Saratoga Race Course’s $175,000 New York Turf Writers Cup Handicap (Gr. 1) very likely will have an international flavor after prominent Irish trainer Gordon Elliott nominated two serious contenders to the 2 3/8-mile race on Thursday, Aug. 23.
Elliott, no stranger to America after successful forays to the Far Hills Races in 2015 and last year, nominated Clarcam and The Game Changer, both seasoned competitors who have competed at the top levels in England and Ireland.
The American side will not be overshadowed, however. Among the nominees are Mark W. Buyck Jr.’s Show Court, winner of Saratoga’s A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1) at long odds on July 30, and the formidable Jonathan Sheppard-trained duo of All the Way Jose and Iranistan.
Adding a further international flavor to Saratoga’s premier jump race is Optimus Prime, who would be making his first U.S. start for the Rosbrian Farm of Mandy and George Mahoney. Now trained by Ricky Hendriks, Optimus Prime finished second in Punchestown’s Ryanair Novice Steeplechase in April.
Both owned by the Gigginstown House Stud of Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary, Clarcam and The Game Changer are durable and versatile, with more than 100 starts between them and combined earnings exceeding $1-million.
Clarcam, a French-bred eight-year-old, is coming off a brilliant six-length victory in the €250,000 Thetote.com Galway Plate Steeplechase at 33-to-1 odds on Aug. 1.
The Game Changer, a nine-year-old Irish-bred, won an allowance hurdle in June and finished second in a steeplechase allowance in July. He most recently unseated his jockey in Galway’s Lord Hemphill Memorial Steeplechase Handicap on Aug. 5.
Elliott, based in County Meath and regularly among Ireland’s leading trainers, sent Eshtiaal to Far Hills in 2015 to finish second in the Grand National (Gr. 1). Last year, Zanjabeel overwhelmed Far Hills’ Foxbrook Champion Hurdle before being sold to Rosbrian and Ben and Wendy Griswold. Zanjabeel, who is taking the summer off, is the National Steeplechase Association’s leading earner after winning the Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1) in May.
Beyond the first-timers from overseas, all the New York Turf Writers nominees started at the current Saratoga meet. Overlooked in the A. P. Smithwick Memorial betting at 14.10-to-1, Show Court was in top condition for trainer Arch Kingsley Jr. and won by a length.
Hudson River Farms’ Iranistan, a four-year-old making only his fourth start over fences, finished a game second in his only jumps defeat. Woodslane Farm’s Overwhelming finished third, six lengths behind Iranistan, for trainer Jack Fisher.
Magalen O. Bryant’s Personal Start, trained by Richard Valentine, finished fourth in the 2 1/16-mile Smithwick after winning the Virginia Gold Cup’s David Semmes Memorial (Gr. 2). Buttonwood Farm’s All the Way Jose, a Grade 1 winner last year, finished fifth.
Graduating to the top rank is Armata Stables’ New Member, winner of Saratoga’s Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes on July 25 after Fisher added blinkers to his equipment.
Here are the nine nominees to the $175,000 New York Turf Writers Cup in alphabetical order. Their National Steeplechase Association ratings are in parentheses at the end of their profiles.
All the Way Jose. 2010 b. g., Senor Swinger—Maternity Leave, by Northern Baby. Owner: Buttonwood Farm. Trainer: Jonathan Sheppard. Breeder: Jonathan Sheppard (Pa.) 2018 record: 3-0-0-0, $ 10,750. 2017 record: 7-2-1-3, $179,300. Finished distant fifth in 2018 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1). Began 2018 with third in Temple Gwathmey Handicap (Gr. 2) at Middleburg Spring, then fell in Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1). Won 2017 Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1). Finished third in Grand National (Gr. 1), beaten two noses. Won Fair Hill’s $40,000 Valentine Memorial ratings handicap by 15 1/4 lengths, then lost rider in A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1) and was third in New York Turf Writers (Gr. 1). Novice champion in 2014. (144)
Clarcam (Fr). 2019 b. g., Califet (Fr)—Rose Beryl, by Lost World. Owner: Gigginstown House Stud. Trainer: Gordon Elliott. Breeder: 1m. 1Jean Michel & 2m. 1 Dominique Le Breton. 2018 NSA record: No starts. In most recent start, won €250,000 Galway Plate Steeplechase by six lengths at 33-to-1 odds. Unplaced in two previous 2018 starts, 11th in Guinness Handicap and in Randox Health Topham Steeplechase. Durable steeplechaser would be making his 48th career start and seeking his 11th win.
Iranistan. 2014 dk. b. or br. g., Einstein (Brz)—Miss Vindictive, by Stephen Got Even. Owner: Hudson River Stables. Trainer: Jonathan Sheppard. Breeder: Crossed Sabres Farm (Ky.) 2018 NSA record: 4-3-1-0, $127,500. Finished game second in Saratoga’s 2018 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1). Won 2018 Marcellus Frost Champion Hurdle for novices by six lengths. Skipped maiden ranks and won allowance hurdles at Carolina Cup and Middleburg Spring to begin 2018 season. Scored maiden flat victory at Delaware Park in July 2018. (132)
New Member (Ire). 2011 b. g., Alhaarth (Ire)—Sincere, by Buhhare. Owner: Armata Stables. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Breeder: Golden Garden Stud. 2018 NSA record: 4-1-0-2, $63,000. 2017 NSA record: 4-0-1-2, $28,500. Won Saratoga’s 2018 Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes by 1 1/2 lengths. Began 2018 with thirds in Carolina Cup and Queen’s Cup MPC ’Chase, then was sixth in Iroquois’ Marcellus Frost Champion Hurdle. Finished second in Belmont Park’s 2017 William Entenmann Novice Stakes after well-beaten third in Saratoga’s Michael G. Walsh Novice Stakes. Finished third in Far Hills’ Foxbrook Champion Hurdle. Finished good third in Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes but disqualified for going off-course in tight quarters. Had allowance and handicap wins in England in 2016. (132)
Optimus Prime (Fr). 2012 b. g., Deportivo—Diluvienne, by Kaldoun. Owner: Rosbrian Farm. Trainer: Ricky Hendriks. Breeder: Haras de Plasence (Fr). Making his U.S. debut after fourth in Pertemps Swindon Hurdle Handicap at Haydock in May. Began 2018 with an allowance steeplechase win and then was second at 25-to-1 in €115,000 Ryanair Novice Steeplechase at Ireland’s Punchestown Racecourse in April. Previously trained by Dan Skelton.
Overwhelming. 2010 b. g., Hard Spun—Oh What a Windfall, by Seeking the Gold. Owner: Woodslane Farm. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Breeder: Phipps Stable (Ky.) 2018 NSA record: 3-1-0-1, $34,000. 2016 record: 4-0-0-0, $9,250. 2015 record: 6-3-1-0, $136,300. Finished third in Saratoga’s 2018 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1). Returned to the races after missing 2017 season and won Tryon Block House allowance hurdle before sixth in Fair Hill’s Valentine Memorial ratings handicap. Finished fifth in Saratoga’s 2016 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1). Won Steeplechase at Callaway’s 2015 AFLAC Supreme Hurdle and Belmont’s William Entenmann Memorial Novice Stakes. (124)
Personal Start. 2011 dk. b. or br. g., Jump Start—Personal Doreen, by Personal Flag. Owner: Magalen O. Bryant. Trainer: Richard Valentine. Breeder: Magalen O. Bryant (Ky.) 2018 record: 3-2-0-0, $98,750. 2017 record: 6-1-1-2, $46,750. Finished fourth in Saratoga’s 2018 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1).Won Virginia Gold Cup’s 2018 David Semmes Memorial (Gr. 2) by eight lengths after victory in Carolina Cup novice stakes. Won 2017 International Gold Cup allowance hurdle by eight lengths. Finished third in 2017 Saratoga allowance hurdle, then was second in Shawan Downs handicap and fourth in Virginia Fall’s Randolph D. Rouse Memorial Handicap. (132)
Show Court (Ire). 2009 b. g., Vinnie Roe—Sparking Gem, by Revoque. Owner: Mark W. Buyck Jr. Trainer: Arch Kingsley Jr. Breeder: Grange Stud (Ire). 2018 record: 2-0-0-0, $109,500. 2017 NSA record: 5-2-1-0, $112,000. Won Saratoga’s 2018 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1) by a length. Finished sixth in Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup (Gr. 1) after chasing winning pacesetter. Finished sixth in Saratoga’s 2017 New York Turf Writers Cup (Gr. 1) after winning Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes. Won 2017 Carolina Cup by seven lengths, then finished second in Queen’s Cup MPC ’Chase. Finished distant fifth in Iroquois’ Marcellus Frost Champion Hurdle. Won maiden over hurdles in Ireland in late 2015. (134)
The Game Changer (Ire). 2009 b. g., Arcadio—Gilt Ridden, by Heron Island. Owner: Gigginstown House Stud. Trainer: Gordon Elliott. Breeder: Arctic Tack Stud and Crossogue Stud (Ire). 2018 NSA record: No starts. In early August 2018, unseated jockey in Lord Hemphill Memorial Handicap Steeplechase and pulled up early in €300,000 Guinness Galway Handicap Hurdle. Won an Irish allowance hurdle in June and finished second in a steeplechase allowance in July.