Steeplechase racing returns to Saratoga for the 2023 season. The 1st race on Wednesdays will be the steeplechase race of the week.

This is my 8th season sharing my Saratoga steeplechase picks on Derby Trail. Many thanks to all who review my observations and I hope I’ve helped your understanding, reduce your apprehension towards steeplechase racing and padded your bankroll. Special thanks and shout out to Steve Byk who has supported and encouraged my posts over the last 7 years.
Here are some news updates and information I’ve gathered since my last

The new National fences introduced a few years ago will not return in their current form. The new fences were 6 inches wider and had a tartan covering on the roll before the plastic brush that was detrimental to both horse and rider. Instead of the vinyl covering on the current fence that would allow the horses hoof to slide if it was struck, the tartan covering grabbed the horses hoof that created some nasty falls and catastrophic horse injuries.

Colonial Downs runs 2 steeplechase races every Friday but they continue to be non-wagering exhibition races. The Churchill Downs Inc. group initially planned to have wagering but then changed their minds. Twinspires will continue to take online wagers for the Spring Virginia Gold Cup and the Fall International Gold Cup (10/28/23) races at The Plains.

Leading Steeplechase jockey from 2022 and 1st call rider for trainer Keri Brion, Parker Hendriks is still in the process of recovering from a concussion sustained in the spring. He will ride at Saratoga this summer.

The A.P. Smithwick Memorial handicap kicks off the season at Saratoga. The Smithwick will be around 4 turns and over 8 fences. The last fence is on the backstretch so there is a half mile flat run to the finish.

High weight #3 Noah and the Ark is the class but trainer Todd McKenna says the 2 1/16th mile distance is too short. #2 Redicean has seen better days and appears to be overmatched. #5 Salvino makes his U.S. debut and based on his handicap rating in England, he should be carrying 134 pounds instead of the 140 minimum in graded handicap stakes in the U.S. In addition, first timers from England generally do not do well in their debut because of the quick early pace of U.S. steeplechase racing. #7 Gordon’s Jet will be the top pick of Joe Clancy on Talking Horses because he always picks the Riverdee Stable runner even if the Riverdee Stable runner could not beat Zippy Chippy.

#1 Freddy Flintshire is my top selection for trainer Keri Brion and jockey Parker Hendriks. #1 Freddy Flintshire is making the natural progression from Novice class to stakes class, gets in light with 144 pounds, will sit off the strong early pace and has the biggest flat Beyer speed figure that highlights enough closing speed to run down anything in front of him for the final flat ½ mile.

#9 Belfast Banter should hit the board underneath for long time steeplechase horse owner Irv Naylor who was the spring leading owner with $229K in earnings, highlighted by Maryland Hunt Cup winner Withoutmoreado. #9 Belfast Banter is getting a 14 pound weight break from high weight #3 Noah and the Ark.

#8 Welshman may hang on to hit the board after setting the pace with #7 Gordon’s Jet and #6 West Newton. #4 Historic Heart for trainer Keri Brion does well on flat race track ovals and may also hit the board.


A) #1 Freddy Flintshire

The bet: key #1 over #4 and #8 and #9 for all exotic bets.

Good Luck at the races!

Tom Herman