Racing Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard invariably does well at Saratoga Race Course, and he kicked off the track’s first Steeplechase Thursday with a one-two finish by Bill Pape’s Martini Brother and the trainer’s Barnstorming in the $75,000 Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes on July 25.
With Darren Nagle in the saddle, Martini Brother moved up from last of 11 on the final run down Saratoga’s backstretch, drew into contention on the final turn, jumped to the lead at the final fence, and repelled Barnstorming to win by a half-length at odds of 2.65-1.
Barnstorming, an 18.40-1 longshot, came storming into Saratoga’s stretch and trailed only Martini Brother at the final fence. But Barnstorming and jockey Bernie Dalton were unable to cut into Martini Brother’s lead through the final furlong.
Clorevia Farm’s Extraextraordinary also charged from the back of the field with jockey Willie McCarthy to take third, two lengths behind Barnstorming. Extraextraordinary was part of a 2.55-1 favored entry with Dr. Skip, who had a wide trip and faded to finish fifth after pressing the early pace under Jody Petty. The Fields Stable’s Kingdom finished fourth with Paddy Young,
Gregory Hawkins’ Alajmal, the reigning novice champion who went off as the 5.40-1 third betting pick, appeared to be making a move on the final turn with jockey Ross Geraghty but faded to finish tenth.
Martini Brother, winner of Radnor Hunt Races’ $30,000 Thompson Memorial allowance hurdle in his previous start on May 18, ran the Kiser’s 2 1/16 miles in 3:50.18 on a firm inner turf course. He paid $7.30 to win and combined with Barnstorming for a $92 Sheppard exacta.
The Kiser set up for the closers with a strongly contested pace for the first mile and three-quarters. Riverdee Stable’s Constant Contact, a recent arrival from England, set out eagerly and fought for the top spot with Woodslane Farm’s Sharp Numbers, who led through 14 furlongs before fading to finish ninth. Constant Contact tired to finish seventh.