The current steeplechase season’s two Grade 1 winners, Irvin S. Naylor’s Tax Ruling and Bill Pape’s Sermon of Love, will face off Saturday, Sept. 25, in the $100,000 Helen Haskell Sampson Stakes (Gr. 1) at Monmouth Park. The racing program at the Oceanport, N.J., track will feature five races for steeplechase horses with purses totaling $250,000. Proceeds will benefit the K. Hovnanian Children’s Hospital at Jersey Shore University Medical Center.
On a busy weekend of steeplechase racing, the $25,000 Ski Roundtop Trophy for timber horses will be featured at the Races at Shawan Downs in Hunt Valley, Md. on Saturday, and the Foxfield Fall meet in Charlottesville, Va., on Sunday will highlight young competitors in the $15,000 Barracks Maiden Hurdle.
The 2 1/2-mile Haskell Sampson, which attracted a talented field of seven, kicks off the National Steeplechase Association’s fall championship season. Also on the Monmouth program are the $70,000 Metcalf Memorial Novice Stakes and the $30,000 Guelph Stakes, a part of the Sport of Kings series for fillies and mares.
Sermon of Love, a seven-year-old Pulpit gelding, collected his first Grade 1 victory in Saratoga Race Course’s $100,000 New York Turf Writers Cup Handicap on Aug. 26. He previously had won the $70,000 Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes at Saratoga. Danielle Hodsdon, who rode Pape’s Mixed Up to the 2009 Eclipse Award for Racing Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard, will be in the saddle.
Tax Ruling, who landed his Grade 1 victory in the $150,000 Calvin Houghland Iroquois Stakes at Nashville, Tenn., on May 8, will again be ridden by Darren Nagle. Trained by Desmond Fogarty at Naylor’s farm in Butler, Md., Tax Ruling closed late to score a 4 3/4-length victory in the three-mile Iroquois, his most recent start.
The Haskell Sampson also attracted the second and third finishers from the Iroquois. Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Slip Away finished second, and Hudson River Farms’ Arcadius was third, another 1 1/4 lengths back.
Since then, Sheppard-trained Arcadius has twice finished ahead of Slip Away, who is trained by Tom Voss. Arcadius closed to finish second in the A. P. Smithwick Memorial at Saratoga on Aug. 5, while pacesetter Slip Away was third. In the New York Turf Writers, Arcadius again made a strong late move to take second, a length behind Sermon of Love, while Slip Away finished fifth. Brian Crowley will ride Arcadius, and current leading jockey Paddy Young will be on Slip Away.
Also in the Haskell Sampson field is Gregory T. Hawkins’ Red Letter Day, who is trained by Racing Hall of Fame trainer Janet Elliot. The seven-year-old Red Ransom gelding will be making his first start since finishing a neck behind Mixed Up in the Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup (Gr. 1) last November.
Sheppard, a runaway leader in the 2010 trainer rankings and closing in on his 1,000th National Steeplechase Association victory, also will have a strong hand for the 2 1/4-mile Metcalf Memorial with his homebred Italian Wedding, who will be ridden by Hodsdon. The five-year-old Alphabet Soup gelding won his first race over fences at Aiken, S.C., in March and then cruised to victory in the $20,000 Sandhills Cup at the Stoneybrook Races in Raeford, N.C., on April 3. He most recently finished third in the Kiser, beaten 1 3/4 lengths.
Voss will send out Dumbarton Farm’s homebred Easy Red, a stakes winner on the flat who denied Pape and Sheppard a sweep of Saratoga’s jump races when he won an allowance-optional claimer on Sept. 2. Also in the Metcalf Memorial field of nine is Saluda Sam, who finished third in the Sept. 2 race at Saratoga.
Flying Horse Stable’s Farah T Salute will carry the 152-pound high weight in the 2 1/4-mile Guelph, which drew a field of six. Trained by Jazz Napravnik, the seven-year-old mare most recently finished second in the Valentine Memorial at the Fair Hill Races in Maryland on May 29. Xavier Aizpuru will ride.
Owner-trainer Kate Dalton’s Miss Crown defeated males in a $15,000 claiming race at the Saratoga Open House on July 18. Bernie Dalton will have the mount.
Bon Caddo goes for a double
Merriefield Farm’s Bon Caddo returns to the Races at Shawan Downs on Saturday in pursuit of a second straight victory in the $25,000 Ski Roundtop Trophy, the featured timber race of the Shawan meet in Hunt Valley, Md.
Trained by Dawn Williams, the nine-year-old Bon Point gelding will meet a full field of Ski Roundtop contenders, including Maryland Hunt Cup winner Twill Do and defending timber champion Patriot’s Path.
Christopher Read has the mount on Bon Caddo, who will share the 165-pound high weight with four other starters in a field of 12, with three on the also-eligible list. He most recently finished second by a half-length to current timber division leader Bubble Economy in the $75,000 Virginia Gold Cup on May 1 and was third in the Grand National on April 17.
Lucy A. Goelet’s Twill Do will be making his first start since a five-length victory in the $75,000 Maryland Hunt Cup on April 24. Trainer Billy Meister named James Slater to ride the ten-year-old Yarrow Brae gelding, who previously had finished fourth in the Grand National.
Patriot’s Path, owned by Butler, Md., resident Irvin C. Naylor and trained by Desmond Fogarty, will be seeking his first win of the 2010 season. He opened the year with a fifth-place finish in the Grand National and then finished third in the Virginia Gold Cup. Willie Dowling was named to ride the ten-year-old Carnivalay gelding.
In addition to Bon Caddo, two other winners from the 2009 Shawan Downs meeting will return for a start in the Ski Roundtop. Owner-trainer Benjamin C. Swope’s Incaseyouraminer was a 42 1/2-length winner a highweight timber race, and Major Price won a $15,000 maiden timber race by 3 1/2 lengths for owner-trainer Alicia Murphy. Both will be making their first 2010 starts.
The tenth annual Races at Shawan Downs program features six races, and two others in addition to the Ski Roundtop attracted oversubscribed fields.
Young jumpers seek first win at Foxfield
Young steeplechase horses will be in the spotlight on Sunday in the $15,000 Barracks Maiden Hurdle, the featured race of the 33rd annual Foxfield Fall Races in Charlottesville, Va. The 2 1/8-mile race over National Fences, which attracted a field of six, is sponsored by BMW of Charlottesville and The Lewis Group MorganStanley SmithBarney.
In the field are two three-year-olds just starting their careers over fences. Kathy N. McKenna will saddle Hamilton Farm’s Great Halo, who ran away to a 7 1/4-length victory in a $15,930 claiming race at Penn National Race Course on May 27.
Mede Cahaba Stable’s Class Indian, also a three-year-old, won a maiden special weight race at Colonial Downs on June 6. Trainer Lilith Boucher named her husband, Richard, to ride the Waquoit gelding.
Magalen O. Bryant’s Classic Bridges won under National Steeplechase Association rules for the first time at the Iroquois meet in Nashville, Tenn., on May 8 when he took the $10,000 Guilford Dudley Memorial Flat Race by a length. Finishing third behind the four-year-old Sky Classic gelding was Sermon of Love, who since has won the $100,000 New York Turf Writers Cup Handicap (Gr. 1) at Saratoga Race Course on Aug. 26.
Trainer Neil Morris named Matt McCarron to ride Classic Bridges, who also was a two-time winner on the flat at racetracks.
First post time for the five-race Foxfield Fall program is 1:30 p.m., and proceeds benefit SARA, the Sexual Assault Resource Agency. The afternoon of family fun and steeplechase racing also will feature a $15,000 maiden claiming race for fillies and mares, which attracted eight entries.
–Written by Don Clippinger