Maidens will be in the spotlight for the season opener at New Kent, Va., on July 11, the first of 16 steeplechase race dates in Virginia and at Saratoga in Upstate New York.
By Tod Marks
The National Steeplechase Association summer schedule at the flat tracks gets underway on Monday at Colonial Downs, with two rich $40,000 maiden special weights hurdle races, including one for fillies and mares, in New Kent, Va., about a half-hour East of Richmond. Here’s a link to the overnight entries: https://nationalsteeplechase.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/07/Colonial-July11-WedEntries.pdf.
The races are the first of 24 summer contests, with purses totaling $1.3 million, scheduled through Sept. 5, with two additional stakes, the $150,000 Lonesome Glory (Grade 1) and $75,000 William Entenmann novice stakes, on tap for opening day at Belmont Park on Sept. 15.
In yet another sign that the sport is inching back toward normalcy following two challenging years precipitated by the pandemic, the summer horses in training list includes 170 runners, from maidens, claimers, allowance and handicap horses to novice and open stakes stars. That’s substantially more than the 117 on the list at the same time in 2021. The numbers are a solid indication that owners and trainers have been able to restock their barns and are ready to run.
Steeplechase racing at Colonial Downs will consist of two races every Monday through Labor Day, to be run at the beginning of the card. Wagering is not available. You can live stream for free via the NSA website, www.nationalsteeplechase.com, at 12:15 p.m. and 12:50.
Steeplechasing commences at historic Saratoga Race Course on July 20, with the $150,000 A.P. Smithwick (Grade 1), one of seven jump races carded for the Spa. All will be run as the first race on Wednesdays, with a 1:05 p.m. post time. NYRA races are broadcast live on Fox2 TV, with replays available on NYRA website, https://www.nyra.com/saratoga/racing/replays. You can also live stream via the NSA website.
Steeplechasing’s biggest names are all targeting stakes at either Saratoga or Colonial.
Leading 2022 trainer Leslie Young has heavy hitters in Sharon Sheppard’s Redicean, winner of the G2 David Semmes Memorial at Great Meadow in May, and recent European import Pistol Whipped, owned by Anthony and Mark Speelman. Pistol Whipped, a National Hunt Cup winner for legendary trainer Nicky Henderson, shipped stateside and finished second to Snap Decision in the G1 Iroquois in Nashville in May. Young has both primed for the Smithwick. Young has another newcomer, Song For Someone, a highly accomplished seven-year-old German-bred, who runs in Gil Johnston’s orange and brown silks. Song for Someone is likely to run in the Sheppard or at Belmont, according to Young.
Keri Brion, who trains last year’s Eclipse Award winner, The Mean Queen, said that the mare is recovered from a minor injury that kept her sidelined this spring, and plans to run her in August, either in the Sheppard, or at Colonial (possibly the Randy Rouse filly and mare stakes). Brion also has 2022 stakes winners in Hudson River Farm’s Iranistan, who upset Snap Decision in the G2 Temple Gwathmey, Irv Naylor’s French Light, (Queen’s Cup), and Atlantic Friends Racing’s Historic Heart, (Carolina Cup), who are expected to start in the Smithwick.
Jack Fisher said he’s pointing stable superstar, Bruton Street-US’ Snap Decision, winner of the Iroquois, to the $150,000 Colonial Cup, a flat race on the turf at 1 ½ miles at Colonial on July 25, followed by the G1 Jonathan Sheppard at Saratoga, the meet’s crowning jewel, on Aug. 17. Fisher’s other Bruton Street juggernaut, the 2020 Eclipse-Award winner Moscato, is now 11, and thus ineligible to compete at Saratoga under NYRA rules.
Trainer Kate Dalton is considering runs at both Colonial and Saratoga for Joseph Fowler’s magnificent mare Down Royal, recent winner of the Margaret Currey Henley filly and mare stakes at Iroquois. She’ll be nominated to the Smithwick, and “if she’s all well and happy she’ll probably try the Rouse (a $100,000 filly and mare stake on Aug. 22), also.”
Cyril Murphy is nominating Irv Naylor’s Chief Justice, winner of the $50,000 Green Pastures novice stakes at Iroquois, to the Smithwick, while stablemate Belfast Banter, a graded stakes-placed winner of $186,000 who finished second in his U.S. debut in the Semmes, is aiming for the Sheppard.
The full summer schedule can be found on the NSA website,