Robert A. Kinsley’s No Wunder, given a confident ground-saving ride by Jack Doyle, surged to the lead Thursday after the last fence of Saratoga Race Course’ $70,000 handicap hurdle, opened daylight leaving the final turn, and drew away under a vigorous hand ride to a commanding victory.
Trained by Elizabeth Voss, British-bred No Wunder came into the 2 1/16-mile race from a second to Grade 1 winner Choral Society in an Aug. 9 Saratoga handicap hurdle and went off as the race’s 1.30-to-1 favorite in a field of seven.
No Wunder carried 144 pounds in the handicap and completed the distance in 3:47.49 on firm turf.
Stonelea Stables’ Balance the Budget, dismissed at 13-to-1 despite carrying the 154-pound highweight, finished second, 9 3/4 lengths behind No Wunder. Matthew T. Groff’s Selection Sunday closed some ground for third, 3 1/4 lengths farther back, and Orchestra Leader finished fourth.
After some bumping at the start, Rosbrian Farm’s Orchestra Leader took the early lead in company with Bill Pape’s Giza and Balance the Budget. Leading jockey Darren Nagle pressed Giza to the lead on the run through the far turn the first time.
Doyle had No Wunder comfortably on the inside, roughly five lengths off the leaders, as the field turned into the backstretch for the final time. Hardrock Eleven displaced a tiring Giza over the last of eight fences, but No Wunder rushed to the lead after clearing the obstacle.
Balance the Budget and jockey Mark Watts kept the new leader company on the final turn, but No Wunder edged away before opening five lengths at the furlong pole and then widening to the finish line under a hand ride.
The handicap was Saratoga’s final 2017 jump race and No Wunder’s third start at the Upstate New York track this summer. Before finishing second to Choral Society, he finished seventh and was placed sixth in the Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes on July 26. He scored his maiden victory over fences at the Fair Hill Races on May 27.