The first three finishers from the Mrs. Ogden Phipps Stakes for fillies and mares will take on nine male opponents on Thursday, Sept. 1, in the $53,000 Ninepins Hurdle, the final steeplechase race on the Saratoga Race Course schedule.
Heading the group emerging from Saratoga’s first steeplechase race for females is Arcadia Stables’ Opera Heroine, who pulled away to a three-length victory on Aug. 11. The seven-year-old Partner’s Hero mare will be seeking her third straight Saratoga victory, after a maiden score at the Saratoga Open House on July 17.
Under the conditions of the Ninepins, a 2 1/6-mile optional allowance, Opera Heroine will start for a $30,000 claiming price. Trainer Jack Fisher named Willie Dowling for a return engagement.
Opera Heroine will be coupled in the wagering with Arcadia’s Hope for Us All, who finished fourth in the Steeplechase Owners and Trainers Association Firestone Tire Hurdle, an optional allowance on Aug. 4. Fisher tapped Xavier Aizpuru to ride the five-year-old Royal Anthem gelding.
Finishing second in the Mrs. Phipps was Magalen O. Bryant’s Well Fashioned, a four-year-old Cozzene filly trained by Doug Fout. Jeff Murphy has the mount. Well Fashioned will be part of an entry with Bryant’s Air Maggy, who is trained by Jonathan Sheppard and will be ridden by Darren Nagle. Fout also entered Beverly Steinman’s Perfect Edge, who will have Ross Geraghty in the saddle, and Sheppard also will be represented by Bill Pape’s Dugan, ridden by Robbie Walsh.
Lonesome Nun finished third in the Mrs. Phipps in her first start for leading owner Irvin S. Naylor and trainer Brianne Slater. Bernie Dalton has the mount on the six-year-old Vicar mare. Lonesome Nun will be coupled in the betting with Naylor’s Saluda Sam, who finished third in Saratoga’s National Steeplechase Association J. P. Morgan Hurdle, an optional allowance on Aug. 18. Carl Rafter has the mount on the six-year-old Adcat gelding, who is trained by Kathy McKenna.
Move-Up Stables’ Quiet Approval, also trained by McKenna, will be making his first start since a fourth-place finish in the $100,000 Helen Haskell Sampson at Monmouth Park last Sept. 25. Roddy Mackenzie will ride Quiet Approval, who will carry a $30,000 claiming price.
Two members of the Ninepins cast will be making their third Saratoga starts, after competing in the Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes on July 28 and the Michael G. Walsh Novice Stakes on Aug. 18. Carrington Racing Stables’ Here Comes Art set the early pace in both and held on for third in the Kiser. In his subsequent start, he was pulled up at the Walsh’s final fence. Trainer Arch Kingsley Jr. will be in the saddle.
Trainer Tom Voss will send out Armata Stable’s Cornhusker, who finished fifth in the Kiser and sixth in the Walsh. Willie McCarthy has the mount aboard the English-bred Dynaformer gelding, who will carry a $30,000 claiming price. Voss also entered Gentry Stable’s Be Certain, who was sixth in the SOTA-Firestone Tire optional hurdle in his first start since finishing second in the 2008 Grand National at Far Hills, N.J. Paddy Young has the mount. Be Certain also starts for a $30,000 price.
The Ninepins is named for the English import who won the 2000 New York Turf Writers Cup Handicap for the Hudson River Farms of Albany real estate executive Edward Swyer and Racing Hall of Fame trainer Sheppard.