Armata Stables’ New Member moved up steadily on Saratoga Race Course’s inner turf course, took command before the final fence on the backstretch, and easily repelled a late move by favorite Mutasaawy to win Wednesday’s $75,000 Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes by 1 1/2 lengths.
Willie McCarthy rode New Member for trainer Jack Fisher, who put blinkers on the Irish-bred for the first time in a U.S. jumps career. The seven-year-old, who began his U.S. campaign a year ago in the Kiser, collected his first American victory.
Gillian Johnston’s Mutasaawy, the 1.45-to-1 favorite, finished second, 12 3/4 lengths ahead of Bruton Street-US’s Lord Justice, also trained by Fisher. Irv Naylor’s longshot Borderlinedecision finished fourth in a field of six.
New Member ran the Kiser’s 2 1/16 miles in 3:53.91 on turf rated as good after overnight rains. New Member went off as the 4.90-to-1 fourth betting pick and paid $11.80 to win.
Fisher, the reigning champion trainer by wins and earnings, decided to add blinkers at the suggestion of McCarthy, who rode him in three prior jumps starts this year. “I think the blinkers definitely improved my horse,” Fisher said. “I thought it was a very evenly matched race.”
Rosbrian Farm’s Daneking established the early pace, with Rosbrian’s Officer Sydney, Lord Justice, and Mutasaawy right behind him. Officer Sydney unseated jockey Ross Geraghty at the second fence.
New Member gradually improved his position and was third behind Daneking and Lord Justice with seven furlongs remaining.
Nearing the final fences, McCarthy said he believed he had New Member in good position. “After the second-to-last jump, he moved really well, and heading into the last jump, the horse in front [Daneking] pulled up, so I thought if you want rip and roll, let’s go now. He just took off.”
New Member opened 4 1/2 lengths on a tiring Lord Justice and was 6 1/2 lengths ahead of Mutasaawy with a furlong to run. McCarthy checked the video board and allowed his mount to gallop to the finish line. Mutasaawy powered through deep stretch under Michael Mitchell but never was a threat to catch the winner.
“I knew the other horses were closing down on me,” McCarthy said, “but if they came to him, he would’ve held on. The blinkers just really helped his concentration toward the latter part of the race. I rode him earlier in the year, and I felt like I was a winner too turning for home, and he just let me down. So, the addition of blinkers was key for this race.”