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Past Carolina Cup champs, riders take aim at Spa features

Posted: July 24, 2017 12:57 p.m.
Updated: July 25, 2017 1:00 a.m.
Lindsay Jennings/C-I

DIPLOMAT AND CAMDEN’S Bernie Dalton won the 2015 Carolina Cup. Thursday, the pair will try for a Grade 1 score in the $150,000 A.P. Smithwick Memorial at Saratoga.

A large, accomplished field containing two Grade 1 winners and several other graded victors will line up Thursday for the $150,000 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1), the first top-rated steeplechase race on the Saratoga Race Course calendar. 

The Smithwick will be Thursday’s first race with a 1 p.m. post time.

On Wednesday, jump racing opens at the Spa with the ninth running of the $75,000 Jonathan Kiser Novicee Stakes. Post time for the afternoon’s opener at the Spa is 1 p.m.

Included in the seven-horse Kiser field is 2017 Carolina Cup winner Show Court.

The Fields Stable’s Portrade, a front-running winner of last August’s New York Turf Writers Cup Handicap (Gr. 1), will attempt to improve upon his third-place finish in last year’s Smithwick Memorial, which will be run at 2 1/16 miles over National Fences.

Trained by Elizabeth Voss, Portrade again will be ridden by Gus Dahl, who partnered with the Irish-bred eight-year-old in all but one of his starts since arriving in the United States in 2015.

So far this year, Portrade has finished second in the Temple Gwathmey Handicap (Gr. 3) and most recently fourth in the National Hunt Cup (Gr. 3) at the Radnor Hunt Races in suburban Philadelphia on May 20.

Voss, whose father Tom will be inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame on Aug. 4, also will saddle Robert A. Kinsley’s Modem, who will be making his first U.S. start after racing principally in Ireland. He won a novice steeplechase at Ballinrobe Race Course on May 30 and will be ridden in the Smithwick by Jack Doyle.

Jack Fisher, who is the runaway leader in the year’s trainer standings by wins and purses, will have a potent one-two punch in Gil Johnston’s Mr. Hot Stuff and Edith Dixon’s Schoodic.

Mr. Hot Stuff won the Smithwick in 2013 and is coming back after missing the 2016 season. He finished third in the Temple Gwathmey and then was pulled up in the spring season’s only Grade 1 race, the Calvin Houghland Iroquois. Shane Crimin has the mount.

Schoodic, a seven-year-old homebred by Tiznow, powered to a two-length victory in the David Semmes Memorial (Gr. 2) at the Virginia Gold Cup on May 6 but was no factor two weeks later in the National Hunt Cup, a race he won the previous year. Sean McDermott will ride.

Also coming out of the Semmes are Irv Naylor’s Charminster and Rosbrian Farm’s Simenon, the respective second- and third-place finishers. Darren Nagle, a part-time Camden resident, currently leading the rider standings, will be aboard veteran Grade 2 winner Charminster for trainer Cyril Murphy.

Simenon is trained by Ricky Hendriks, who had a strong spring season and ranks third behind Fisher and Jonathan Sheppard in the standings. Irish-bred Simenon is looking for his first U.S. win and will be ridden by Ross Geraghty. Hendriks also will saddle Rosbrian’s Swansea Mile, fourth in the Temple Gwathmey. Michael Mitchell will ride.

Racing Hall of Fame trainer Sheppard will saddle Buttonwood Farm’s All the Way Jose for the Smithwick Memorial. Under assistant trainer and apprentice jockey Keri Brion, All the Way Jose has found new success after two winless seasons. He won the Fair Hill Races’ Valentine Memorial Handicap by 15 lengths on May 27. Brion will be in the saddle.

Also coming out of the Valentine Memorial are Stonelea Stables’ Balance the Budget and Flying Elvis Stable’s Diplomat, who finished second and third, respectively. Both horses are past $75,000 Carolina Cup champions.

Camden resident Mark Watts will ride 2016 Carolina Cup winner winner Balance the Budget for trainer Julie Gomena. The 8-year-old Bellamy Road gelding won the $40,000 feature in Tryon, N.C., under Watts, in April by 3 3/4 lengths in a field which included fellow Smithwick starters All the Way Jose and Andi’amu.

Camden’s Bernie Dalton will be aboard 2015 Carolina Cup victor Diplomat for his wife, trainer Kate Dalton. Diplomat, an 8-year-old Kitten’s Joy gelding bred by Ken and Sarah Ramsey, is stabled on the grounds of the Springdale Race Course for the Daltons, who call Camden home.

In its most recent start over jumps, Diplomat finished third behind Smithwick entries All the Way Jose and Balance the Budget, respectively. Diplomat comes into Saratoga off a second-place finish in a $25,000 1 1/2-mile run on the flat at Parx Racing.

Completing the field is Ballybristol Farm’s Grade 1-placed Andi’amu. Trained by Leslie Young, French-bred Andi’amu finished a distant third in the Calvin Houghland Iroquois on May 13. England-based jockey Tom Garner will ride.

Show Court looks to make it two in a row: Wendy Hendriks’ Surprising Soul is a surprise no more after marching to three straight victories, and he will put his spotless 2017 record on the line Wednesday in Saratoga ’s $75,000 Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes.

Trained by Ricky Hendriks, the owner’s son, Surprising Soul pulled a bit of a surprise on May 13 when he won the $100,000 Marcellus Frost Champion Hurdle for novices, or horses in their first seasons of racing over fences.

Before that, the Ontario-bred gelding by Perfect Soul had easily won a maiden hurdle at the year’s first race meet, Aiken Spring, and three weeks later won a $35,000 allowance hurdle at the Tryon Block House Races on April 15.

Ross Geraghty, who has ridden Surprising Soul in all six of his career starts over fences, will again be in the saddle.

In the Frost, Surprising Soul, capitalized on a subpar performance by Florence-based owner Mark W. Buyck Jr.’s Show Court, winner of the $75,000 Carolina Cup for novices on April 1 and second in the Queen’s Cup MPC ’Chase in Mineral Spring, N.C., four weeks later.

Trained in Camden by Arch Kinsgley Jr., the Irish-bred Show Court showed no ill effects from the Iroquois race and came back to win a Parx flat race for hurdlers, at 14-to-1, odds on July 8. Kingsley named Michael Mitchell, who has returned to the saddle after suffering an injury in a spill at the Queens Cup in April, to ride Show Court in the 2 1/16-mile Kiser. The duo combined to win the Carolina Cup by seven lengths over the going at the Springdale Race Course.

Trainer Richard Valentine, who has a string of horses and trains on the grounds of the Springdale Race Course in the offseason, will send out Gil Johnston’s Miguel Grau, who was fourth in both the Queen’s Cup and the Frost. Shane Crimin has a return call on the 7-year-old City Zip gelding.

Also coming out of the Frost is James S. Carter’s Macnicholson, who fell. Trained by Jimmy Day, Irish-bred Macnicholson was unplaced behind Show Court in the Parx flat race. Bernie Dalton takes over the riding duties aboard the 8-year-old Definite Article (GB) gelding who fell in last April’s Carolina Cup feature chase.

Nagle has the mount on newcomer New Member, who races in the silks of Aurelia and Perry Bolton’s Armata Stables. Trained by 10-time champion trainer Jack Fisher, the Irish-bred was unplaced in Show Court’s division of the split Parx flat race.

Fisher also will saddle Bruton Street-US’s Moscato, who is riding a two-race win streak: a maiden victory at the Queen’s Cup and an allowance win two weeks later at the Iroquois in Nashville. McDermott will ride.

Completing the field is Robert A. Kinsley’s No Wunder, who won a maiden hurdle at the Fair Hill Races in Maryland on May 27. Doyle will ride for trainer Elizabeth Voss.

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