Several of American steeplechasing’s leading female competitors, including reigning filly and mare champion Ptarmigan, will clash Saturday, May 28, in the $40,000 Valentine Memorial, the featured race of the 43rd annual Fair Hill Races.
Pari-mutuel wagering will be offered under Maryland Racing Commission rules for the eight-race program, which attracted crowded fields. First post time is 1 p.m.
Magalen O. Bryant’s Ptarmigan will be shooting for her first victory since locking up the filly and mare title in the Guelph Stakes at Monmouth Park on Sept. 25. She was bumped in her first 2011 start, the Daniel Van Clief Memorial at the Foxfield Spring races in Virginia on April 30, and finished ninth. More recently, she finished fourth in the Margaret Currey Henley Stakes at the Iroquois Steeplechase in Nashville on May 14.
Trainer Doug Fout named Jeff Murphy to ride the five-year-old Unbridled Jet mare in the 2 1/4-mile Valentine Memorial, a Sport of Kings filly and mare hurdle stakes.
Five other Henley competitors will line up for starter Barry Watson in the Valentine Memorial. Owner-trainer Bruce Miller’s Lonesome Nun closed ground to finish second, beaten 1 1/4 lengths, in the Henley. Champion jockey Paddy Young will ride the six-year-old Vicar mare, who was rated as the 2-1 favorite in the morning line of National Steeplechase Association Director of Racing Bill Gallo Jr.
Trainer Jazz Napravnik entered a trio of females for the Valentine Memorial. Jennifer Pitts’ Green Velvet finished third in the Henley after setting the early pace under Ross Geraghty, who again has the mount. Merriefield Farm’s Pensy finished fifth in the Henley and picks up the services of top jockey Danielle Hodsdon, who rode Henley winner Sweet Shani.
Napravnik also entered Flying Horse Farm’s Farah T Salute, who is looking to regain her best form. Winner of the Crown Royal Stakes at the Steeplechase at Callaway Gardens in Georgia last November, Farah T Salute finished seventh in the Van Clief and was pulled up after tiring in the Henley. Xavier Aizpuru has the mount.
Also coming into the Valentine from the Henley is Arcadia Stable’s Opera Heroine, who finished sixth in the Nashville race. Trainer Jack Fisher named Willie Dowling to ride the Partner’s Hero mare.
Making her first start of the 2011 season will be owner-trainer Kate Dalton’s Miss Crown, who was nipped by Ptarmigan in the last stride of the Guelph Stakes at Monmouth. Dalton named her husband, Bernie, to ride.
Marilyn S. Ketts’ Flying Friskie will have another wife-husband team. Trainer Lilith Boucher named her husband, Richard, to ride the four-year-old filly, who most recently won a claiming race by 22 3/4 lengths at the Willowdale Steeplechase in Kennett Square, Pa., on May 15.
Completing the field is Deputy Empress, owned by trainer Lilli M. Kurtinecz and Jodi Rauso. The five-year-old Tapit mare won her first start over fences at the Foxfield Spring races. Jacob Roberts will be in the saddle.