Racing Hall of Fame trainer and part-time Camden resident Jonathan Sheppard already has extended his streak of winning at least one Saratoga Race Course race every season beginning in 1969, and on Thursday he will seek to maintain his dominance of the historic track’s steeplechase races in the $100,000 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1).
Last year, Sheppard won four of Saratoga’s nine steeplechase races, and he will have three contenders for the 2 1/16-mile Smithwick on the inner turf course. Post time for Thursday’s opener at the Spa is 12:25 p.m.
Heading his contingent is Bill Pape’s Divine Fortune, the reigning Eclipse Award-winning steeplechase horse who won the $150,000 Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1) in Nashville on May 10 and currently ranks as the sport’s leading earner. Willie McCarthy, who heads the jockeys’ standings and winters in Camden, will ride the 11-year-old Royal Anthem gelding, who was bred by Pape and Sheppard.
For his own account, Sheppard will saddle 2013 New York Turf Writers Cup (Gr. 1) winner Italian Wedding and Barnstorming, victor in last year’s Michael G. Walsh Novice Stakes at Saratoga. Both are winless this year. Camden’s Bernie Dalton returns aboard Italian Wedding, and the red-hot Ross Geraghty rides Barnstorming.
Jack Fisher, who tied Sheppard for last year’s trainer title, will saddle All Together and Staying On. Owned by Andre Brewster and Sheila Williams, All Together revitalized his career at Saratoga last year with an optional allowance claiming win and a good second to Italian Wedding in the New York Turf Writers.
Michael Moran’s Staying On won the Queen’s Cup MPC ’Chase for novices in April and most recently was third in the Radnor Hunt Races’ National Hunt Cup (Gr. 3). Sam Jones has the mount on All Together, and Jeff Murphy returns on Staying On.
Elizabeth Voss Murray took over the stable of her late father, leading Maryland trainer Tom Voss, this past spring, and she will saddle Merriebelle Stable’s Makari and the Fields Stable’s Wanganui. Makari had two wins at small tracks in England this spring and will be ridden by Jack Doyle. Wanganui, the 2011 three-year-old champion, is attempting a comeback after missing all of last season. Gus Dahl will ride.
Jacqueline Ohrstrom’s Demonstrative, winner of the 2012 New York Turf Writers, is trying to regain his top form for trainer Richard Valentine. In his only appearance this season, Demonstrative finished sixth in the Calvin Houghland Iroquois, a race he won in 2013. Robbie Walsh will ride.
Another Virginia-based trainer, Doug Fout, will send out front-runner Pleasant Woodman, owned by Nashville resident Virginia Lazenby and Farm d’Allie Racing Stables. Pleasant Woodman used his tactical front-end speed to win Aiken Spring’s Budweiser Imperial Cup (Gr. 3), and Iroquois’ Marcellus Frost Novice Stakes. Gerard Galligan has a return call.
Completing the field is Randleston Farm’s Spy in the Sky, who upset the 2012 A. P. Smithwick at 25-to-1. Trainer Jimmy Day turned the mount over to reigning champion jockey Paddy Young.