Four National Steeplechase Association hurdle races and a training flat race kicked off the racing season in Upstate New York at the Saratoga Open House on Sunday, July 17.
The Saratoga Open House is a popular community preview of the New York Racing Association season at Saratoga Race Course beginning July 22, and the NSA races provide the afternoon’s racing action without pari-mutuel wagering.
The five races attracted a record 46 entries, including three also-eligibles for the training flat race. Three hurdle races were scheduled originally, but a Sport of Kings maiden hurdle for horses five and older attracted 16 entries and was split into two divisions. Each division will carry a $20,000 purse.
For the first time, the Open House program will showcase fillies and mares in a $15,000 maiden hurdle. That 2 1/16-mile race over National Fences drew nine entries. Also on the program is a $20,000 Sport of Kings maiden hurdle for four-year-olds, which drew eight entries.
The maiden hurdles are important for owners and trainers because they offer the final opportunity to become eligible for races at the Saratoga meet by finishing in the top three. In addition to its rich schedule of stakes races, the Saratoga season will offer three $53,000 optional allowance races.
The training flat race will be a final tune-up for Saratoga’s schedule of steeplechase races. Among the entrants is Irvin S. Naylor’s Decoy Daddy, winner of the Marcellus Frost (Gr. 2) and Temple Gwathmey (Gr. 3) in the spring season. One of the also-eligibles is Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Slip Away, the reigning Eclipse Award steeplechase champion.
Saratoga Race Course’s Steeplechase Thursday schedule kicks off July 28 with the $70,000 Jonathan Kiser Novice Hurdle Stakes.