Arcadia Stables’ Opera Heroine, on key throughout Saratoga Race Course’s $74,000 Mrs. Ogden Phipps, jumped to the lead at the seventh of nine fences and repelled late challenges by Magalen O. Bryant’s Well Fashioned and Irvin S. Naylor’s Lonesome Nun to win by three lengths on Thursday, Aug. 11.
Well Fashioned finished second, 3 1/4 lengths clear of Lonesome Nun in the first National Steeplechase Association stakes for fillies and mares at the historic New York track. Both were making their first starts for new owners after private sales.
Sent off at 3.90-1 in a well matched field of nine, Opera Heroine paid $9.80 to win after running the 2 1/16-mile distance in 3:54.11 on a firm inner turf course. The Mrs. Phipps was the second Saratoga victory of the season for Arcadia and trainer Jack Fisher, who won the $73,000 Jonathan Kiser Novice Hurdle with 2010 novice champion All Together on July 28, the track’s first Steeplechase Thursday.
Opera Heroine had won her maiden victory over fences at the Saratoga Open House on the lead, scoring by seven lengths over Bill Pape’s Beating the Odds on July 17. But the seven-year-old Partner’s Hero mare does not jump especially well on the lead, so Fisher entered the only other female in his Maryland-based stable, Maya Charli, to set the early pace.
“The main reason for Maya Charli being out there was because Opera Heroine doesn’t jump well out front, so I wanted her to have a leader. The other one set it up for her,” he said.
Ridden by Ross Geraghty, Maya Charli charged out to the early advantage, with Red Dirt Girl pursuing her and Opera Heroine tucked in third by jockey Willie Dowling. Opera Heroine moved into second position before crossing under the finish line for the final circuit of the course and jumped to the lead early on the final run down the backstretch.
Opera Heroine opened a 2 1/2-length advantage at the final fence with a strong jump and turned back the challenges by Well Fashioned, ridden by Jeff Murphy, and Lonesome Nun, with Darren Nagle aboard. Well Fashioned, 4.80-1, previously was owned by owner-trainer Kate Dalton, and Lonesome Nun, 3.35-1, had been owned by owner-trainer Bruce Miller. Doug Fout now trains Well Fashioned, and Brianne Slater is training Lonesome Nun.
Fox Ridge Farm’s Upper Gulch, favored at 3.15-1, moved into contention on the final turn but jumped the last fence awkwardly and finished fourth. Tuatha De Danann Stable’s Red Dirt Girl finished fifth under Robby Walsh.
Dowling said he was generally pleased with Opera Heroine’s race. “I was happy with her today,” he said. “She jumped a bit bold at times, but she got there.”
Fisher said his goal for Opera Heroine is the $50,000 Peapack Stakes for fillies and mares at the Far Hills Races in New Jersey in October. He indicated that the mare may return in the $70,000 Mrs. Walter M. Jeffords for fillies and mares at the same distance on Sept. 1, the final Steeplechase Thursday at Saratoga.
Bred in Pennsylvania by the late F. Eugene Dixon, Opera Heroine formerly was trained by Fisher’s father, now-retired horseman John R. S. Fisher.