Weekend Preview: Four stakes on tap in weekend tripleheader

Racing at Montpelier

By Tod Marks

The jumpers land in Georgia and Virginia on Saturday, and Pennsylvania on Sunday for the penultimate weekend of racing on the 2022 National Steeplechase Association calendar. 

At the Montpelier Hunt Races, first run in 1934, 54 horses are entered for seven races worth $215,000, which will take place on the front lawn of President James Madison’s home in Montpelier Station, Va. The meet was founded by racing pillar Marion duPont Scott, when she owned the estate. The feature, the Noel Laing Stakes at 2 ½ miles over Montpelier’s signature live brush fences, has gotten a $20,000 purse bump, to $60,000, and has drawn a field of six, including last year’s winner, Hudson River Farm’s Iranistan

Also among the entries are Metahorse Racing’s Ask Paddington, an NSA newcomer who is coming off two thirds in his first two NSA starts, in the Lonesome Glory and Grand National, both Grade 1s; Gillian Johnston’s Song for Someone, another Grade 1 contender since landing stateside this summer to run at Saratoga; Riverdee Stable’s City Dreamer, a dual 2021 novice stakes winner; and Silverton Hill’s Bodes Well and Irv Naylor’s Duc de Meran, a pair of hard-knocking rivals in steeplethon competition.

A second stake on the card, the $50,000 Montpelier Cup, at 2 ⅜ miles for fillies and mares, has drawn nine nominees, notably Leipers Fork Steeplechasers’ Our Bab, winner of the Randolph Rouse Stakes at Colonial Downs this summer, and Ballybristol Farm’s Soramond, who crushed the field by 15 lengths in a handicap for horses rated at 110 or less at Aiken last Saturday.

The remainder of the card consists of a $30,000 handicap for horses rated at 115 or less; a $15,000 maiden claiming hurdle; two $30,000 maiden special weights hurdles; and a training race on the flat.

First race post time is 12:30 p.m. Here’s a link to the entries: https://nationalsteeplechase.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/Montpelier-Entries-WedOvernight.pdf

$160,000 up for grabs at Callaway

Sharing the date on the calendar with Montpelier is the Steeplechase at Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Ga., where the five-race card, highlighted by the $75,000 Aflac Supreme stakes for novice hurdlers, gets underway at 12:45 p.m. 

One of the richest novice stakes on the NSA schedule, the Aflac Supreme

has attracted a competitive field of six. Belle Meade Jockey Club and The International Venture’s Ljay, makes his sixth career start (all in 2022), and is looking for his third victory. In his previous outing, Ljay scored in the $50,000 Harry Harris Stakes for four-year-olds at Far Hills. His accomplished stablemate, Atlantic Friends Racing’s Theocrat is two for three since coming to the U.S. this summer. A handicap winner at Colonial Downs, Theocrat took the Michael G. Walsh novice stakes at Saratoga in his next start. Last out, he was the beaten favorite in the $50,000 Appleton Handicap at Far Hills, four lengths behind Redicean.

Three other runners step up in class after recent wins. Del Rio Racing’s Step to the Bar is coming off an allowance score at Shawan Downs in September while Sonny Via’s Welshman was victorious in a 115 handicap at Virginia Fall last month. Leipers Fork Steeplechasers’ Fast Vision upset Ljay in an optional claiming allowance at Foxfield, also in October.

Hurricana Farm’s Merry Maker, a maiden winner and supplemental entry to the Aflac, tired after vying for the lead in an allowance contest at the International Gold Cup Races two weeks ago, his first start in a year.

The remainder of the card consists of a $20,000 steeplethon over mixed obstacles; $15,000 handicap for horses rated at 120 or less restricted to amateur or apprentice riders; $30,000 maiden special weights hurdle; and a $20,000 maiden claiming hurdle.

Click here for full entries: https://nationalsteeplechase.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/Callaway-Overnight-WedEntries-Rev2.pdf

©Tod Marks

And in Pennsylvania…

On Sunday, the day we turn back the clocks an hour, timber specialists head to Unionville for the 88th Pennsylvania Hunt Cup Races. The traditional four-race card includes a pair of three-mile events, a $15,000 maiden and $20,000 allowance contest for non-winners of two, and the testing four-mile $35,000 Pennsylvania Hunt Cup Stakes over 22 fences of rolling countryside. There’s also a training flat race over the turf at 1 ⅜ miles limited to apprentice riders. First-race post time is 1:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.

Upland Partners’ remarkable Mystic Strike, now 13, looks to secure his third victory in the Hunt Cup, after finishing second in the 2022 running. The son of Smart Strike has made only two starts this season, but would crack the $300,000 career earnings mark with a win.

Mystic Strike’s competition includes his Upland Partners’ stablemate Shootist, also a son of Smart Strike, who seeks his first stakes score. Most recently he finished second to timber ace Andi’amu in the Genesee Valley Hunt Cup. 

An allowance winner over timber, Irv Naylor’s Withoutmoreado was a distant second to Andi’amu in the Willowdale Steeplechase stakes last spring and was no factor against that foe and others in the recent International Gold Cup. Ballybristol Farm’s Mercoeur is almost always money in the bank in lesser company, and looked like a sure winner in an allowance at Genesee when he went off course. Charlie Fenwick’s Royal Ruse returns to the site of his maiden win over timber in 2019 and allowance follow up in 2020.

Click here for full entries: https://nationalsteeplechase.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/PHC-Entries-WedOvernight.pdf

You can watch the races via live stream from the link on the NSA homepage, www.nationalsteeplechase.com. The stream, sponsored by Brown Advisory, is offered through Mandolin, which hosted the NSA spring meets. There is a fee to watch the stream, and meets can be viewed and paid for individually or for the remainder of the Fall season.

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