Owner-trainer Jonathan Sheppard’s Italian Wedding, given a savvy, powerful ride by Brian Crowley, overtook Demonstrative deep in Saratoga Race Course’s stretch and won the $70,000 Michael G. Walsh Novice Stakes by a length on Thursday, Aug. 18. Jacqueline Ohrstrom’s Demonstrative finished 4 3/4 lengths clear of All Together, the Jonathan Kiser Novice winner who surrendered the lead early in the stretch.
Italian Wedding, who had finished fourth in the 2 1/16-mile Kiser, savored the Walsh’s 2 3/8-mile distance and scored his first victory of the year in 4:33.54 on an inner turf course rated as good. The winner was part of a 2.15-1 favored entry with Sheppard’s One Giant Step, who finished fourth, 1 1/2 lengths behind All Together.
Racing Hall of Fame trainer Sheppard also won Steeplechase Thursday’s first race, the $53,000 National Steeplechase Association J. P. Morgan, an optional claimer at 2 3/8 miles, with Parker’s Project, owned by Hudson River Farms and ridden by Darren Nagle.
The novice stakes race, named for the late Racing Hall of Fame trainer Mickey Walsh, attracted several cast members from the Jonathan Kiser on July 28, the first Steeplechase Thursday at historic Saratoga.
As he had done in the Kiser, Carrington Racing Stable’s Here Comes Art went to the lead immediately, with Arcadia Stable’s All Together shadowing his pace under jockey Xavier Aizpuru. Italian Wedding raced on the inside, tucked in just behind the leaders.
Here Comes Art surrendered the lead to All Together on the final run down the backstretch, and Demonstrative took command on the final turn under Robby Walsh before jumping the final fence with a one-length advantage over All Together.
Crowley took Italian Wedding to the outside approaching the last National Fence, and they gradually overtook Demonstrative in deep stretch. All Together, the reigning novice champion, held on gamely for third.
In the NSA J. P. Morgan, 14.20-1 Parker’s Project took command at the eighth of ten fences and drew away to an impressive 3 1/2-length victory. Crowley finished second aboard Augustin Stables’ Port Morsbey, also trained by Sheppard.