Steeplechase racing inaugurated the Saratoga Race Course season on Sunday, July 17, at the annual Saratoga Open House, and four new winners were created in an action-packed program at the popular community event, which attracted a crowd of 20,000.
New York Racing Association President and CEO Charles Hayward discussed the upcoming Saratoga meet and steeplechasing. To watch the video, click here.
Julia Thieriot’s Jimtown kicked off the festivities with a swift victory in the first division of the $20,000 Sport of Kings maiden hurdle for runners five and older. Trained by Mairead Carr and ridden by Robbie Walsh, the seven-year-old Albert the Great gelding prevailed by a neck over owner-trainer Jonathan Sheppard’s Sergeant Karakorum. Magalen O. Bryant’s Southwest finished third.
Jimtown ran the 2 1/16-mile distance in 3:46.40, the fastest time of the four hurdle races at that distance.
Racing Hall of Fame trainer Sheppard came right back in the second division to collect a victory with Hudson River Stables’ Royal Rossi. Ridden by Brian Crowley, the lightly raced Rossini gelding drew clear to a 6 1/2-length victory over owner-trainer Teddy Mulligan’s Sovietspi in 3:53.20 on firm turf. Augustin Stables’ Auction Watch finished third.
In the first filly and mare hurdle ever on an Open House program, Arcadia Stable’s Opera Heroine hit all the right notes with a seven-length score in the $15,000 maiden race. Trained by Jack Fisher, Opera Heroine and jockey Willie Dowling completed the distance in 3:57.00. Bill Pape’s Beating the Odds finished second for trainer Sheppard.
Fisher collected back-to-back victories when Woodslane Farm’s Brave Prospect prevailed by a half-length over Bryant’s Royal Fling Shot in a $20,000 Sport of Kings maiden hurdle limited to four-year-olds. Fisher also trained the third-place finisher, Sonny Via’s Worried Man. Brave Prospect ran the 2 1/16 miles in 3:54.
In the concluding training flat race, Armata Stable’s Dynaski turned back Pape’s Divine Fortune by a neck, with Silverton Hill’s Chestermite finishing third. Trained by Tom Voss and ridden by Paddy Young, Dynaski ran the 1 1/2-mile distance in 2:42.
Fisher’s two victories moved him into a tie for fourth place by wins with six. Voss leads that category with ten wins over hurdles, and Richard Valentine and Lilith Boucher are tied for second with seven wins each. Fisher ranks third by purse earnings with $193,800, behind Voss ($227,650) and Sheppard ($196,750).
Young, last year’s champion jockey, maintained large leads by both wins and purses, and 2010 leading owner Irvin S. Naylor remained far ahead in the owner standings with 2011 purses of $248,975.