Hudson River Farms’ Winston C, who won going away in Saratoga Race Course’s A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1), will carry the 154-pound highweight for Thursday’s $150,000 New York Turf Writers Cup Handicap (Gr. 1), the signature steeplechase race of the New York showcase track.
Trained by Racing Hall of Fame member Jonathan Sheppard, the Irish-bred drew clear of his competition to win the Smithwick by a widening 3½ lengths on July 25. The five-year-old had a three-win streak in England and was suggested to the Sheppard team by jockey Thomas Garner, who was named to ride Winston C in the 2 3/8-mile on Saratoga’s inner turf course.
The Rip Van Winkle gelding will be lining up against a familiar field. Every member of the New York Turf Writers cast also was entered for the Smithwick, and eight of them started. The Fields Stable’s Portrade, winner of the 2016 New York Turf Writers, was on the also-eligible list and did not start.
Sheppard, whose streak of at least one win at each Saratoga meet ended in 2016 after 47 years, also will saddle Buttonwood Farm’s All the Way Jose, who finished fifth in the Smithwick at 2 1/16 miles. Winner of Belmont Park’s Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1) in 2017, he will be ridden by Gerard Galligan.
Jack Fisher, who is galloping away with the year’s training titles, will take three shots at the Saratoga winner’s circle. Sonny Via’s Hinterland ran evenly in the Smithwick and finished third, 4¼ lengths behind Winston C. Willie McCarthy will ride the French-bred veteran.
Fisher also saddled the fourth finisher, Riverdee Stable’s Gibralfaro, who was another 4½ lengths back under Michael Mitchell, who has a return call for the New York Turf Writers.
Gill Johnston’s Peppay Le Pugh, Fisher’s third shooter, was making his first American start in the Smithwick and has room to improve after finishing ninth. In the saddle will be Darren Nagle, the reigning champion jockey who has returned from a work-related injury.
Trainer Elizabeth Voss also entered three contenders for the New York Turf Writers, including two owned by York, Pa., contractor Robert A. Kinsley. No Wunder, who won the Fair Hill Races’ Valentine Memorial in May for Kinsley, finished seventh in the Smithwick. Kieran Norris will ride.
Jack Doyle, who won both Colonial Downs jump races on Saturday, will be aboard Kinsley’s Modem for Voss. Second in the 2017 New York Turf Writers during his first U.S. racing season, Modem finished 11th in the Smithwick.
Voss also trains Portrade, who was pulled up in his two starts this year, will be ridden by Ross Geraghty.
Completing the field is Belisarius, who is owned by Gary Barber, Brous Racing Stable, and Wachtel Stable. The Irish-bred finished 10th in the Smithwick and also was entered for Wednesday’s Michael G. Walsh Novice Stakes. Trainer Kate Dalton named her husband, veteran jockey Bernie Dalton, to ride.
Here is the field for the $150,000 New York Turf Writers Cup Handicap (Gr. 1) in alphabetical order. The horses’ handicap weights are in parentheses at the end of their profiles.
Modem (GB). 2010 b. g., Motivator—Alashaan, (GB), by Darshaan (GB). Owner: Robert A. Kinsley. Trainer: Elizabeth Voss. Jockey: Jack Doyle. Breeders: Mr. and Mrs. D. J. Deer (GB). 2019 NSA record: 1-0-0-0, $0. 2018 record: 2-0-1-0, $41,250. Finished 11th in Saratoga’s 2019 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1). Finished second in 2018 Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1) before sixth in A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1). Finished second in four 2017 Grade 1 races. (146)
Winston C (Ire). 2014 b. g., Rip Van Winkle (Ire)—Pitirizza, by Machiavellian. Owner: Hudson River Farms. Trainer: Jonathan Sheppard. Jockey: Thomas Garner. Breeder: Patrick F. Kelly (Ire). 2019 NSA record: 2-1-0-1, $100,000. Won the 2019 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1) by a widening 3½ lengths. Opened his U.S. career with third in 2019 Marcellus Frost Champion Hurdle for novices. Won three straight starts in winter-spring season in England before fifth in Betway Top Hurdle. (154)
No Wunder (GB). 2011 b. g., Rock of Gibraltar (Ire)—Iwunder, by King’s Best. Owner: Robert A. Kinsley. Trainer: Elizabeth Voss. Jockey: Kieran Norris. Breeder: Executors of the late J. Ellis (GB). 2019 record: 3-1-0-0, $27,000. 2018 NSA record: 6-0-3-0, $43,200. 2017 NSA record: 8-2-1-1, $67,150. Finished seventh in Saratoga’s 2019 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1). Won Fair Hill’s 2019 Valentine Memorial Handicap after sixth in Queen’s Cup MPC ’Chase. Finished fourth in Belmont Park’s 2018 William Entenmann Memorial Novice Stakes, then was sixth in Steeplechase at Callaway’s Aflac Supreme Hurdle. Finished close second in Saratoga’s Michael G. Walsh Novice Stakes. (142)
Portrade (Ire). 2009 b. g., Trade Fair (GB)—Portorosa, by Irish River (Fr). Owner: The Fields Stable. Trainer: Elizabeth Voss. Jockey: Ross Geraghty. Breeder: Keene Bloodstock (Ire). 2019 record: 2-0-0-0, $0. 2018 record: No starts. 2017 record: 3-0-1-0, $19,000. Pulled up after tiring in 2019 Temple Gwathmey Handicap (Gr. 2) and David Semmes Memorial (Gr. 2). Missed 2018 season after fourth in 2017 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1). Won the 2016 New York Turf Writers (Gr. 1). (142)
Gibralfaro. (Ire). 2012 b. g., Dalakhani (Ire)—Ronda, by Bluebird. Owner: Riverdee Stable. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Jockey: Michael Mitchell. Breeder: Sarl Darpat France (Ire). 2019 record: 3-1-0-0, $72,00000. 2018 record: 5-1-3-0, $77,250. Finished fourth in Saratoga’s 2019 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1). Opened 2019 with victory in Queen’s Cup MPC ’Chase for novices, then was sixth in Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1). Finished second in Far Hills’ 2018 Foxbrook Champion Hurdle division and Aflac Supreme Hurdle. (144)
Belisarius (Ire). 2011 b. g., Montjeu—Lasting Chance, by American Chance. Owner: Gary Barber, Brous Stable, and Wachtel Racing Stable. Trainer: Kate Dalton. Jockey: Bernie Dalton. Breeders: Lynch Bages Ltd. And Camas Park Stud (Ire). 2019 NSA record: 3-0-1-0, $13,500. 2018 NSA record: 6-2-1-2, $106,200. Never was in contention in Saratoga’s 2019 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1) and finished 10th. In 2019 debut, finished second in Temple Gwathmey Handicap (Gr. 2), then was ninth in Iroquois’ Marcellus Frost Champion Hurdle for novices. Won 2018 Foxbrook Champion Hurdle by 6¼ lengths. Set all the pace and won 2018 Monmouth Park maiden hurdle by two lengths. (142)
Peppay Le Pugh (Ire). 2011 b. g., Arakan—Pinaflore, by Formidable. Owner: Gillian Johnston. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Jockey: Darren Nagle. Breeder: John Kennedy (Ire). 2019 NSA record: 1-0-0-0, $0. In U.S. debut, finished ninth in Saratoga’s 2019 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1). Raced extensively in lower-level hurdle and steeplechase handicaps in England. Closed out that phase of his career with a second at Carlisle in April 2019 after a win at Ayr. (144)
Hinterland (Fr). 2008 b. g., Poliglote (GB)—Queen’s Place, by Diamond Prospect. Owner: Harold A. “Sonny” Via Jr. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Jockey: Willie McCarthy. Breeder: Eric Aubree and Christian Bresson (Fr). 2019 record: 4-0-1-1, $27,950. 2018 record: 4-0-1-0, $63,750. 2017 record: 2-0-1-0, $36,000. Ran evenly to be third in Saratoga’s 2019 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1). Finished second in 2019 Valentine Handicap after fourth in Virginia Gold Cup’s David Semmes Memorial (Gr. 2) and fifth in Carolina Cup. Finished closing second in Belmont Park’s 2018 Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1), then was fourth in Far Hills’ Grand National (Gr. 1). (144)
All the Way Jose. 2010 b. g., Senor Swinger—Maternity Leave, by Northern Baby. Owner: Buttonwood Farm. Trainer: Jonathan Sheppard. Jockey: Gerard Galligan. Breeder: Jonathan Sheppard (Pa.) 2019 record: 3-0-0-0, $17,250. 2018 record: 6-0-1-1, $ 68,200. 2017 record: 7-2-1-3, $179,300. Finished fifth in Saratoga’s 2019 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1). In 2019 debut, finished fourth in the Temple Gwathmey Handicap (Gr. 2), then was fourth in Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1). Finished second in 2018 Noel Laing Handicap at Montpelier Hunt Races. Finished third in 2018 Grand National Gr. 1) for second straight year, after fifth in A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1) and sixth in New York Turf Writers Cup (Gr. 1) at Saratoga. Won 2017 Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1). (144)