Leading National Steeplechase Association trainer Jack Fisher and current top jockey Michael Mitchell added to their leads in the National Steeplechase Association standings in Monmouth Park’s two $30,000 maiden hurdles on Thursday, with Fisher winning both races and Mitchell securing a victory aboard Not in Charge in the first division.
Willie McCarthy, who also rides regularly for Fisher, notched his third win of the season with Snap Decision for current leading owner Bruton Street-US in the second division.
The victories were the 23rd and 24th of the year for Maryland-based Fisher, who pushed his stable earnings above $800,000. His closest competitor is Jonathan Sheppard, who has seven wins and earnings of approximately $200,000.
Mitchell now has 16 wins, seven more than Sean McDermott, as jump racing turns toward summer races at Saratoga Race Course and Colonial Downs.
Both winners followed the same pattern by gaining an early lead on Monmouth’s firm turf course and never looking back.
Not in Charge, owned by Sheila Williams and Northwoods Stable, took charge at the second fence under Mitchell and raced with an uncontested lead ahead of Silver Crescent and Hepcat into the stretch the final time. Ballybristol Farm’s Silver Crescent launched a challenge at the last fence but could not sustain his bid.
Owner-trainer Sheppard’s Hepcat continued to run through the stretch and finished second, 1 ½ lengths behind Not in Charge and 2 ½ lengths ahead of third finisher Silver Crescent.
Sent to the start at 11-to-10, Not in Charge paid $4.20 to win after running the 2 1/16-mile distance in 3:51.32. The five-year-old Lemon Drop Kid gelding had finished fourth in his previous start, a maiden hurdle at the Fair Hill Races on May 25.
Snap Decision snapped to the front end at the start in the second division, with Richard C. Colton Jr.’s 19.30-to-1 Seeking Albert close behind him and forcing a stiff pace. Immediately behind the top two were Hudson River Farms’ Snuggling and Gill Johnston’s Master Plan.
Snap Decision pulled clear on the final turn, led by five lengths at the final fence, and came home to a 4 ½-length victory in 3:41.41. Snap Decision, second to promising import Markhan in an Iroquois Steeplechase maiden hurdle on May 11, went off as the 2.90-to-1 second betting choice and paid $7.80 to win.
Seeking Albert, ridden by McDermott, finished second, 6 ¾ lengths clear of Master Plan in third. Riverdee Stable’s Gostisberehere, the 2.60-to-1 favorite, finished fourth.
On to Saratoga and Colonial Downs: The National Steeplechase Associations heads to upstate New York next week for its annual residency at the Saratoga Race Course for a summer campaign which continues through Labor Day with racing programs at Parx Racing, and Colonial Down in Virginia.
In all, the 14 racing dates encompass 21scheduled races and will offer more than $1 million in purses to NSA horsemen.
The Colonial Downs dates, new with the reopening of the New Kent race course in August, will spotlight jump racing with 10 races on the meet’s five Saturday programs.
Saratoga, the epicenter of Thoroughbred racing each summer, will open earlier this year to accommodate construction adjacent to Belmont Park on Long Island. The first steeplechase race at the Saratoga Springs, N.Y., landmark will be a $65,000 allowance hurdle on Wednesday, July 17.
The following week will feature two stakes races. The $75,000 Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes will be run on Wednesday, July 24, and the $150,000 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1) will be the following afternoon.
Jump racing will be in the Saratoga spotlight each Wednesday in August, with the Mrs. Ogden Phipps for fillies and mares on Aug. 7 and the Michael G. Walsh Novice Stakes on Aug. 21. The next afternoon will feature Saratoga’s signature steeplechase race, the $150,000 New York Turf Writers Cup Handicap (Gr. 1).
Colonial Downs, awakening from a six-year slumber, will offer 15 racing dates in August and September, with racing on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays as well as a Labor Day program on Monday, Sept. 2. The steeplechase action begins on Saturday, Aug. 10, with a $30,000 maiden hurdle and a $25,000 ratings handicap hurdle.
Two races each Saturday will offer a variety of conditions and will conclude with the $50,000 Randolph D. Rouse Stakes for fillies and mares on Sept. 7, which is closing day for the 2019 season. Steeplechase racing will complement the Aug. 31 card, which will feature the Virginia Derby and the Virginia Oaks.
Colonial Downs will have a 5 p.m. first post time with the exception of Labor Day, when the first race will go off at 1 p.m.