with a maiden win at Iroquois and an allowance victory at Monmouth Park on June 19. The trainer’s husband, veteran jockey Bernie Dalton, will ride the French-bred.
Here is the field for the $75,000 Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes, which honors the memory of the champion jockey who died in a non-racing accident in 2000.
Portrade. 2009 b. g., Trade Fair (GB)—Portorosa, by Irish River (Fr). Owner: The Fields Stable. Trainer: Elizabeth Voss. Jockey: Gus Dahl. Breeder: Keene Bloodstock (Ire). 2015 record: 2-0-0-0, $2,500. 2014 NSA record: No starts. Finished fourth in National Hunt Cup (Gr. 3) at Radnor Hunt Races in suburban Philadelphia on May 16. Fell at second-to-last fence of the Queen’s Cup MPC ‘Chase for novices on April 25. In final 2014 starts in Ireland, won Ladbrokes Handicap Hurdle at Listowel and then was second in a handicap hurdle at Tipperary.
Syros. 2008 b. g., Dynaformer—Meridiana (Ger), by Lomitas (GB). Owner: Gil Johnston. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Jockey: Jack Doyle. Breeders: Jon and Sarah Kelly (Ky.) 2015 record: 2-1-1-0, $58,500. 2014 NSA record: 9-2-3-2, $90,600. Won $75,000 Marcellus Frost Novice Stakes handily at Iroquois Steeplechase on May 9. Finished a closing second in the 2015 Carolina Cup. Closed out 2014 with second-place finishes in the Foxbrook Champion Hurdle and AFLAC Supreme Hurdle. Won Saratoga allowance hurdle last August.
Cocodimama. 2009 dk. b. or br. g., Johar—Kschessinka, by Nureyev. Owner: Bon Nouvel Chasers. Trainer: Julie Gomena. Jockey: Mark Watts. Breeders: Mr. and Mrs. M. Roy Jackson (Ky.). 2015 record: 4-2-0-0, $30,750. 2014 record: 4-1-1-0, $21,300. Won Ratings Handicap at Fair Hill, Md., on May 23 after victory in Block House optional allowance hurdle in North Carolina on May 2. Finished sixth behind champion Demonstrative in Parx flat race for hurdlers on July 12.
Orchestra Leader. 2009 b. g., Van Nistelrooy—Magic of Life, by Seattle Slew. Owner: S. Bruce Smart. Trainer: Jimmy Day. Jockey: Willie McCarthy. Breeder: Strategy Bloodstock (Ky.) 2015 record: 3-1-2-0, $25,800. 2014 record: 6-1-0-2, $12,500. Opened 2015 season with win in Foxfield Spring’s Daniel Van Clief Memorial optional allowance race on April 25, then had second-place finishes in High Hope optional allowance hurdle at Lexington, Ky., and in Ratings Handicap at Parx Racing on July 14.
Balance the Budget. 2009 ch. g., Bellamy Road—Every Day Is Good, by El Corredor. Owner: Stonelea Stable. Trainer: Julie Gomena. Jockey: Darren Nagle. Breeder: Liberation Farm & Oratis (Ky.). 2015 record: 3-1-0-0, $30,000. 2014 record: 7-1-1-2, $27,000. Kicked away powerfully to win Aiken Spring’s 2015 Budweiser Imperial Cup (Gr. 3) by 21 lengths on March 21 and was subsequently seventh in Marcellus Frost Novice Stakes on May 9 and Parx’s Ratings Handicap on July 14.
Schoodic. 2010 b. g., Tiznow—Aunt Henny, by Hennessy. Owner: Edith R. Dixon. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Jockey: Paddy Young. Breeder: Edith R. Dixon (Ky.) 2015 record: 1-0-1-0, $23,500. 2014 record: 6-2-0-1, $67,500. Kicked off 2015 season with second in Queen’s Cup MPC ’Chase near Charlotte, N.C., on April 25. Pulled up in 2014 Foxbrook Champion Hurdle at Far Hills, N.J. Scored impressive win in Saratoga’s Michael G. Walsh Novice Stakes before seventh in Belmont Park’s William Entenmann Novice Stakes on Sept. 18. Three-year-old champion of 2013.
Selection Sunday. 2009 b. g., Harlan’s Holiday—Ntombi, by Quiet American. Owner: Andre Brewster. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Jockey: Sean McDermott. Breeder: Dr. John A. Chandler (Ky.) 2015 record: 1-1-0-0, $45,000. 2014 record: 7-2-2-1, $57,600. In only 2015 start, won Queen’s Cup MPC ’Chase near Charlotte, N.C., on April 25. Completed 2014 season with easy victory in Charleston Cup optional allowance hurdle. Finished sixth in Belmont Park’s $75,000 William Entenmann Memorial Novice Stakes a month earlier. Finished second in Saratoga allowance hurdle on July 23, then was well-beaten fourth in similar race on Aug. 18. Had two wins on the flat in New York.
African Oil (Fr). 2010 dk. b. or br. g., Royal Applause—Ahdaaf, by Bahri. Owner: Gary Barber. Trainer: Kate Dalton. Jockey: Bernie Dalton. Breeder: SCA La Perrigne (Fr). 2015 NSA record: 3-2-0-1, $48,105. Former California flat claimer took to jump racing and scored impressive victories in his two most recent starts, an Iroquois maiden hurdle on May 2 and a Monmouth Park optional allowance hurdle on June 19. In first start over fences, finished third at Queen’s Cup near Charlotte, N.C., on April 25.
Mandola. 2010 dk. b. or br. g., Bluegrass Cat—Vickey’s Echo, by Clever Trick. Owner: Stone Farm. Trainer: Jonathan Sheppard. Jockey: Kieran Norris. Breeder: Stone Farm (Ky.) 2015 record: 2-1-1-0, $28,500. 2014 NSA record: 2-1-0-1, $14,500. Began 2015 campaign with victory in Middleburg Spring optional allowance hurdle on April 18, then finished second in Marcellus Frost Novice Stakes at Iroquois Steeplechase near Nashville on May 9. In first start over fences, won an Aiken Fall maiden hurdle by a half-length, then finished third in Charleston Cup optional allowance hurdle.