Five recent maiden winners will take on veteran steeplechase runners in a $53,000 allowance optional claiming race at Saratoga Race Course on Thursday, Aug. 12. The 2 1/16-mile race over nine National Fences drew a full field of nine and was carded as the first race on the Saratoga program.
Two of the recent winners already have won on Saratoga’s turf. Parker’s Project, owned by Hudson River Farms and trained by breeder Jonathan Sheppard, won a maiden special weight race by 1 1/2 lengths on the Saratoga Open House program on July 18.
The four-year-old Parker’s Storm Cat gelding also finished second in the $25,000 Raymond G. Woolfe Memorial at Camden, S.C., last November. Danielle Hodsdon, the regular jockey of Parker’s Project, again will be in the saddle.
Sheppard and owner Bill Pape have won both steeplechase races so far in the Saratoga meet, and they will seek to keep the streak alive with Pape’s Lead Us Not, a Royal Anthem gelding who is seeking his first win in more than two years.
Bred by Pape and Sheppard, Lead Us Not most recently finished third to Dalucci in the $35,000 Bright Hour Amateur Hurdle at the Iroquois Races in Nashville on May 8. Brian Crowley has the mount. Pape’s Divine Fortune won the $75,000 A. P. Smithwick Memorial on Aug. 5, and Sermon of Love prevailed in the $70,000 Jonathan Kiser Memorial on July 29.
Also entering from a Saratoga Open House victory is Cave Farm’s Grantor, who scored by five lengths under Darren Nagle. Trainer Mark O’Dwyer named Nagle to ride the five-year-old New York-bred gelding by Broken Vow.
Jack Fisher, the reigning champion trainer, entered All Together, who had taken the measure of Grantor by 4 1/2 lengths in a maiden special weight at Penn National Race Course on June 18. Willie Dowling was named aboard the five-year-old Danzig gelding, who is owned by Arcadia Stables and Mrs. Rufus Williams.
Veteran steeplechase and flat trainer Tom Voss will saddle The Fields Stable’s Hidden Trail, a five-year-old Empire Maker gelding who won a Philadelphia Park maiden special weight race by 2 3/4 lengths on June 4. Champion jockey Paddy Young will be in the saddle.
Voss named Xavier Aizpuru aboard since Dumbarton Farm’s homebred Easy Red, a stakes winner on the flat who most recently finished fourth to Quiet Approval in the Saratoga Open House’s featured allowance race.
Another recent maiden winner is Chadds Ford Stable’s Saluda Sam, a 6 1/4-length victor in the Henry Collins maiden claiming race at the Radnor Hunt Races in Pennsylvania on May 15. Trainer Kathy McKenna named Carl Rafter to ride.
Mrs. George M. Sensor’s Riddle, who spent more than three years on the sidelines, returned with a ten-length victory in a Colonial Downs claiming race on June 13. He subsequently finished fifth to Class Bopper in the $50,000 David L. (Zeke) Ferguson Memorial (Gr. 3) at the Virginia racetrack on July 11. Trainer Arch Kingsley named Bernie Dalton to ride the nine-year-old Wagon Limit gelding.
Completing the field is Chess Board, who will be ridden by Ross Geraghty. Second to Slip Away in the $50,000 Temple Gwathmey Steeplechase (Gr. 3) at the Middleburg Spring Races in Virginia on April 17, he subsequently finished fourth in the Calvin Houghland Iroquois Steeplechase (Gr. 1) at Nashville and sixth in the Ferguson.
–Written by Don Clippinger