Three past winners, two Eclipse Award finalists, two past novice champions, and two multiple graded stakes winners are among 15 nominees to Saratoga Race Course’s $150,000 New York Turf Writers Cup Handicap (Gr. 1) on Thursday, Aug. 23.
Randleston Farm’s Spy in the Sky, upset winner of the 2009 New York Turf Writers, indicated he was ready for another shot at Saratoga’s biggest steeplechase purse with a 25-1 score in the $100,000 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1) on Aug. 2 at the Upstate New York track.
Trained in Virginia by Jimmy Day, Spy in the Sky was rated in the handicap weights at 152 pounds by National Steeplechase Association Director of Racing Bill Gallo Jr.
Leading owner Irvin S. Naylor nominated four contenders to the New York Turf Writers. His Tax Ruling, second in the 2011 Eclipse voting to Naylor’s Black Jack Blues, is the 156-pound highweight. Winner of the Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1) in Nashville in 2009 and 2010, Tax Ruling most recently finished eighth in the Smithwick after setting the early pace.
Naylor’s Decoy Daddy, also an Eclipse finalist, shares second place in the weights at 154 pounds. A multiple graded stakes winner last year, the Irish-bred gelding most recently finished fourth in the Smithwick.
Via Galilei, imported by Naylor this spring, has won two Grade 3 stakes, the Temple Gwathmey and the David L. “Zeke” Ferguson Memorial. Most recently ninth in the A. P. Smithwick, the Irish-bred was assigned 148 pounds.
Naylor also will be represented by another recent import, Charminster. The six-year-old Irish-bred gelding won a hurdle handicap at Warwick in May and most recently finished ninth in a race at Cartmel in northwest England. He was assigned 144 pounds.
Sharing the 154-pound assignment is Bill Pape’s Divine Fortune, winner of the A. P. Smithwick in 2009 and 2010. Trained by Racing Hall of Fame member Jonathan Sheppard, Divine Fortune finished fifth in the A. P. Smithwick after a good second-place finish in this year’s Calvin Houghland Iroquois.
The two most recent New York Turf Writers winners were both rated at 140 pounds. Pape’s Sermon of Love won in 2010, and Mabou upset last year’s edition at 16.60-1 for Drawing Away Stable and trainer David Jacobson.
Both are winless since their respective victories. Sermon of Love finished sixth in the Marcellus Frost (Gr. 2) at Nashville’s Iroquois Steeplechase on May 12, and Mabou was fifth in a Saratoga optional allowance hurdle on Aug. 2.
The 2009 novice champion, The Fields Stable’s Left Unsaid, finished a hard-closing nose behind Spy in the Sky in the Smithwick. Trained by Tom Voss, Left Unsaid was ranked at 146 pounds in Gallo’s handicap.
Voss also nominated Armata Stable’s Dynaski and Ballet Boy, owned by Merrifield Farm, Armata, and Robert Kinsley. Ballet Boy won the National Hunt Cup at the Radnor Hunt Races in Malvern, Pa., on May 19, and Dynaski was tenth in the Smithwick. Both were assigned 142 pounds.
All Together, the 2010 novice champion owned by Sheila Williams and Andre Brewster, pressed the early pace in the Smithwick and held on well to finish third, 1 1/2 lengths behind Left Unsaid. Trained by Jack Fisher, All Together was weighted at 144 pounds.
A contender for this year’s novice crown, Jacqueline Ohrstrom’s Demonstrative, was assigned 146 pounds. Steeplechasing’s champion three-year-old in 2010, Demonstrative scored a two-length victory in Saratoga’s $75,000 Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes on July 26.
Sheppard also nominated his Nationbuilder, who was weighted at 142 pounds after finishing third in the Calvin Houghland Iroquois in his most recent start.