The steeplechase season at Saratoga Race Course kicks off on Thursday, July 28, with the $70,000 Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes, and a strong field was entered for the 2 1/16-mile race that will feature several of the sport’s emerging stars.
Heading a talented field is Jacqueline Ohrstrom’s Demonstrative, a four-year-old who pulled away to a seven-length victory in the $50,000 William Entenmann Novice Stakes at Belmont Park on July 3. Trained by Richard Valentine, Demonstrative was the National Steeplechase Association’s three-year-old champion last year, and he collected his first 2011 victory in the Daniel Van Clief Memorial, an allowance hurdle race at the Fairfax Spring Races in Virginia on April 30.
The Elusive Quality gelding also finished third in the $50,000 National Hunt Cup for novices at the Radnor Hunt Races in Malvern, Pa., on May 21. Robbie Walsh has the mount on Saratoga’s first Steeplechase Thursday.
Demonstrative drew clear from a strong field in the 2 1/4-mile Entenmann, and taking another run at him will be last year’s novice champion, All Together, who finished third in the Entenmann. Owned by Sheila Williams and Andre Brewster, the Danzig gelding is looking for his first win of the year although he was second in both the $50,000 Georgia Cup at the Atlanta Steeplechase on April 16 and the National Hunt Cup.
Trainer Jack Fisher entered both All Together and Straight to It, also owned by Williams and Brewster. A five-year-old Giant’s Causeway gelding, Straight to It finished second in the David L. (Zeke) Ferguson Memorial Stakes (Gr. 3) at Colonial Downs on June 26. Straight to It previously had won the $30,000 Strawberry Hill Classic, an allowance hurdle, at Colonial on May 21. Xavier Aizpuru rides All Together, and Willie Dowling has the mount on Straight to It.
Tom Voss, currently steeplechasing’s leading trainer, entered Armata Stable’s Cornhusker, an English-bred Dynaformer four-year-old gelding who won his maiden victory at Fairfax and then was a good second in an optional allowance race at Parx Racing in Pennsylvania on June 5. Champion jockey Paddy Young has the mount.
Voss also entered Roger O’Byrne’s Tizsilk, who won the Sandhills Cup, an allowance race at the Stoneybrook Steeplechase in North Carolina on April 9. The Tiznow six-year-old gelding subsequently was unplaced in the $50,000 Queen’s Cup MPC ‘Chase near Charlotte, N.C., on April 30 and the National Hunt Cup.
Returning for another shot at the Kiser is owner-trainer Jonathan Sheppard’s Italian Wedding, who finished third in the Saratoga steeplechase opener last July. The six-year-old Alphabet Soup gelding has two fourth-place finishes this year, in the Georgia Cup and the National Hunt Cup. Brian Crowley has the mount.
Trainer Arch Kingsley Jr. entered Carrington Racing Stables’ Here Comes Art, who finished second in the Queen’s Cup, and High Hope Stables’ Baltic Shore, an impressive maiden winner at the Strawberry Hill Races at Colonial on May 21.
Completing the field are owner-trainer Michele Sanger’s Fog Island and owner-trainer Lilli Kurtinecz’s Call Me Sonny.
The novice stakes is named for two-time champion steeplechase jockey Jonathan Kiser, who died in a non-racing accident in July 2000. He won the jockey title by races won in 1999 and shared the crown with Kingsley two years earlier. He led the sport by purse earnings in 1998.
The Kiser will be the first race on Saratoga’s Thursday program and will be part of a busy day for steeplechase fans and participants. The day begins with coffee at the Morning Line Kitchen on Saratoga’s backstretch. Complimentary coffee, courtesy of the NSA, will be served from 8-9 a.m. After Saratoga’s featured flat race, the $75,000 Quick Call Stakes, the Kiser winner will be toasted at the Paddock Bar. Capping the evening will be a reception at the Saratoga home of Tom and Mimi Voss.