Saratoga Race Course celebrates Irish-American Day on Wednesday, and the flavor of Ireland continues Thursday when leading Irish trainer Gordon Elliott saddles two battle-hardened contenders in the track’s premier steeplechase race, the $175,000 New York Turf Writers Handicap (Gr. 1).
The 2 3/8-mile New York Turf Writers will be the first race on Thursday’s program with a 1 p.m. post time.
Elliott’s contenders, Clarcam and The Game Changer, will have new ownership for the New York Turf Writers and are destined to remain in the U.S. for the National Steeplechase Association’s fall championship season.
Both previously owned by Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown House Stud, Clarcam now is owned by Rosbrian Farm and Wendy and Ben Griswold, while The Game Changer is owned solely by the Rosbrian operation of Mandy and George Mahoney. Rosbrian and the Griswolds also own current leading earner Zanjabeel, who formerly was trained by Elliott.
Clarcam, a French-bred eight-year-old who carries the 158-pound highweight, is coming off a stunning 33-to-1 upset in the €250,000 Thetote.com Galway Plate Steeplechase on Aug. 1, when he opened a gaping lead and won by six lengths. A veteran of 47 prior races with 10 wins, Clarcam has earned more than $600,000.
The Game Changer, a nine-year-old Irish-bred, has 57 starts and has earned more than $400,000. He was unplaced in his two most recent starts but won an allowance hurdle in June. Davy Russell rides Clarcam, and Mark Enright will be aboard The Game Changer for County Meath-based Elliott.
The Game Changer shares the 150-pound second highweight with Rosbrian’s Optimus Prime, also making his first U.S. start, and Buttonwood Farm’s All the Way Jose, a 2017 Grade 1 winner trained by Racing Hall of Fame member Jonathan Sheppard. Ross Geraghty rides Optimus Prime, a multiple steeplechase allowance winner, and current leading jockey Jack Doyle gets his first ride on All the Way Jose, who finished fifth in Saratoga’s A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1) on July 30.
Sheppard also will saddle Hudson River Farms’ Iranistan, who sustained his first career jumps defeat in the Smithwick Memorial. The four-year-old Einstein gelding again will be ridden by Darren Nagle.
Handing Iranistan his first loss was Mark W. Buyck’s Show Court, who edged away to win by a length. Trained by Arch Kingsley Jr. and ridden by Michael Mitchell, Show Court carries 148 pounds in the handicap, one pound more than Iranistan.
Sharing the 144-pound weight assignment are Magalen O. Bryant’s homebred Personal Start and Armata Stables’ New Member. Personal Start, winner of the Virginia Gold Cup’s David Semmes Memorial (Gr. 2) in May, finished fourth in the Smithwick Memorial. A day earlier, New Member won Saratoga’s Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes after trainer Jack Fisher added blinkers to his equipment.
Barry Foley returns aboard Personal Start, and Willie McCarthy, who suggested the blinkers addition, will be on New Member. Fisher also will saddle Woodslane Farm’s Overwhelming, the Smithwick’s third finisher. Sean McDermott has the mount.
Here is the field for the $175,000 New York Turf Writers Cup in post-position order. The horses’ handicap weights are in parentheses at the end of their profiles.
Overwhelming. 2010 b. g., Hard Spun—Oh What a Windfall, by Seeking the Gold. Owner: Woodslane Farm. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Jockey: Sean McDermott. Breeder: Phipps Stable (Ky.) 2018 NSA record: 3-1-0-1, $34,000. 2016 record: 4-0-0-0, $9,250. 2015 record: 6-3-1-0, $136,300. Finished third in Saratoga’s 2018 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1). Returned to the races after missing 2017 season and won Tryon Block House allowance hurdle before sixth in Fair Hill’s Valentine Memorial ratings handicap. Finished fifth in Saratoga’s 2016 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1). Won Steeplechase at Callaway’s 2015 AFLAC Supreme Hurdle and Belmont’s William Entenmann Memorial Novice Stakes. (140)
Optimus Prime (Fr). 2012 b. g., Deportivo—Diluvienne, by Kaldoun. Owner: Rosbrian Farm. Trainer: Ricky Hendriks. Jockey: Ross Geraghty. Breeder: Haras de Plasence (Fr). 2018 NSA record: No starts. Making his U.S. debut after fourth in Pertemps Swindon Hurdle Handicap at Haydock in May. Began 2018 with an allowance steeplechase win and then was second at 25-to-1 in €115,000 Ryanair Novice Steeplechase at Ireland’s Punchestown Racecourse in April. Previously trained by Dan Skelton. (150)
Iranistan. 2014 dk. b. or br. g., Einstein (Brz)—Miss Vindictive, by Stephen Got Even. Owner: Hudson River Stables. Trainer: Jonathan Sheppard. Jockey: Darren Nagle. Breeder: Crossed Sabres Farm (Ky.) 2018 NSA record: 4-3-1-0, $127,500. Finished game second in Saratoga’s 2018 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1). Won 2018 Marcellus Frost Champion Hurdle for novices by six lengths. Skipped maiden ranks and won allowance hurdles at Carolina Cup and Middleburg Spring to begin 2018 season. Scored maiden flat victory at Delaware Park in July 2018. (145)
Show Court (Ire). 2009 b. g., Vinnie Roe—Sparking Gem, by Revoque. Owner: Mark W. Buyck Jr. Trainer: Arch Kingsley Jr. Jockey: Michael Mitchell. Breeder: Grange Stud (Ire). 2018 record: 2-0-0-0, $109,500. 2017 NSA record: 5-2-1-0, $112,000. Won Saratoga’s 2018 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1) by a length. Finished sixth in Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup (Gr. 1) after chasing winning pacesetter. Finished sixth in Saratoga’s 2017 New York Turf Writers Cup (Gr. 1) after winning Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes. Won 2017 Carolina Cup by seven lengths, then finished second in Queen’s Cup MPC ’Chase. Finished distant fifth in Iroquois’ Marcellus Frost Champion Hurdle. Won maiden over hurdles in Ireland in late 2015. (148)
The Game Changer (Ire). 2009 b. g., Arcadio—Gilt Ridden, by Heron Island. Owner: Rosbrian Farm. Trainer: Gordon Elliott. Jockey: Mark Enright. Breeder: Arctic Tack Stud and Crossogue Stud (Ire). 2018 NSA record: No starts. In early August 2018, unseated jockey in Lord Hemphill Memorial Handicap Steeplechase and pulled up early in €300,000 Guinness Galway Handicap Hurdle. Won an Irish allowance hurdle in June and finished second in a steeplechase allowance in July. (150)
New Member (Ire). 2011 b. g., Alhaarth (Ire)—Sincere, by Buhhare. Owner: Armata Stables. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Jockey: Willie McCarthy. Breeder: Golden Garden Stud. 2018 NSA record: 4-1-0-2, $63,000. 2017 NSA record: 4-0-1-2, $28,500. Won Saratoga’s 2018 Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes by 1 1/2 lengths. Began 2018 with thirds in Carolina Cup and Queen’s Cup MPC ’Chase, then was sixth in Iroquois’ Marcellus Frost Champion Hurdle. Finished second in Belmont Park’s 2017 William Entenmann Novice Stakes after well-beaten third in Saratoga’s Michael G. Walsh Novice Stakes. Finished third in Far Hills’ Foxbrook Champion Hurdle. Finished good third in Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes but disqualified for going off-course in tight quarters. Had allowance and handicap wins in England in 2016. (144)
All the Way Jose. 2010 b. g., Senor Swinger—Maternity Leave, by Northern Baby. Owner: Buttonwood Farm. Trainer: Jonathan Sheppard. Jockey: Jack Doyle. Breeder: Jonathan Sheppard (Pa.) 2018 record: 3-0-0-0, $ 10,750. 2017 record: 7-2-1-3, $179,300. Finished distant fifth in 2018 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1). Began 2018 with third in Temple Gwathmey Handicap (Gr. 2) at Middleburg Spring, then fell in Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1). Won 2017 Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1). Finished third in Grand National (Gr. 1), beaten two noses. Won Fair Hill’s $40,000 Valentine Memorial ratings handicap by 15 1/4 lengths, then lost rider in A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1) and was third in New York Turf Writers (Gr. 1). Novice champion in 2014. (150)
Personal Start. 2011 dk. b. or br. g., Jump Start—Personal Doreen, by Personal Flag. Owner: Magalen O. Bryant. Trainer: Richard Valentine. Jockey: Barry Foley. Breeder: Magalen O. Bryant (Ky.) 2018 record: 3-2-0-0, $98,750. 2017 record: 6-1-1-2, $46,750. Finished fourth in Saratoga’s 2018 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1).Won Virginia Gold Cup’s 2018 David Semmes Memorial (Gr. 2) by eight lengths after victory in Carolina Cup novice stakes. Won 2017 International Gold Cup allowance hurdle by eight lengths. Finished third in 2017 Saratoga allowance hurdle, then was second in Shawan Downs handicap and fourth in Virginia Fall’s Randolph D. Rouse Memorial Handicap. (144)
Clarcam (Fr). 2019 b. g., Califet (Fr)—Rose Beryl, by Lost World. Owners: Rosbrian Farm and Ben and Wendy Griswold. Trainer: Gordon Elliott. Jockey: Davy Russell. Breeder: 1m. 1Jean Michel & 2m. 1 Dominique Le Breton. 2018 NSA record: No starts. In most recent start, won €250,000 Galway Plate Steeplechase by six lengths at 33-to-1 odds. Unplaced in two previous 2018 starts, 11th in Guinness Handicap and in Randox Health Topham Steeplechase. Durable steeplechaser would be making his 48th career start and seeking his 11th win. (158)