Jacqueline Ohrstrom’s Demonstrative edged past Divine Fortune at the finish line to win the $150,000 Calvin Houghland Iroquois Steeplechase (NSA-I) by a head May 11 at Percy Warner Park in Nashville, Tenn.
Molotof, owned by Calvin Houghland’s widow, Mary Ann, finished a distant third in the 72nd annual Iroquois, the richest race of the National Steeplechase Association’s spring season.
The three-mile Iroquois was Demonstrative’s first start over fences in the current racing season, and Divine Fortune had tuned with a smart victory in the Sandhills Cup allowance race at the Stoneybrook Steeplechase in North Carolina April 6.
Demonstrative and Divine Fortune followed the leaders in the early going of the Iroquois. Lake Placid maintained a substantial lead for the first two miles, with Molotof and Slip Away chasing the leader. As Lake Placid weakened on the final circuit of the Percy Warner racecourse, Molotof took the lead. But the French-bred was no match for Divine Fortune, who made his move on the final turn under Darren Nagle, jumped to the lead, and opened a two-length advantage two fences from home.
Demonstrative followed Divine Fortune into contention and cut the advantage to a length at the final fence, but Divine Fortune held on gamely through the stretch. Jockey Robbie Walsh drove Demonstrative toward the finish, and the 6-year-old Elusive Quality gelding seized the advantage in the closing strides in an exciting finish.
Demonstrative covered the distance in 5:42.40 on turf rated as good and became the season’s leading earner with the $90,000 first-place check.
The Iroquois was the third victory of the afternoon for trainer Richard Valentine, who also won the first division of the George Sloan and John Sloan Jr. Sport of King maiden hurdle with Rose Marie Bogley’s Labonte and the $35,000 Bright Hour Hurdle with Augustin Stables’ Rainiero. Danielle Hodsdon rode Labonte, and Mark Beecher was aboard Rainiero.
Also claiming three victories on the eight-race program was champion trainer Jack Fisher, whose Mr. Hot Stuff, owned by Gil Johnston, took the $75,000 Marcellus Frost (NSA-II) for novices.
Valentine said he would give Demonstrative some time off and then point him for the A.P. Smithwick Stakes (NSA-I) in July and the New York Turf Writers Handicap (NSA-I) at Saratoga Race Course in August.