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Opera Heroine hits high note in winning Mrs. Phipps Stakes

Posted: August 16, 2011 11:04 a.m.
Updated: August 17, 2011 5:00 a.m.

rcadia Stables’ Opera Heroine, on key throughout Saratoga Race Course’s $74,000 Mrs. Ogden Phipps, jumped to the lead at the seventh of nine fences and repelled late challenges by Magalen O. Bryant’s Well Fashioned and Irvin S. Naylor’s Lonesome Nun to win by three lengths last Thursday.

Well Fashioned finished second, 3 1/4 lengths clear of Lonesome Nun in the first National Steeplechase Association stakes for fillies and mares at the historic New York track. Both were making their first starts for new owners after private sales.

Sent off at 3.90-1 in a well matched field of nine, Opera Heroine paid $9.80 to win after running the 2 1/16-mile distance in 3:54.11 on a firm inner turf course. The Mrs. Phipps was the second Saratoga victory of the season for Arcadia and trainer Jack Fisher, who won the $73,000 Jonathan Kiser Novice Hurdle with 2010 novice champion All Together on July 28, the track’s first Steeplechase Thursday.

Opera Heroine had won her maiden victory over fences at the Saratoga Open House on the lead, scoring by seven lengths over Bill Pape’s Beating the Odds on July 17. But the seven-year-old Partner’s Hero mare does not jump especially well on the lead, so Fisher entered the only other female in his Maryland-based stable, Maya Charli, to set the early pace.

"The main reason for Maya Charli being out there was because Opera Heroine doesn’t jump well out front, so I wanted her to have a leader. The other one set it up for her," he said.

Ridden by Ross Geraghty, Maya Charli charged out to the early advantage, with Red Dirt Girl pursuing her and Opera Heroine tucked in third by jockey Willie Dowling. Opera Heroine moved into second position before crossing under the finish line for the final circuit of the course and jumped to the lead early on the final run down the backstretch.

Opera Heroine opened a 2 1/2-length advantage at the final fence with a strong jump and turned back the challenges by Well Fashioned, ridden by Jeff Murphy, and Lonesome Nun, with Darren Nagle aboard. Well Fashioned, 4.80-1, previously was owned by owner-trainer Kate Dalton, and Lonesome Nun, 3.35-1, had been owned by owner-trainer Bruce Miller. Doug Fout now trains Well Fashioned, and Brianne Slater is training Lonesome Nun.

Fox Ridge Farm’s Upper Gulch, favored at 3.15-1, moved into contention on the final turn but jumped the last fence awkwardly and finished fourth. Tuatha De Danann Stable’s Red Dirt Girl finished fifth under Robby Walsh.

Dowling said he was generally pleased with Opera Heroine’s race. "I was happy with her today," he said. "She jumped a bit bold at times, but she got there."

Fisher said his goal for Opera Heroine is the $50,000 Peapack Stakes for fillies and mares at the Far Hills Races in New Jersey in October. He indicated that the mare may return in the $70,000 Mrs. Walter M. Jeffords for fillies and mares at the same distance on Sept. 1, the final Steeplechase Thursday at Saratoga.

Rematch from Kiser Stakes set for Thursday at the Spa:

The fourth Steeplechase Thursday program at the historic New York track also features the $53,000 National Steeplechase Association J. P. Morgan Hurdle, an optional allowance race that drew a full field of 12 and one also-eligible.

Arcadia Stables’ All Together, last year’s novice champion, collected his first 2011 victory with a powerful late move in Saratoga’s Kiser Novice on July 28. The six-year-old Danzig gelding finished 2 1/4 lengths clear of Demonstrative, the 1.70-1 favorite in the 2 1/16-mile Kiser. Trainer Jack Fisher named Xavier Aizpuru to ride All Together in the 2 3/8-mile Walsh Novice.

Jacqueline Ohrstrom’s Demonstrative, winner of Belmont Park’s $50,000 William Entenmann Novice Stakes on July 3, will seek to continue an impressive four-year-old season after reigning as the 2010 champion three-year-old. Trained by Richard Valentine, Demonstrative will be ridden by Robbie Walsh.

Also entering the Walsh from the Kiser are Here Comes Art, Italian Wedding, and Cornhusker, the respective third, fourth, and fifth finishers.

Carrington Racing Stables’ Here Comes Art set the Kiser’s pace and was nipped for second money, a head behind Demonstrative. Camden’s Bernie Dalton will ride for Camden trainer Arch Kingsley.

Italian Wedding and One Giant Step will be a betting entry for owner-trainer and part-time Camden resident Jonathan Sheppard. Brian Crowley will ride Italian Wedding, who finished a half-length behind Here Comes Art. Danielle Hodsdon, returning from a training injury, will be aboard One Giant Step, who finished second to Demonstrative in the Entenmann.

Trainer Tom Voss is adding blinkers to Armata Stable’s Cornhusker, who was prominent early in the Kiser and faded through Saratoga’s stretch to finish 9 1/4 lengths behind Italian Wedding. Paddy Young, currently leading the jockey standings, has the mount.

The nine-horse Walsh will have three additional starters who did not participate in the Kiser. Fisher, who is seeking his third victory of the Saratoga meet, also will saddle Gil Johnston’s Mr. Hot Stuff, winner of a Penn National Race Course optional allowance over fences on June 24. Willie Dowling has the mount.

Todd McKenna will send out Mrs. Timothy Gardner’s Class Century, a maiden winner at the Carolina Cup Races on April 2. Roddy Mackenzie will ride.

Irvin S. Naylor’s Organisateur will make his first U.S. start after a novice career in England. Nagle will ride.

Sheppard will have two starters for the J. P. Morgan. Augustin Stables’ Port Morsbey finished third in the $50,000 Queen’s Cup MPC Stakes for novices on April 30. Parker’s Project will be seeking his first victory of the year. Crowley rides Port Morsbey, and Nagle rides Parker’s Project.

High Hope Stable’s Baltic Shore will be looking to move into the winner’s circle after finishing a nose behind Royal Rossi in the Steeplechase Owners and Trainers Association Firestone Hurdle, an optional allowance on Aug. 4. Dalton will ride for Kingsley.

All Together and Demonstrative, the respective winner and second-place finisher in the $70,000 Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes, will clash again Thursday in Saratoga Race Course’s $70,000 Michael G. Walsh Novice Stakes.

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