Steeplechase races are back at Saratoga!

I’m sure we all feel the same way about the COVID-19 impact of no spectators at Saratoga. If it saves one life, it’s worth it. This will be the first time I have not attended 1 day of Saratoga racing since 1968. The days of misspent youth… every August my family vacationed at my Uncle’s cabin on Snake Hill at Saratoga Lake while jockeys rented out the basement of his house on Stratton Street near the track.

The first race every Wednesday will be steeplechase for the rest of the meet.
In addition, the first race on Thursday July 23rd and Thursday August 20th will be steeplechase stakes for a total of 9 races.

The Jonathan Kiser Novice stakes kicks off steeplechase season at the Spa.

Today’s race is 2 1/16th miles over 8 fences around 4 turns for non-winners over hurdles before March 1, 2019 or have never won 3 jump races, not including 3YO races (Belisarius, Bodes Well).

COVID-19 knocked out almost all spring point to points and NSA races. The only point to point races were early – Rappahannock on March 7 and Warrenton on March 14. Nothing significant to report from Rappahannock however at Warrenton, trainer Sheppard had a 1st, 2nd and 3rd in the 3 hurdle races and Belisarius went wire to wire beating 6 rivals in a 1 ½ mile flat race. NSA had Middleburg on June 13 and Virginia Gold Cup June 27. At the NSA meets, trainers Fisher, Sheppard and Leslie Young were the only horsemen to have multiple winners. From what I understand, retired jockey Paddy Young is training Leslie Young’s runners. Jockeys Mitchell, Galligan, McDermott and Garner were also on more than 1 winner.

The race goes through #2 Snap Decision, winner of his last 5 jump races. Although he is toting 162 pounds, his flat track speed dominates this field. According to the NSA rating system(higher number = faster runner),#2 Snap Decision is 150; his closest rival is #3 City Dreamer at 132, #6 Belisarius at 129, then the rest at 123 or less. If this were a handicap, #2 Snap Decision would spot #3 City Dreamer 18 pounds instead of 9 pounds and #2 Snap Decision would spot the rest of the field over 20 pounds.

Cue the “Graveyard of Favorites” music.

I don’t see #6 Belisarius running Wednesday since he is cross entered in the A.P. Smithwick Thursday 7/23 and gets a favorable 140 pound assignment in the Smithwick. If he runs put underneath in superfecta.

H. Allen Jerkins doesn’t have a runner in the race so the role of giant killer falls to Jonathan Sheppard and Ricky Hendriks.

#4 Galway Kid for Sheppard ran the 2nd fastest time at the Middleburg 2 1/8 mile distance on 6/13 with a powerful uphill run at the end of the race, passing Jack Fisher’s runner Brianbakescookies.

#5 Zanzi Win ran a 1 ½ mile flat race at Middleburg 6/13 and finished 2nd of 16 runners but was disqualified for going off course. There is going off course and going WAY off course. Jockey McClain Hendriks (Ricky’s son) was towards the front and guided Zanzi Win to a beacon for the finishing straight, instead of cutting inside. 4 runners behind him followed. Zanzi Win went approximately 200 extra feet (about 25 lengths) before getting back on course. McClain gave Zanzi Win the signal to go and ran his eyeballs out for the last mile to get up for 2nd, losing by about 5 lengths. So Zanzi Win has an excuse for flattening out late in his Great Meadow race 6/27 and has had enough time to recover.

#1 Family Tree with prominent owner Irv Naylor faded badly at Great Meadow 6/27. The race before at Callaway Gardens 11/9/19, #1 Family Tree inherited the lead after #5 Zanzi Win who was leading, stumbled at the last fence and fell.

#3 City Dreamer owned by Riverdee Stable (Joe and Sean Clancy) did not run this year because of firm turf. He likes turf that is not firm and if there is some rain, he moves up. Keep in mind that when Joe Clancy does the Steeplechase broadcast for NYRA with Andy Serling, Clancy ALWAYS picks his Riverdee Stable runners to hit the board, if not on top. So take his selections with a grain of salt.

#7 Bodes Well ran well at Great Meadow 6/27 for Leslie Young and runs better on flat and firm surfaces. Bodes Well can run underneath for the superfecta.

Race shape indicates that #7 Bodes Well and #1 Family Tree will set an honest pace early. #2 Snap Decision and #4 Galway Kid will be in the 2nd flight. Not much will change the 1st lap around the track. The runners will crowd together entering the backstretch the last time where it will be a free for all with jockeys trying to get position while saving ground entering the final turn. After the last fence, #2 Snap Decision, #4 Galway Kid and #5 Zanzi Win will pull away from the others with #2 Snap Decision drawing off to win by 10 lengths. Remember there is a 3/8 mile flat run to the finish after the last fence so flat track speed will prevail.

The Selections:

A) 2

C) 5-4

Good luck at the races!