Racing Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard already has extended his streak of winning at least one Saratoga Race Course race every season beginning in 1969, and on Thursday he will seek to maintain his dominance of the historic track’s steeplechase races in the $100,000 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1).
Last year, Sheppard won four of Saratoga’s nine steeplechase races, and he will have three contenders for the 2 1/16-mile Smithwick on the inner turf course. Post time is 12:25 p.m.
Heading his contingent is Bill Pape’s Divine Fortune, the reigning Eclipse Award-winning steeplechase horse who won the $150,000 Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1) in Nashville on May 10 and currently ranks as the sport’s leading earner. Willie McCarthy, who heads the jockeys’ standings, will ride the 11-year-old Royal Anthem gelding, who was bred by Pape and Sheppard.
For his own account, Sheppard will saddle 2013 New York Turf Writers Cup (Gr. 1) winner Italian Wedding and Barnstorming, victor in last year’s Michael G. Walsh Novice Stakes at Saratoga. Both are winless this year. Bernie Dalton returns aboard Italian Wedding, and Ross Geraghty rides Barnstorming.
Jack Fisher, who tied Sheppard for last year’s trainer title, will saddle All Together and Staying On. Owned by Andre Brewster and Sheila Williams, All Together revitalized his career at Saratoga last year with an optional allowance claiming win and a good second to Italian Wedding in the New York Turf Writers.
Michael Moran’s Staying On won the Queen’s Cup MPC ’Chase for novices in April and most recently was third in the Radnor Hunt Races’ National Hunt Cup (Gr. 3). Sam Jones has the mount on All Together, and Jeff Murphy returns on Staying On.
Elizabeth Voss Murray took over the stable of her late father, leading Maryland trainer Tom Voss, this past spring, and she will saddle Merriebelle Stable’s Makari and the Fields Stable’s Wanganui. Makari had two wins at small tracks in England this spring and will be ridden by Jack Doyle. Wanganui, the 2011 three-year-old champion, is attempting a comeback after missing all of last season. Gus Dahl will ride.
Jacqueline Ohrstrom’s Demonstrative, winner of the 2012 New York Turf Writers, is trying to regain his top form for trainer Richard Valentine. In his only appearance this season, Demonstrative finished sixth in the Calvin Houghland Iroquois, a race he won in 2013. Robbie Walsh will ride.
Another Virginia-based trainer, Doug Fout, will send out front-runner Pleasant Woodman, owned by Nashville resident Virginia Lazenby and Farm d’Allie Racing Stables. Pleasant Woodman used his tactical front-end speed to win Aiken Spring’s Budweiser Imperial Cup (Gr. 3), and Iroquois’ Marcellus Frost Novice Stakes. Gerard Galligan has a return call.
Completing the field is Randleston Farm’s Spy in the Sky, who upset the 2012 A. P. Smithwick at 25-to-1. Trainer Jimmy Day turned the mount over to reigning champion jockey Paddy Young.
Here is the field for the $100,000 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1) in post-position order.
Makari (GB). 2007 b. g., Makbul—Seraphim, by Lashkari (GB). Owner: Merriebelle Stable. Trainer: Elizabeth Voss Murray. Jockey: Jack Doyle. 2014 record: No NSA starts. Recent import is coming off two big allowance hurdle victories at small English tracks. Finished a distant 17th (of 28) in Vincent O’Brien County Hurdle at this year’s Cheltenham Festival.
Divine Fortune. 2003 ch. g., Royal Anthem–My Tombola, by Northern Fling. Owner: William Pape. Trainer: Jonathan Sheppard. Jockey: Willie McCarthy. 2014 record: 1-1-0-0, $90,000. 2013 record: 7-2-1-1, $207,000. 2012 record: 7-1-3-0, $113,500. 2011 record: 4-1-1-0, $64,000. Eclipse Award winner in 2013 blazed to 3 1/4-length score in Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1) in Nashville on May 10. Secured Eclipse with brilliant victory in Grand National (Gr. 1) at Far Hills, N.J., in October. Concluded season with fourth in Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup (Gr. 1) after being harried on the lead.
All Together. 2005 b. g., Danzig–Unify, by Farma Way. Owners: Andre W. Brewster and Sheila J. Williams. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Jockey: Sam Jones. 2014 record: 2-0-2-0, $9,000. 2013 NSA record: 7-1-3-0, $104,100. 2012 record: 6-0-0-3, $29,000. Performs well at Saratoga and is seeking a win after three straight second-place finishes in starter handicaps. Beaten mere nose in 2013 Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1) at Belmont Park, then was fifth in the Grand National (Gr. 1) at Far Hills, N.J. Ran strong second in Saratoga Race Course’s New York Turf Writers Cup (Gr. 1) after win in Saratoga optional allowance claimer for a $30,000 tag. Novice champion in 2010.
Wanganui. 2008 ch. g., Love of Money–Distant Drumroll, by Eastern Echo. Owner: The Fields Stable. Trainer: Elizabeth Voss Murray. Jockey: Gus Dahl. 2014 record: 1-0-0-0, $2,500. 2013 record: No starts. In only 2014 start, distanced fourth in National Hunt Cup (Gr. 3) at Radnor Hunt Cup in Malvern, Pa., on May 17. Champion three-year-old in 2011 sidelined all of 2013 after winless 2012 season, although he accumulated three second-place finishes.
Pleasant Woodman. 2008 ch. g., Woodman—Pleasant Sands, by Sandpit (Brz). Owner: Virginia Lazenby and Farm d’Allie Racing Stables. Trainer: Doug Fout. Jockey: Gerard Galligan. 2014 record: 3-2-0-1, $80,000. 2013 record: 9-2-1-1, $36,550. Scored front-running victories in $75,000 Marcellus Frost Novice Stakes at Iroquois Steeplechase on May 10 and Aiken Spring’s $50,000 Budweiser Imperial Cup (Gr. 3). Between the wins, finished third in $50,000 Temple Gwathmey (Gr. 3) after leading over last.
Staying On (Ire). 2005 b. g., Invincible Spirit (Ire)—Lakatoi (GB), by Saddler’s Hall (Ire). Owner: Michael J. Moran. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Jockey: Jeff Murphy. 2014 record: 2-1-0-1, $35,000. 2013 record: 5-1-2-0, $65,400. Began 2014 season with win in the Queen’s Cup MPC ‘Chase near Charlotte on April 26 and then was third in National Hunt Cup (Gr. 3) at Radnor Hunt Races in Malvern, Pa., on May 17. Scored game upset victory last year in Belmont’s William Entenmann Memorial Novice Stakes, then was closing second by a nose in Foxbrook Champion Hurdle in Far Hills, N.J.
Barnstorming. 006 b. g., Thunder Gulch—Soul of the Cat, by Stravinsky. Owner-trainer: Jonathan Sheppard. Jockey: Ross Geraghty. 2014 record: 1-0-0-0, $0. 2013 record: 7-1-2-0, $93,500. 2012 record: 2-0-0-1, $8,000. Tired and fell in Stoneybrook Steeplechase’s Sandhills Cup in North Carolina on April 5. Finished second in 2013 Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup (Gr. 1) after fifth in the $250,000 Grand National at Far Hills, N.J. Rolled to a 6 1/4-length victory in Saratoga Race Course’s Michael G. Walsh Novice Stakes after good second in Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes. his 2013 debut.
Italian Wedding. 2005 b. g., Alphabet Soup–Effervescent, by Citidancer. Owner-trainer: Jonathan Sheppard. Jockey: Bernie Dalton. 2014 record: 2-0-0-0, $6,000. 2013 record: 5-1-1-2, $133,000. Finished fifth in the Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1) on May 10 after being pulled up in the Temple Gwathmey (Gr. 3) at Middleburg Spring on April 19. Finished third in the 2013 Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup (Gr. 1). Rallied for third in Belmont Park’s $150,000 Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1) after one-length score in Saratoga Race Course’s $150,000 New York Turf Writers Cup Handicap (Gr. 1). Finished a good second in Saratoga’s $100,000 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1).
Spy in the Sky. (146) 2004 ch. g., Thunder Gulch—Monaassabaat, by Zilzal. Owner: Randleston Farm. Trainer: Jimmy Day. Jockey: Paddy Young. 2014 record: 1-0-0-0, $0. 2013 NSA record: 7-0-1-0, $25,100. 2012 record: 6-1-1-1, $111,250. 2011 record: 6-0-0-3, $12,000. Drought continued when pulled up in Temple Gwathmey on April 19. Also pulled up in the 2013 Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup (Gr. 1). Upset 2012 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1) at 25-1. Won 2009 New York Turf Writers Cup (Gr. 1) at 20-1.
Demonstrative. 2007 b. g., Elusive Quality–Loving Pride, by Quiet American. Owner: Jacqueline Ohrstrom. Trainer: Richard Valentine. Robbie Walsh. 2014 record: 1-0-0-0, $4,500. 2013 record: 5-1-0-1, $131,000. In only 2014 start, finished sixth in Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1), a race he won in 2013. Ended 2013 season with third in the Grand National (Gr. 1) at Far Hills, N.J., and fifth in Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup (Gr. 1) on Nov. 23. Won 2012 New York Turf Writers Cup (Gr. 1) and Colonial Cup. Was 2010 three-year-old champion.