The 32nd annual Saratoga Open House on Sunday, July 15, kicks off the steeplechase season at historic Saratoga Race Course, and the afternoon’s festivities will feature three races over National Fences and two training flat races. First post time is 1 p.m. at the Open House, a community celebration sponsored by the New York Racing Association.
Two $25,000 Sport of Kings maiden races and a $15,000 hurdle race for fillies and mares are the final opportunities for horses to qualify for the rich Saratoga pari-mutuel races in July and August. The two open hurdle races—one for four-year-olds and the other for older competitors—attracted oversubscribed fields.
Also with long also-eligible lists are the two training flat races, which feature no fewer than three champions preparing for upcoming stakes races. In the first division is Jacqueline Ohrstrom’s Demonstrative, the 2010 three-year-old champion who won last summer’s William Entenmann Novice. In the second division are owner-trainer Jonathan Sheppard’s Sweet Shani, the reigning filly and mare champion, and Andre Brewster’s All Together, the top novice in 2010 and winner of last year’s Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes at Saratoga.
Also entered in the second division is Randleston Farm’s Spy in the Sky, winner of the 2009 New York Turf Writers Cup Handicap (Gr. 1) at Saratoga. The New York Turf Writers, highlight of the summer steeplechase season, will carry a $150,000 purse on Thursday, Aug. 23.
Also on Saratoga Race Course’s summer schedule is the $100,000 A. P. Smithwick Memorial, which has been upgraded to Grade 1 status this year. Bill Pape’s Divine Fortune, winner of the Smithwick the last two years, is on the also-eligible list in the second flat division, as is two-time Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1) winner Tax Ruling.
In all, NYRA scheduled nine steeplechase races, all on Thursdays, at Saratoga. Novices—horses in their first seasons of competition over fences—will be featured in the $75,000 Jonathan Kiser on July 26 and the $75,000 Michael G. Walsh Novice Stakes on Aug. 16.
Sunday’s filly and mare maiden race highlights a new aspect of steeplechase racing at the fabled Adirondack track. Last year, Arcadia Stable’s Opera Heroine won the maiden contest and in her next start scored in the Mrs. Ogden Phipps Stakes, Saratoga’s first-ever steeplechase race for fillies and mares.
The $75,000 Mrs. Phipps will be run on Aug. 9, and fillies and mares also will be featured in the $75,000 Mrs. Walter M. Jeffords on Aug. 30.
The community’s celebration of the Thoroughbred will conclude with the inaugural Steeplechase Festival at Saratoga on Saturday, Sept. 15. The community-run event will feature four steeplechase races and will kick off American Steeplechasing’s fall championship season.