NSA summer kickoff set for Colonial Downs, Saratoga

$1.39 million in prize money is up for grabs in the National Steeplechase Association summer season at the flat tracks, which begins on Friday.

The 2020 New York Turf Writers Cup at Saratoga. ©Tod Marks

by Tod Marks

The first of 25 races spread over 16 dates during the next two months at Colonial Downs in New Kent, Va., and Saratoga Race Course in Upstate New York is only days away.

The summer season, which runs from July 14 through Sept. 8, offers steeplechasing the opportunity to broaden its appeal to a wider fan base, especially at Saratoga, the highest profile race meet in the U.S. All 25 races will be part of the flat-racing cards at Colonial on Fridays and Saratoga on Wednesdays. At both meets, the jump races will be at the beginning of the day. Post times at Colonial are 12:15 p.m. and 12:50 p.m. At Saratoga it’s 1:10 p.m.

Colonial will host 18 races worth a total of $730,000. All will be contested at 2 1/4 miles. Most of the races have been carded as open maiden special weights hurdles. There are also several filly and mare maiden contests as well as maiden events restricted to four-year-olds. All carry $40,000 purses. In addition, there are five handicaps, worth $30,000 to $35,000, for horses rated at 110 to 115, and several $30,000 maiden starter handicaps (for horses who have previously run for a claiming tag).

Two stakes for fillies and mares highlight the meet. The $75,000 Randolph Rouse on Aug. 11 and the $75,000 Life’s Illusion on getaway day, Sept. 8. Buttonwood Farm’s 2021 Eclipse-Award winner The Mean Queen is being pointed to the Life’s Illusion, which would be her first race in a year and only her second since she ended her championship run with a win in the Grand National at Far Hills in October 2021. Fans can watch the races from Colonial Downs via live stream from the NSA web site.

Steeplechasing commences at historic Saratoga Race Course on July 19, with the G1 $150,000 A.P. Smithwick Stakes at 2 1/16 miles, one of two Grade 1s on the calendar. The other, the $150,000 Jonathan Sheppard at 2 3/8 miles, will be run on Aug. 16. The remaining five jump races include a pair of $75,000 novice stakes, the Jonathan Kiser at 2 1/16 miles on Aug. 2, and Michael G. Walsh at 2 3/8 miles three weeks later; and three $70,000 allowance contests. All told, Saratoga is offering $660,000 in purses this year.

In a just-announced move, the July 26 allowance hurdle at the Spa, for non-winners of two races, will be named the Woody Maloney Memorial in honor of the late steeplechase rider and son of Hall of Famer conditioner James “Jimmy” Maloney. Two engraved trophies will be awarded to the winning connections. Immediately after the race, a memorial celebration will be held in the tent at the Reading Room. Lunch will be served and all steeplechase owners, trainers and jockeys are invited.

In the most recent NSA Ratings of horses in training, many of the sport’s top runners could see action this summer, including stakes winners winner Noah and the Ark (G1 Lonesome Glory); Welshman (G2 David Semmes Memorial); Caramelised and Historic Heart (the past two winners of the Carolina Cup); Freddy Flintshire (Queen’s Cup); Howyabud (Jonathan Kiser); Redicean (Appleton); and Theocrat (Michael G. Walsh).

NYRA races are broadcast live on Fox2 TV, with replays available on NYRA website, https://www.nyra.com/saratoga/racing/replays.

Full summer schedule:


• July 14 open maiden and filly & mare maiden

• July 21, open maiden and 115 ratings handicap

• July 28, filly & mare maiden and maiden starter handicap

• Aug. 4,  open maiden and 110 ratings handicap

• Aug. 11, open maiden and Randolph Rouse stakes

•Aug. 18,  four-year-old maiden and 115 ratings handicap

• Aug. 25, maiden starter handicap and 110 ratings handicap

• Sept. 1, open maiden and four-year-old maiden

• Sept. 8, Life’s Illusion stakes and 115 ratings handicap


• July 19, AP Smithwick stakes

• July 26, allowance

• Aug. 2, Jonathan Kiser novice stakes

• Aug. 9, allowance

• Aug. 16, Jonathan Sheppard stakes

• Aug. 23, Michael G. Walsh novice stakes

• Aug. 30, allowance

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