Steeplechase horses will be in action this week with two flat races for hurdlers at Parx Racing in suburban Philadelphia on Monday, and Monmouth Park in Oceanport, N.J., will feature two maiden hurdle races on Thursday, July 4.
All four races attracted full fields with also-eligible lists.
The Parx races, 1½ miles on the turf, drew 28 entries, with track officials carding two $25,000 divisions. The Bensalem track’s turf course is limited to 10 starters, with four also-eligible horses for each division.
In addition to racing for Parx’s purse money, the hurdle winners also will have a chance to gain additional fitness before heading off to races at Saratoga Race Course and Colonial Downs this summer.
The flat races for jumpers will be the third and fifth races, with approximate post times of 1:49 and 2:43 p.m.
Heading the first division is Rosbrian Farm’s Optimus Prime, the easy winner of the Virginia Gold Cup’s David Semmes Memorial (Gr. 2) on May 4. Trained by Ricky Hendriks, the current top-rated steeplechase horse will by ridden by Ross Geraghty.
Trainer Kate Dalton will saddle Belisarius, last fall’s Foxbrook Champion Hurdle winner. Owned by Gary Barber, Brous Stable, and Wachtel Stable, the Irish-bred Montjeu gelding had an extensive and successful flat career before transitioning to jump racing. Thomas Garner will ride.
Also in the first division is Mark W. Buyck Jr.’s Show Court, a flat winner at Parx in 2017 and victor in last year’s A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1) at Saratoga. Trained by Arch Kingsley Jr., the Irish-bred most recently was fourth in Fair Hill’s Valentine Memorial on May 25. Barry Foley will ride.
Michael Mitchell, currently leading the jockey standings, will be aboard Whitman’s Poetry for owner DASH Stable and leading trainer Jack Fisher. Stakes-placed on the flat in 2016, the Tiznow gelding most recently was second in a tough Iroquois Steeplechase allowance hurdle.
Mitchell will be aboard Woodslane Farm’s Other Cheek for Fisher in the second division. A maiden hurdle winner at the Virginia Gold Cup, the Smart Strike gelding had won a 2015 optional claimer on the flat at Delaware Park before starting his jumps career.
Reigning champion jockey Darren Nagle returns from injury to make his first 2019 start aboard Irv Naylor’s Sempre Medici in the second division. Trained by Cyril Murphy, Sempre Medici finished second to Optimus Prime in the Semmes Memorial.
Rosbrian will be represented by Markhan, who raced successfully on the flat in Irish handicaps before returning to the U.S. for a victory in at the Iroquois Steeplechase on May 11. Now trained by Hendriks, the six-year-old Birdstone gelding will be ridden by Geraghty.
Persistent rain and soft turf conditions forced Monmouth officials to cancel three jump races, including two maiden hurdles, on June 21. The maiden races were rescheduled for the July 4 program, and each division attracted 11 entries, with 10 permitted to start.
The 2 1/16-mile races over National Fences will be the first and third races on Thursday, with a 1:15 p.m. first post time for the holiday program.