Several top performers in the National Steeplechase Association’s rising-stars division will face off Wednesday in Saratoga Race Course’s $75,000 Michael G. Walsh Novice Stakes. The 2 3/8-mile Walsh attracted a field of 10 and will be the afternoon’s first race at 1 p.m.
Jack Fisher, who currently leads the trainer standings by a yawning margin, entered Bruton Street-US’s Moscato and Armata Stable’s New Member. Moscato most recently finished a closing second in Saratoga’s Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes on July 27. An accomplished long-distance flat runner in England, Moscato has two wins and two seconds in his four U.S. jumps starts. Sean McDermott will ride.
New Member finished third in the Kiser but was disqualified for going off course when in tight quarters after the last fence. Darren Nagle, currently leading the NSA jockey standings, has a return call.
Ricky Hendriks, second in the trainer standings behind Fisher by both wins and earnings, will send out Wendy Hendriks’ Surprising Soul, who tired to finish fourth in the Kiser and was advanced to third. Ross Geraghty has a return call on this year’s winner of the Iroquois Steeplechase’s $100,000 Marcellus Frost Champion Hurdle for novices.
Jack Doyle will be aboard Jeffrey Amling’s and Merriebelle Stable’s homebred My Afleet, who finished second in the Marcellus Frost on May 13. For trainer Mark Beecher, My Fleet won his first two jump starts this spring. The six-year-old ended his flat career with a second in Saratoga’s 2016 John’s Call Stakes for former champion jump jockey Chuck Lawrence.
Also coming out of the Kiser are Gil Johnston’s Miguel Grau, who was advanced one spot to fourth, and James Carter’s Macnicholson, who finished sixth and was placed fifth. Trainer Richard Valentine named Shane Crimin to ride Miguel Grau, and Robert Dunne, a journeyman in England and Ireland, will ride Macnicholson for trainer Jimmy Day.
Leading owner Irv Naylor will unveil the four-year-old Irish-bred Bobabout, who won a Punchestown handicap in April and then had two second-place finishes before a sixth at Tipperary in his farewell to Ireland. Top Irish jockey Danny Mullins will ride for trainer Cyril Murphy.
Kate Dalton will saddle Edition Farm’s Zio Elio, who ran a close second in a Saratoga allowance hurdle on Aug. 2. Bernie Dalton will ride the New York-bred.
Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard will send out his mare Wigwam Baby, who finished second in Saratoga’s Mrs. Ogden Phipps Stakes on Aug. 3. Gus Dahl has the mount.
Completing the field is Rebecca Shepherd’s Curve of Stones, who most recently finished eighth in a Parx Racing handicap hurdle on July 11. Michael Mitchell has a return call.
Here is the field for the $75,000 Michael G. Walsh Novice Stakes over nine National Fences. The horses’ NSA ratings are in parentheses at the end of their profiles.
Wigwam Baby. 2011 b. f., Langfuhr—Tepee Tot, by Waquoit. Owner: Bill Pape. Trainer: Jonathan Sheppard. Jockey: Gus Dahl. Breeders: Bill Pape and Jonathan Sheppard (Pa.) 2017 NSA record: 1-0-1-0, $13,500. 2016 record: 2-1-0-0, $16,500. In first start over fences since May 2016, finished second in Saratoga’s 2017 Mrs. Ogden Phipps for fillies and mares. Opened 2016 with win in Atlanta allowance hurdle for fillies and mares, then was sixth in Margaret Currey Henley at Iroquois Steeplechase. Three-time winner on flat. (109)
New Member (Ire). 2011 b. g., Alhaarth (Ire)—Sincere, by Buhhare. Owner: Armata Stables. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Jockey: Darren Nagle. Breeder: Golden Garden Stud (Ire). 2017 NSA record: 1-0-0-0, $0. Finished good third in Saratoga’s Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes but disqualified for going off-course in tight quarters. Newcomer to American racing had allowance and handicap wins in England last year for trainer Tom Lacey. Showed little in Parx flat race for hurdlers on July 8. (130)
Bobabout (Ire). 2013 b. g., Big Bad Bob—Chaperoned (Ire), by High Chaparral (Ire). Owner: Irvin S. Naylor. Trainer: Cyril Murphy. Jockey: Danny Mullins. Breeder: John Harrington (Ire). 2017 NSA record: No starts. Newcomer to U.S. racing won Punchestown handicap in April for breeder-trainer and then had two seconds before sixth at Tipperary in late June.
Macnicholson (Ire). 2009 b. g., Definite Article (GB)—Heroic Performer, by Royal Applause (GB). Owner: James S. Carter. Trainer: Jimmy Day. Jockey; Robert Dunne. Breeder: D. Shine (Ire). 2017 NSA record: 3-0-0-0, $3,000. 2016 NSA record: No starts. Finished sixth and placed fifth in Saratoga’s Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes. Lost riders in his first U.S. starts, 2017 Carolina Cup and Marcellus Frost Champion Hurdle, both for novices. Finished third in a steeplechase allowance at Gowran Park in Ireland in January. Looking for first victory since August 2015. (130)
Miguel Grau. 2010 b. g., City Zip—Zuri Ridge, by Cox’s Ridge. Owner: Gil Johnston. Trainer: Richard Valentine. Jockey: Shane Crimin. Breeder: Sea Horse Breeders (Ky.) 2017 record: 2-0-0-0, $12,500. 2016 record: 6-1-1-2, $50,850. 2015 record: 6-1-1-1, $34,200. Advanced to fourth in Saratoga’s 2017 Jonathan Kiser Stakes. Opened 2017 with seventh in Carolina Cup, then was fourth in Queen’s Cup MPC ’Chase and Iroquois’ Marcellus Frost Champion Stakes, all for novices. Finished second in Belmont’s 2016 William Entenmann Memorial Novice Stakes, then was third in Far Hills’ Foxbrook Champion Hurdle. (120)
My Afleet. 2011 gr. or ro. g., Afleet Alex—My Own Story, by Lasting Approval. Owners: Jeffrey S. Amling and Merriebelle Stable. Jockey: Jack Doyle. Trainer: Mark Beecher. Breeders. Jeffrey S. Amling and Charles Noell. 2017 record: 3-2-0-0, $63,000. 2016 NSA record: No starts. Made a successful jumps debut with 34 1/2-length victory in 2017 Tryon Block House maiden hurdle, then won Virginia Gold Cup allowance hurdle before second in Iroquois’ Marcellus Frost Champion Hurdle for novices. Stakes winner on flat finished second in Saratoga’s John’s Call Stakes in final flat start. (128)
Zio Elio. 2013 ch. g., American Lion—Runaway Zia, by Runaway Groom. Owner: Edition Farm. Trainer: Kate Dalton. Jockey: Bernie Dalton. Breeders: Christopher Shelli, Patrick Morell, and Darby Dan Farm (N.Y.) 2017 record: 3-1-1-0, $28,900. Finished second, beaten a neck, in Saratoga allowance hurdle. In debut start over fences, won 2017 Queen’s Cup maiden hurdle, then tired to finish sixth in Parx handicap hurdle. Maiden on the flat at New York tracks. (114)
Moscato (GB). 2011 gr. or ro. g., Hernando (Fr)—Alba Stella, by Nashwan. Owner: Bruton Street-US. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Jockkey: Sean McDermott. Breeder: Miss K. Rausing (GB). 2017 record: 4-2-2-0, $66,000. 2016 NSA record: No starts. Finished closing second in Saratoga’s 2017 Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes. After promising start to U.S. career with close second in 2017 Carolina Cup maiden hurdle, won Queen’s Cup maiden by 7 1/4 lengths and Iroquois allowance hurdle by 6 1/2 lengths. (124)
Surprising Soul. 2012 b. g., Perfect Soul (Ire)—Elusive Srprise, by Elusive Quality. Owner: Wendy W. Hendriks. Trainer: Ricky Hendriks. Jockey: Ross Geraghty. Breeder: Charles Fipke (Ont.) 2017 record: 4-3-0-1, $103,500. 2016 NSA record: 3-0-2-0, $13,200. Advanced to third in Saratoga’s 2017 Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes after victory in Iroquois’ $100,000 Marcellus Frost Champion Hurdle. Won maiden hurdle at 2017 Aiken Spring easily and won allowance hurdle at Tryon Block House. (130)
Curve of Stones 2011 gr. or ro. g., Arch—Exceptionally, by El Prado (Ire). Owner: Sarah Rebecca Shepherd. Trainer: David M. Bourke. Jockey: Michael Mitchell. Breeder: Audley Farm (Va.) 2017 NSA record: 2-0-0-0, $0. 2016 NSA record: 3-2-0-0, $56,400. Finished eighth in 2017 Parx handicap. Pulled up in 2017 Fair Hill ratings handicap after ninth in Virginia Gold Cup flat race. Won maiden victory at 2016 Virginia Gold Cup and came back two weeks later to win $35,000 allowance hurdle at Radnor. Finished fifth in Monmouth Park ratings handicap. (112)