Sweet Shani, American Steeplechasing’s reigning filly and mare champion, will be seeking her first 2012 victory when she meets a talented field in Saratoga Race Course’s $75,000 Mrs. Ogden Phipps Stakes on Thursday, Aug. 9.
The 12-year-old New Zealand-bred mare will be making her first start in the silks of her trainer, Racing Hall of Fame member Jonathan Sheppard. Previously raced by Mary Ann Houghland, Sweet Shani will be ridden by Brian Crowley in the 2 1/16-mile race for fillies and mares.
In her only 2012 start, Sweet Shani was eased in the $50,000 Margaret Currey Henley at Nashville’s Iroquois Steeplechase on May 12. She had won the Henley the previous two seasons and locked up her 2011 title with a devastating victory in the Peapack Stakes at Far Hills, N.J., on Oct. 22.
Looking to remain unbeaten in 2012 will be Magalen O. Bryant’s homebred Quiet Flaine, who set all the pace in the Henley and won by a length over Ptarmigan, her older half sister. A four-year-old by Real Quiet, Quiet Flaine had won her maiden start over fences by 15 3/4 lengths at the Carolina Cup Races in Camden, S.C., on March 31. Trainer Doug Fout named Jeff Murphy to ride.
Quiet Flaine will be coupled in the wagering with Bryant’s Well Fashioned, who finished third in the Valentine Memorial at Fair Hill, Md., on May 26 after a fourth-place finish in the Henley. Willie Dowling will ride the Cozzene mare.
Also in the Mrs. Phipps field is Valentine Memorial winner Maya Charli, who has found her best form on the front end under jockey Ross Geraghty. After winning at maiden claiming hurdle at the Radnor Hunt Races in Malvern, Pa., on May 19, she came back on a week’s rest to take the Valentine by 2 1/4 lengths for owner-trainer Jack Fisher.
An intriguing newcomer is Cherry Knoll Farm’s Maggie Neary, an Irish-bred four-year-old making her first U.S. start for Racing Hall of Fame trainer Janet Elliot. Maggie Neary won her final two starts of 2011 and her first start this year at small Irish tracks. She most recently finished fifth in a hurdle race at Leopardstown. Reigning champion jockey Paddy Young will ride.
Here is the Mrs. Ogden Phipps field in post-position order:
Quiet Flaine. 2008 b. f., Real Quiet—Flaine, by Chenin Blanc. Owner: Magalen O. Bryant. Trainer: Doug Fout. Jockey: Jeff Murphy. 2012 record: 2-2-0-0, $39,000. Bryant homebred won $50,000 Margaret Currey Henley at Iroquois Steeplechase in Nashville on May 12 over half sister Ptarmigan, the 2010 filly and mare champion. Scored front-running, 15 3/4-length victory in filly and mare maiden hurdle at Carolina Cup Races in Camden, S.C., on March 31.
Maya Charli. 2007 gr. or ro. m., Cozzene–L’Enfant, by A. P Jet. Owner: Jack Fisher. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Jockey: Ross Geraghty. 2012 record: 5-2-0-2, $33,000. Front-runner upset Valentine Memorial at Fair Hill, Md., on May 26 against top-notch field. Cruised to a 5 1/4-length victory in the Henry Collins maiden claiming hurdle at the Radnor Hunt Races on May 19.
Maggie Neary (Ire). 2008 b. f., Hurricane Run (Ire)—Pleiade, by Baryshnikov. Owner: Cherry Knoll Farm. Trainer: Janet Elliot. Jockey: Paddy Young. 2012 NSA record: No starts. Recent import won two races at end of 2011 and first 2012 start at small Irish tracks. Most recently finished fifth at Leopardstown.
Well Fashioned. 2007 b. f., Cozzene–Crypos’ Best, by Cryptoclearance. Owner: Magalen O. Bryant. Trainer: Doug Fout. Jockey: Willie Dowling. 2012 record: 3-0-0-1, $6,500. 2011 record: 3-2-3-1, $60,600. Most recently finished third in the Valentine Memorial at Fair Hill, Md., on May 26 after a fourth in the Margaret Currey Henley at Nashville’s Iroquois Steeplechase. Started 2012 with an eighth-place finish against males in the $30,000 Woodward-Kirkover optional allowance race at the Carolina Cup in Camden, S.C., on March 31. Closed 2011 with a 5 1/4-length win in the Crown Royal Stakes for fillies and mares at the Steeplechase at Callaway in Georgia on Nov. 5.
Sweet Shani. 2000 gr. or ro. m., Kashani–Sterling Princess, by *One Pound Sterling. Owner: Jonathan Sheppard. Trainer: Jonathan Sheppard. Jockey: Brian Crowley. 2012 record: 1-0-0-0, $0. 2011 record: 3-2-0-0, $63,000. Reigning filly and mare champion making first start with trainer Jonathan Sheppard as owner. Showed little in first start in Margaret Currey Henley at Iroquois Steeplechase on May 12 and was eased. Locked up 2011 title with runaway victory in Peapack Stakes at Far Hills, N.J., on Oct. 22.
Eastern Starlett. 2005 b. m., Eastern Echo—Ample’s Star, by Risen Star. Owner: Marethon Stable. Trainer: Arch Kingsley Jr. Jockey: Willie McCarthy. 2012 record: 3-1-2-0, $14,400. Won Colonial Downs maiden hurdle by 2 1/4 lengths as the 3.30-1 favorite on June 17 after two second-place finishes.
Cat Feathers. 2008 dk. b. or br. f., Catienus—Mistress Hemming, by Quiet American. Owner-trainer: Kate Dalton. Jockey: Bernie Dalton. 2012 record: 2-0-0-0, $0. 2011 record: 2-1-0-0, $6,000. Finished seventh in Colonial Downs allowance race on June 2 after being pulled up in High Hope allowance race in Lexington, Ky., on May 20. Won maiden claimer at Charleston Cup Races in South Carolina on Nov. 13.
Lonesome. 2006 dk. b. or br. m., Marquetry—Stony Lonesome, by Apalachee. Owner: William M. Backer. Trainer: Jonathan Sheppard. Jockey: Xavier Aizpuru. 2012 record: 5-0-1-3, $8,900. Maiden over fences most recently was fifth to Euro Power in a Saratoga Open House maiden race.
Euro Power. 2008 b. f., Powerscourt (GB)—Eurosceptic, by Cozzene. Owner: Octoraro Stables. Trainer: Blythe Miller Davies. Jockey: Carl Rafter. 2012 record: 2-1-0-0, $9,000. Won her maiden victory over fences at Saratoga Open House on July 15 after maiden-claimer victory on the flat at Colonial Downs on June 28. Distanced in first start over fences at Parx Racing on June 12.