The National Steeplechase Association’s battle to the Eclipse Award begins in earnest on Aug. 27 in the $150,000 New York Turf Writers Cup Handicap (Gr. 1), and 15 contenders were nominated to Saratoga Race Course’s richest jump race.
Among them are the reigning Eclipse champion, Jacqueline Ohrstrom’s Demonstrative, and the 2013 champion, Bill Pape’s Divine Fortune. Demonstrative, a two-time New York Turf Writers winner, was assigned the highweight of 156 pounds, and Divine Fortune is second in the weights at 150 pounds.
Saratoga’s A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1) on Aug. 6 indicated that this year’s championship battle may be wide open after Demonstrative finished third and Divine Fortune was fifth behind upset winner Choral Society.
Owned by the Petticoats Loose Farm of Maryland resident Meriwether Morris and trained by Jack Fisher, Choral Society was assigned 146 pounds for the 2 3/8-mile New York Turf Writers.
Fisher, the sport’s champion trainer the last three years and the runaway leader in 2015, also nominated Gil Johnston’s Syros (138 pounds) , winner of the Iroquois Steeplechase’s Marcellus Frost Novice Stakes; Edith Dixon’s Schoodic (138), winner of last year’s Michael G. Walsh Novice Stakes at Saratoga; Woodslane Farm’s Overwhelming (136), a Saratoga allowance winner last month; and Sonny Via’s import Hinterland (144), who would be making his first U.S. start.
Also nominated was All Together, a Fisher stalwart who was claimed away by owner-trainer David Jacobson on Aug. 5. In 2011, Jacobson claimed Mabou at Saratoga and brought him back to win that year’s New York Turf Writers. All Together was assigned 140 pounds.
Jonathan Sheppard, the Racing Hall of Fame horseman who trains Divine Fortune, also nominated Rod Moorhead’s All the Way Jose, last year’s novice champion, and Stone Farm’s Mandola, most recently third in Saratoga’s Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes.
The sport’s other active Hall of Fame member, Janet Elliot, nominated Gregory Hawkins’ Alajmal, who would be making his first jumps start since winning the 2013 Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup (Gr. 1). The First Samurai gelding would carry 148 pounds based on his Grade 1 credentials.
Virginia-based trainer Jimmy Day nominated his Carolina Cup winner, Diplomat (138), and Bruce Smart Jr.’s Bonded (136), a Saratoga allowance winner on Aug. 13.
The Fields Stable’s Bob Le Beau, the National Hunt Cup (Gr. 3) winner who finished fourth in the Smithwick, was nominated by trainer Elizabeth Voss. The Irish-bred was assigned 140 pounds.
Irv Naylor, the reigning champion owner, nominated Charminster, most recently third to Bob Le Beau in a Parx flat race for hurdlers on July 12. Trained by Cyril Murphy, Charminster (138) won an Iroquois Steeplechase Ratings Hurdle on May 11.
Here are the nominees to the $150,000 New York Turf Writers Cup Handicap (Gr. 1).
Alajmal. 2008 b. g., First Samurai—Alattrah, by Shadeed. Owner: Gregory D. Hawkins. Trainer: Janet Elliot. Breeder: Shadwell Farm (Ky.) 2015 record: No starts. 2014 NSA record: No starts. Making a comeback over fences after being on the sidelines for 14 months. Bookended his 2013 season with victories in the Carolina Cup and Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup (Gr. 1).
All Together. 2005 b. g., Danzig–Unify, by Farma Way. Owner-trainer: David Jacobson. Breeder: Jayeff B Stables (Ky.). 2015 record: 4-0-2-1, $24,250. 2014 record: 7-1-3-0, $62,000. Classy, consistent Danzig gelding was claimed by New York flat trainer from an Aug. 5 optional allowance hurdle for $30,000 and spins right back into race in which he finished fourth last year. Won Virginia Fall’s 2014 W. Gary Baker Memorial, then finished second in International Gold Cup’s David L. “Zeke” Ferguson Memorial (Gr. 3).
All the Way Jose. 2010 b. g., Senor Swinger—Maternity Leave, by Northern Baby. Owner: Rodman W. Moorhead III. Trainer: Jonathan Sheppard. Jockey: Willie McCarthy. Breeder: Jonathan Sheppard (Pa.) 2015 record: 2-0-0-0, $3,750. 2014 record: 6-3-3-0, $149,700. Lost rider in Queen’s Cup MPC ‘Chase, his 2015 debut, then was disqualified from third to fourth in Iroquois’ Marcellus Frost Novice Stakes on May 11. Clinched 2014 novice championship with Foxbrook Champion Hurdle victory. Finished second in Belmont Park’s William Entenmann Memorial Novice Stakes after winning Saratoga allowance hurdle by 14 1/4 lengths.
Bob Le Beau (Ire). 2007 dk. b. or. br. g., Big Bad Bob—Shine Silently, by Bering (GB). Owner: The Fields Stable. Trainer: Elizabeth Voss. Breeder: Anamoine Ltd. (Ire). 2015 record: 3-2-0-0, $51,250. 2014 record: 4-0-1-0, $9,450. Finished fourth in Saratoga’s A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1) on Aug. 6. Opened 2015 with win in National Hunt Cup (Gr. 3) at Radnor Hunt Races in suburban Philadelphia on May 16 and won Parx flat race for hurdlers on July 12. Bonded.
Charminster (Ire). 2006 b. g., Broadway Flyer—Monteleena, by Montelimar. Owner: Irvin S. Naylor. Trainer: Cyril Murphy. Breeder: Raymond Cahalane (Ire). 2015 record: 3-1-0-1, $34,500. 2014 record: 2-0-1-0, $11,700. Won Ratings Handicap at Iroquois Steeplechase on May 11 before third to Bob Le Beau in Parx flat race for hurdlers on July 12. In first start in more than a year, finished a good second in 2014 Saratoga optional allowance hurdle, then was pulled up in New York Turf Writers Cup. Ran second in 2012 New York Turf Writers Cup (Gr. 1), his U.S. debut.
Choral Society. 2009 gr. or ro. g., Holy Bull—Star Singer, by Awesome Again. Owner: Petticoats Loose Farm. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Breeder: Mayo West Farm and Liam Benson (Fla.) 2015 record: 3-1-0-1, $82,500. 2014 record: 6-2-1-1, $39,250. Pulled a 16.20-to-1 upset in A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1) on Aug. 6. Finished fourth, placed third, in Marcellus Frost Novice Stakes at Iroquois Steeplechase on May 9. Lost rider in Queen’s Cup MPC ‘Chase, his 2015 debut.
Demonstrative. 2007 b. g., Elusive Quality–Loving Pride, by Quiet American. Owner: Jacqueline Ohrstrom. Trainer: Richard Valentine. Breeder: Gainsborough Farm (Ky.) 2015 record: 3-2-0-1, $117,000. 2014 record: 6-3-1-1, $362,500. Lacked his usual late kick and finished third in the A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1) on Aug. 6. Scored his second victory in the $150,000 Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1) on May 9 and surged late to win flat race for hurdlers at Parx Racing on July 12. Secured 2014 Eclipse Award with consecutive Grade 1 victories in New York Turf Writers Cup, Lonesome Glory Handicap, and Grand National. Also won 2012 New York Turf Writers Cup (Gr. 1) and Colonial Cup (Gr. 1). Was 2010 three-year-old champion.
Diplomat. 2009 b. g., Kitten’s Joy—Waki Affair, by Miswaki. Owner: Daybreak Stables. Trainer: Jimmy Day. Breeders: Ken and Sarah Ramsey (Ky.) 2015 record: 4-1-0-0, $53,000. 2014 NSA record: No starts. Led at last in A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1) on Aug. 6 and faded to finish sixth, beaten 4 1/14 lengths. Began 2015 season with half-length victory in $75,000 Carolina Cup for novices, then finished fifth in David Semmes Memorial (Gr. 2) at Virginia Gold Cup on May 2 and fourth in Parx Racing flat race for hurdlers on July 12. Bred by champion owners-breeders Ken and Sarah Ramsey and is a full brother to stakes-placed Kitten Love.
Divine Fortune. 2003 ch. g., Royal Anthem–My Tombola, by Northern Fling. Owner: William Pape. Trainer: Jonathan Sheppard. Breeders: Bill Pape and Jonathan Sheppard. 2015 record: 2-0-0-0, $12,500. 2014 record: 5-2-1-0, $195,000. Set early pace in A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1) on Aug. 6 and faded to finish fifth. In only other 2015 start, set early pace in Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1) in Nashville on May 9 and faded late to finish fourth. Eclipse Award winner in 2013 had two Grade 1 wins in 2014, in Iroquois and Colonial Cup at Camden, S.C. Secured Eclipse with brilliant victory in 2013 Grand National (Gr. 1).
Hinterland (Fr). 2008 b. g., Poliglote (GB)—Queen’s Place, by Diamond Prospect. Owner: Harold A. “Sonny” Via Jr. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Breeder: Eric Aubree and Christian Bresson (Fr). 2014 NSA record: No starts. Making U.S. debut after modest success in England. Winless last year but finished third in Tingle Creek Steeplechase at Sandown. May benefit from faster ground in his new home.
Mandola. 2010 dk. b. or br. g., Bluegrass Cat—Vickey’s Echo, by Clever Trick. Owner: Stone Farm. Trainer: Jonathan Sheppard. Breeder: Stone Farm (Ky.) 2015 record: 3-1-1-1, $36,000. 2014 NSA record: 2-1-0-1, $14,500. Most recently third in Saratoga’s Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes on Aug. 3. Began 2015 campaign with victory in Middleburg Spring optional allowance hurdle on April 18, then was second in Iroquois Steeplechase’s Marcellus Frost Novice Stakes on May 11. In first start over fences, won an Aiken Fall maiden hurdle by a half-length, then finished third in Charleston Cup optional allowance hurdle. Won $50,000 maiden claimer at Arlington Park in 2013.
Overwhelming. 2010 b. g., Hard Spun—Oh What a Windfall, by Seeking the Gold. Owner: Woodslane Farm. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Breeder: Phipps Stable (Ky.) 2015 record: 2-1-1-0, $43,500. 2014 NSA record: 6-1-2-1, $27,250. Won Saratoga allowance hurdle by 8 1/4 lengths on July 29. Won his maiden victory over fences at Colonial Cup in Camden, S.C., last fall and finished second in Ratings Handicap at Atlanta Steeplechase in his only other 2015 start.
Schoodic. 2010 b. g., Tiznow—Aunt Henny, by Hennessy. Owner: Edith R. Dixon. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Breeder: Edith R. Dixon (Ky.) 2015 record: 1-0-1-0, $13,500. 2014 record: 6-2-0-1, $67,500. In only 2015 start, finished second in Queen’s Cup MPC ’Chase on April 25. Scored impressive win in Saratoga’s 2014 Michael G. Walsh Novice Stakes before seventh in Belmont Park’s William Entenmann Novice Stakes. Three-year-old champion of 2013.
Syros. 2008 b. g., Dynaformer—Meridiana (Ger), by Lomitas (GB). Owner: Gil Johnston. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Breeders: Jon and Sarah Kelly (Ky.) 2015 record: 3-1-1-0, $62,250. 2014 NSA record: 9-2-3-2, $90,600. Won Iroquois Steeplechase’s Marcellus Frost Novice Stakes before fourth in Saratoga’s Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes. 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. Had a win and third in Saratoga allowance hurdles last year.