CHAMPIONS HEAD IROQUOIS (GR. 1) NOMINEES
Photo by Todd Marks
May 1, 2019 by Don Clippinger
Two champions owned by Bruton Street-US, Scorpiancer and Moscato, are among seven nominees for the $150,000 Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1), the keynote race of the 78th annual Iroquois Steeplechase at Nashville’s Percy Warner Park on Saturday, May 11. The Calvin Houghland Iroquois, the richest race on the National Steeplechase Association’s spring calendar, will conclude an Iroquois Steeplechase program that includes two other stakes races, the Marcellus Frost Champion Hurdle and the Margaret Currey Henley for fillies and mares. First post time is 1 p.m. CDT.
At three miles, the Calvin Houghland Iroquois is America’s longest hurdle race, and it poses a question that Scorpiancer has answered successfully. Trained by Jack Fisher, he won the spring classic by 16 lengths in 2017 and subsequently was voted that year’s Eclipse Award as North America’s champion steeplechase horse.
He missed the remainder of the 2017 season and all of 2018 before coming back last month in Middleburg Spring’s Temple Gwathmey Handicap (Gr. 2), in which he was pulled up.
The Temple Gwathmey was won impressively by Moscato, also trained by seven-time champion trainer Fisher. He too has won at Percy Warner, taking a $50,000 allowance hurdle by 6½ lengths in 2017.
From that victory, he went on to win two novice stakes, for horses in their first seasons of racing over fences, and earned the 2017 novice championship. He also missed the 2018 season and came back with a 3½-length victory in the Temple Gwathmey on April 20.
The second-, third-, and fourth-place finishers from the Temple Gwathmey also were nominated to the Calvin Houghland Iroquois. Belisarius, who won a division of the Far Hills Races’ Foxbrook Champion Hurdle last October, finished second after bursting to the lead before the last fence.
Trained by Kate Dalton, Belisarius is owned by Gary Barber, Brous Stable, and Wachtel Stable, all of them prominent in flat racing.
Jaleo, also trained by Fisher, finished seven lengths behind Belisarius in third. He had been imported for last year’s Grand National (Gr. 1) at Far Hills and finished fifth.
Racing Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard nominated Buttonwood Farm’s All the Way Jose, who finished fourth, another eight lengths farther back. Bred by Sheppard, the nine-year-old was a 2017 Grade 1 winner and finished third in the last two editions of the Grand National.
Fisher’s fourth nominee is Riverdee Stable’s Gibralfaro, who won the Queen’s Cup MPC ’Chase for novices on April 27. He finished second in last year’s Marcellus Frost.
Completing the nominees is Wendy Hendriks’ Surprising Soul, a Grade 3 stakes winner last year who finished second to Belisarius in the Foxbrook. Trained by Ricky Hendriks, he finished fourth in the Carolina Cup Handicap on March 30.
Here are the seven nominees to the $150,000 Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1) in alphabetical order.
All the Way Jose. 2010 b. g., Senor Swinger—Maternity Leave, by Northern Baby. Owner: Buttonwood Farm. Trainer: Jonathan Sheppard. Breeder: Jonathan Sheppard (Pa.) 2019 record: 1-0-0-0, $3,750. 2018 record: 6-0-0-1, $ 68,200. 2017 record: 7-2-1-3, $179,300. In 2019 debut, finished fourth in the Temple Gwathmey Handicap (Gr. 2). Finished second in 2018 Noel Laing Handicap at Montpelier Hunt Races. Finished third in 2018 Grand National Gr. 1) for second straight year, after fifth in A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1) and sixth in New York Turf Writers Cup (Gr. 1) at Saratoga. Began 2018 with fourth in Temple Gwathmey Handicap (Gr. 2) at Middleburg Spring, then fell in Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1). Won 2017 Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1). (134)
Belisarius (Ire). 2011 b. g., Montjeu—Lasting Chance, by American Chance. Owner: Gary Barber, Brous Stable, and Wachtel Racing Stable. Trainer: Kate Dalton. Breeders: Lynch Bages Ltd. And Camas Park Stud (Ire). 2019 record: 1-0-1-0, $13,500. 2018 NSA record: 6-2-1-2, $106,200. In 2019 debut, finished second in Temple Gwathmey Handicap (Gr. 2). Won 2018 Foxbrook Champion Hurdle by 6¼ lengths. Set all the pace and won 2018 Monmouth Park maiden hurdle by two lengths. Never has finished off the board in five jumps starts. (134)
Gibralfaro. (Ire). 2012 b. g., Dalakhani (Ire)—Ronda, by Bluebird. Owner: Riverdee Stable. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Breeder: Sarl Darpat France (Ire). 2018 record: 5-1-3-0, $77,250. Opened 2019 with victory in Queen’s Cup MPC ’Chase for novices. Finished second in Far Hills’ 2018 Foxbrook Champion Hurdle division and Aflac Supreme Hurdle. Finished second in Iroquois’ 2018 Marcellus Frost Champion Hurdle for novices, then was sixth in Belmont Park’s William Entenmann Memorial Novice Stakes. Set pressured pace and won 2018 Tryon Block House allowance hurdle. (135)
Jaleo (Ger). 2012 ch. g., New Approach (Ire)—Jambalaya (Ger), by Samum (Ger). Owner: Bruton Street-US. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Breeder: Gestut Karlshof (Ger). 2019 record: 1-0-0-1, $7,500. 2018 NSA record: 1-0-0-0, $18,000. Opened 2019 with third in Temple Gwathmey Handicap (Gr. 2). Finished fifth in 2018 Grand National (Gr. 1) after setting early pace. Had been racing well in moderate allowance steeplechases in England for up-and-coming trainer Ben Pauling. (134)
Moscato (GB). 2011 gr. or ro. g., Hernando (Fr)—Alba Stella, by Nashwan. Owner: Bruton Street-US. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Breeder: Miss K. Rausing (GB). 2019 record: 1-1-0-0, $45,000. 2018 record: No starts. 2017 record: 6-4-2-0, $156,000. Novice champion of 2017 returned from a year on the sidelines and won the 2019 Temple Gwathmey Handicap (Gr. 2). Won Belmont Park’s 2017 William Entenmann Novice Stakes and Saratoga’s Michael G. Walsh Novice Stakes impressively after strong closing second in Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes. Won Queen’s Cup maiden by 7 1/4 lengths and Iroquois allowance hurdle by 6 1/2 lengths. (143)
Scorpiancer (Ire). 2009 b. g., Scorpion (Ire)—Janebailey, By Silver Patriarch. Owner: Bruton Street-US. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Breeder: Mary O’Connor (Ire). 2019 record: 1-0-0-0, $0. 2018 record: No starts. 2017 record: 2-2-0-0, $150,000. Missed 2018 season and was pulled up in his first 2019 start, the Temple Gwathmey Handicap (Gr. 2). Claimed 2017 Eclipse Award with victories in Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1) and Temple Gwathmey. Won Belmont Park’s 2016 Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1). (149)
Surprising Soul. 2012 b. g., Perfect Soul (Ire)—Elusive Srprise, by Elusive Quality. Owner: Wendy W. Hendriks. Trainer: Ricky Hendriks. Breeder: Charles Fipke (Ont.) 2019 record: 1-0-0-0, $2,500. 2018 record: 3-2-1-0, $97,500. 2017 record: 7-3-0-1, $106,500. Finished fourth in Carolina Cup Handicap, his 2019 debut. Won Saratoga’s 2018 Michael G. Walsh Novice Stakes, then was second in Far Hills’ Foxbrook Champion Hurdle division. Opened 2018 with dominant victory in Radnor’s National Hunt Cup (Gr. 3). (129)