Several of American steeplechasing’s top competitors and an intriguing Irish invader will line up Thursday, Aug. 25, for the $100,000 New York Turf Writers Handicap (Gr. 1), the richest jump race on the Saratoga Race Course schedule.
The talented field of ten for the 2 3/8-mile race over ten National Fences includes four from Racing Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard’s barn, headed by the Bill Pape entry of Divine Fortune and Sermon of Love. Divine Fortune carries the 156-pound highweight in the handicap of National Steeplechase Association Director of Racing Bill Gallo Jr. after his victory in the $75,000 A. P. Smithwick Memorial on Aug. 4. Brian Crowley has the mount.
Sermon of Love, who will carry 150 pounds, is seeking his first win since a one-length score in last year’s New York Turf Writers. Darren Nagle has the mount. Danielle Hodsdon will ride Mary Ann Houghland’s Nationbuilder, who finished third in the Smithwick and carries 142. Nationbuilder will be part of an entry with Mrs. Houghland’s Sweet Shani, an 11-year-old mare who won the Iroquois Steeplechase’s Margaret Currey Henley in her most recent start on May 14. Xavier Aizpuru has the mount.
Second in the weights at 154 pounds is Irvin S. Naylor’s Decoy Daddy, who finished a solid second to Divine Fortune in the Smithwick, beaten two lengths after leading over the last fence. Trained by Tom Foley, Decoy Daddy won the $50,000 Temple Gwathmey (Gr. 3) and $75,000 Marcellus Frost (Gr. 2) in the spring.
Decoy Daddy’s jockey, Ross Geraghty, will find himself competing against his brother, Barry, who has the mount on Irish invader Dirar. Trained by Gordon Elliott, a fast-rising young Irish steeplechase trainer, Dirar enters from his second consecutive third-place finish in the Guinness Galway Hurdle Handicap.
Bred by the Aga Khan, the King’s Best gelding has had his biggest paydays on the flat, including a victory in the Totesport Ebor Handicap at York last August. Owned by Michael White, Marcus Reeder, and Emma Joh, Dirar has earned $392,482. He carries 150 pounds in the New York Turf Writers.
Randleston Farm’s Spy in the Sky, who was pulled up in the Smithwick, will carry 146 pounds as he seeks his first win of the year for trainer Jimmy Day. Jeff Murphy will ride Spy in the Sky, who won the 2009 New York Turf Writers.
Sharing the 140-pound weight assignment are Armata Stable’s Dynaski and Straight to It, owned by Sheila Williams and Andre Brewster. Dynaski, trained by Tom Voss and ridden by Paddy Young, finished fifth in the Smithwick, and Straight to It was unplaced in the Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes on July 28 for trainer Jack Fisher.
Making his first start for Drawing Away Stable and trainer David Jacobson is Mabou, who was claimed for $30,000 from a Saratoga optional allowance in which he finished fifth on Aug. 4. The eight-year-old Dynaformer gelding will be ridden by Robby Walsh and will carry 138 pounds.