Mark W. Buyck Jr.’s Show Court, sent to the start at surprisingly long 6-1 odds, burst to the lead at the top of Saratoga Race Course’s homestretch, quickly drew clear from his opponents, and won Wednesday’s $75,000 Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes by a comfortable 1 3/4 lengths.
Bruton Street-US’s Moscato ran a strong race while pressing Surprising Soul on the lead and finished second, while Armata Stables’ New Member crossed the finish line third.
Wendy Hendriks’ Surprising Soul finished fourth but was placed third when Saratoga’s stewards disqualified New Member for going off course after the last of eight fences. New Member, bidding on the inside, appeared to shy from Surprising Soul and jumped over a beacon marking the inside of the course.
Trained by Arch Kingsley Jr., Irish-bred eight-year-old Show Court ran the Kiser’s 2 1/16 miles in 3:47.72 on turf rated as good. The fourth betting choice, Show Court was a classic wagering overlay and paid $14.20 to win.
The Kiser marked a winning return over fences for jockey Michael Mitchell, who won the Carolina Cup aboard Show Court on April 1 but was seriously injured four weeks later when his mount fell and kicked him at the Queen’s Cup Steeplechase. Mitchell returned to ride Show Court to a narrow victory on the flat at Parx Racing on July 8.
At the start of the Kiser, Ross Geraghty allowed Surprising Soul to assume the lead, and Sean McDermott had Moscato right with him over all eight fences. New Member, ridden by Darren Nagle, and Show Court stalked the leaders for the first 1 1/2 miles.
Moscato and Surprising Soul, both riding impressive winning streaks this spring, appeared to be poised for a duel to the finish after the last fence at the end of Saratoga’s backstretch. To challenge them, Nagle went inside with New Member and ran into trouble.
Mitchell, meanwhile, went overland with Show Court. “He settled nicely and got a bit of cover, and his jumping was brilliant,” Mitchell said. There was a little bit of trouble coming around that last corner, and we just had to go a bit wide, but it didn’t matter by then. I committed and made my move and he got away nicely.”
Surprising Soul began to tire after New Member went off course, and Moscato took the lead. Show Court on the outside, quickly reduced Moscato’s advantage and surged to the lead before entering the homestretch.
Show Court quickly opened daylight and had a 2 1/2-length lead at the furlong pole before Mitchell eased the pressure on his mount and allowed him to gallop to the finish line. Moscato had two lengths on New Member at the finish, and Surprising Soul was five lengths farther back. Gil Johnston’s Miguel Grau finished fifth and was moved up to fourth in the seven-horse field.
Mitchell, a native of Rugby in England who rode extensively in New Zealand and had 51 winners there, has collected all of his wins this season aboard Show Court, who is owned by Buyck, a prominent South Carolina defense attorney. Buyck’s silks are garnet and black, the colors of the University of South Carolina, of which he is a trustee.
Mitchell gave the credit to his mount, who arrived in the United States in early 2016 and took some time to learn the ways of American racing. “It’s my first year fully committed to American racing, so to be winning races, I’m very fortunate,” Mitchell said. “He’s been a good horse to me this year. It’s not me that’s doing the job, it’s him.”
Show Court, who was second in the Queen’s Cup MPC ’Chase at the Queen’s Cup on April 29, ran a dull fifth in the Marcellus Frost Champion Hurdle for novices on May 13. Kingsley said he believed Show Court was tired from the spring campaign and put him away briefly before the Parx flat race for hurdlers.
“He was a little sharper today coming off his last, which was a flat race,” the Camden, S.C.-based trainer said. “We do that with some of these steeplechase horses sometimes to get them more on their toes and to get ready to make a nice finishing kick. It certainly didn’t hurt us any.”
The Jonathan Kiser honors the memory of the two-time champion steeplechase jockey who died in a non-racing accident in 2000. His mother, Dorothy Kiser, presents the trophy each year.