As summer winds down, Saratoga and Colonial Downs will host two more days of racing

Master McGrath and Harry Beswick at the Radnor Hunt Races. ©Tod Marks

By Tod Marks

Allowance hurdlers will bring down the curtain on Saratoga season tomorrow as a field of eight is expected for the fifth and final jump race of 2023 at Saratoga Race Course, a $70,000 allowance event at 2 ⅜ miles. Post time is 1:10 p.m., and as always, NYRA races are broadcast live on Fox2 TV, with replays available on NYRA website,

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There will not be any jump races at Colonial Downs this Friday. Instead, the races originally carded for Sept. 1, will be run a week later, on Sept. 8. Three hurdle races will close out the season, an open maiden, 110 ratings handicap, and the $100,000 Life’s Illusion stakes for fillies and mares.

In addition, Colonial will offer a $50,000 flat race at two miles on the turf for jumpers who have started at the meet without a victory.

You can watch the action via live stream from the National Steeplechase Association home page, Jump races typically start at approximately 11:30 a.m., and are run in succession with about a half hour or so between events.

Because of time constraints, we were unable to recap the Aug. 25 card at Colonial, so here’s a belated summary:

Rocket One soars in maiden hurdle

Picking up where they left off two days earlier in Saratoga, Riverdee Stable, Ten Strike Racing, and jockey Tom Garner were back in the winner’s circle with Rocket One in the first of three jump races on the card, a $30,000 maiden starter hurdle for runners who previously started for a claiming tag of $25,000 or less.

The connections, coming off a win with Awakened in the Grade 1 $150,000 Jonathan Sheppard stakes at the Spa, sent out the four-year-old Kentucky-bred son of Into Mischief to victory following two seconds to begin his steeplechasing career.

With Garner aboard, Rocket One sat just behind the pace set by Hickory Made Stables and Celtic Venture Stable’s Eye of Gunfighter, launched his bid around the clubhouse turn on the second circuit, and took the lead. Eye of Gunfighter fought back under Gerard Galligan, but Rocket One shook clear on the far turn and drew clear by 7 ¼ lengths. Maranto Manor’s Auction Kingdom came from far back under Robbie Dunne to get up for second, with Eye of Gunfighter 4 ½ lengths back in third.

Prior to transitioning to steeplechasing in the spring, Rocket One made 11 starts on the flat, earning more than $100,000 at tracks including Gulfstream Park, Laurel, Churchill Downs, and Oaklawn Park.

Dante’s Fire prevails in spirited maiden duel

In a second $30,000 maiden starter hurdle at 2 ¼ miles, James Stainbrook, Vincent Bonanni, and Pathfinder Racing’s Dante’s Fire, another recent convert to jump racing, dug in and held off a vigorous charge by Alexander Fulton’s Reassured by a neck.

A six-year-old New York-bred son of Temple City, Dante’s Fire, trained by Neil Morris, was unhurried early, running in fourth under Harry Beswick, behind the pro-tem leader, Keri Brion’s Ratify (Mell Boucher). Dante’s Fire rallied heading to the final fence, closing ground on Ratify and Reassured (Parker Hendriks), who had the lead straightening for home. Dante’s Fire and Reassured dueled through the stretch with Dante’s Fire, eking out the victory. Reassured was 10 lengths clear of the show horse, Tom Rice’s Secret Soulmate.

Like Rocket One in the opener, Dante’s Fire had a long career on the flat, mostly on the NYRA circuit, running 21 times and earning around $175,000. He made his first hurdle start at Colonial in July, finishing a close second in a field of 10.

Master McGrath gives Beswick a riding double

Patiently sitting behind the torrid pace set by Sawbuck Racing’s Bellarmine Hall, Park Stud Inc.’s Master McGrath advanced on the far turn the final time around the course to collar Maranto Manor’s Beowulf with about 100 yards to go to take the $40,000 maiden special weights hurdle at 2 ¼ miles.

The margin of victory for the five-year-old Ontario-bred, trained by Richard Valentine, was two lengths, and the win gave leading NSA rider Harry Beswick his second score on the card and 12 for the season. That’s two more than Graham Watters. Beowulf (Tom Garner) was second best, 5 ¼ lengths ahead of Gill Johnston’s Riptide Rock.

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