Three Eclipse Award champions -- Demonstrative, Divine Fortune and Pierrot Lunaire -- have been entered to contest Saturday’s $150,000 Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1), the signature race of Saturday’s 74th annual Iroquois Steeplechase in Nashville.
Demonstrative secured the 2014 Eclipse Award winner as North America’s leading steeplechase horse with three consecutive Grade 1 victories last summer and fall, in order, the $150,000 New York Turf Writers Cup at Saratoga Race Course, Belmont Park’s $150,000 Lonesome Glory Handicap and the $250,000 Grand National at Far Hills, N.J.
Winner of the 2013 Calvin Houghland Iroquois, Demonstrative began 2014 with a sixth-place finish in the Calvin Houghland Iroquois. Trainer Richard Valentine said Demonstrative was not fully fit for the race’s rigorous three miles over National Fences.
Regular jockey Robbie Walsh will again be in the saddle for the eight-year-old Elusive Quality gelding, who tuned up for the Iroquois with a victory in a training flat race at the Middleburg Spring Races on April 18.
Bill Pape’s Divine Fortune, the 2013 Eclipse champion, is the defending Calvin Houghland Iroquois winner, and he wrapped up a strong 2014 season by winning the $100,000 Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup in Camden last November.
Trained by Racing Hall of Fame member Jonathan Sheppard, Divine Fortune will be ridden by Darren Nagle, who missed last year’s race because of a broken leg. Divine Fortune prepared for Saturday’s race with a third-place finish in training flat race on April 25 at the Queen’s Cup Steeplechase.
Champion jockey and Camden resident Willie McCarthy rode Divine Fortune to last year’s win, and he will be aboard Barnstorming, a novice stakes winner who campaigns for Sheppard and the Round the Ben Stable partnership. Barnstorming finished sixth to Demonstrative in the Middleburg flat race.
Mary Ann Houghland’s Pierrot Lunaire won the 2009 Iroquois in the colors of her late husband, long-time Iroquois Steeplechase Chairman Calvin Houghland. The 2012 Eclipse champion after back-to-back wins in the Lonesome Glory and Grand National, Pierrot Lunaire finished fourth in last year’s Calvin Houghland Iroquois, his only 2014 start.
Trained by Bruce Miller, Pierrot Lunaire began his 2015 campaign with a seventh-place finish in Middleburg’s $50,000 Temple Gwathmey Handicap. Kieran Norris will ride.
The Gwathmey winner, Gil Johnston’s Mr. Hot Stuff, figures to be a factor in this year’s Calvin Houghland Iroquois. A Grade 1 winner in 2013, he missed all of last season but has returned in top form. Four-time champion jockey Paddy Young will ride for champion trainer Jack Fisher.