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Sheppard doubles at Saratoga, again

Plum Pretty, St. John’s River to meet in Saturday’s $500K Alabama Stakes

Posted: August 18, 2011 3:28 p.m.
Updated: August 19, 2011 5:00 a.m.

For the second time in two weeks, Hall of Fame trainer and part-time Camden resident Jonathan Sheppard won back-to-back Steeplechase Thursday races at Saratoga Race Course.

Sheppard’s personal daily double opened with his giving Darren Nagle the leg up aboard Parker’s Project in a $53,000 optional allowance hurdle. One race later, Sheppard sent Brian Crowley out aboard Italian Wedding for a win in the $73,000 Michael Walsh Novice Stakes.

Italian Wedding, a 6-year-old owned and bred by Sheppard, strayed no worse than fifth in the starting field of nine jumpers in the Walsh Stakes. He made his move to the front at the 10th and final fence, tracking down leader Demonstrative (Robbie Walsh) and taking home a one-length victory. All together, which beat Demonstrative to the wire in the Jonathan Kiser Stakes (Xavier Aizpuru) three weeks earlier, hung on for third.

The Sheppard-trained One Giant Step (Danielle Hodsdon) was fourth while Here Comes Art, trained in Camden by Arch Kingsley and ridden by Camden’s Bernie Dalton, finished fourth after taking the leave for the first mile and one-half of the 2 3/8-mile chase.

The winning time for Italian Wedding was 4:33.54.

It was the first win in four tries over fences this season for the Alphabet Soup gelding and third in 15 career starts in which Italian Wedding has earned $94,004.

In Thursday’s eye-opener at the Spa, Nagle and Parker’s Project got off to a slow start, running ninth in the field of 12 after the first half mile of the 2 3/8-mile chase. Nagle, who spends the winters in Camden, took his mount to the lead at the eighth fence and pulled away for an impressive 5 ¼-length victory.

The winner stopped the clock at 4:34.15.

A 5-year-old Hudson River Farms-owned gelding, Parker’s Project won for the first time in three starts over hurdles this year and for the second time in 16 steeplechase races in which he has earned $82,442.

The Sheppard-conditioned Port Moresby (Crowley) was second followed by the Kathy McKenna-trained Saluda Sam, which had Carl Rafter up.

Kingsley saddled Baltic Shore (Dalton), which took seventh while the Janet Elliot-trained Dr. Wheat (Roddy McKenzie) was 11th.

Alabama Stakes will have local flavor:

The race has a scheduled 5:45 p.m. post time and will be televised live on NBC.

Kentucky Oaks winner Plum Pretty is owned by Camden resident John Fort’s Peachtree Stable and was developed in Camden at Kip Elser’s Kirkwood Stables before being sent to trainer Bob Baffert. She was listed at 2-1 morning line odds, second choice behind It’s Tricky, which defeated Plum Pretty by three-quarters of a length in their last meeting, the $250,000 Coaching Club of America Oaks at Saratoga, on July 23.

St. John’s River, which finished second in the Oaks for trainer Andrew Leggio, was also developed in Camden at the barn of Nancy Terhune. The Delaware Oaks winner was listed at 6-1 odd in the morning line.

Saturday’s $500,000 Alabama Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Saratoga will feature a rematch between the top two finishers from this past May’s Kentucky Oaks. And both fillies have substantial ties to Camden.

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