Edited press release
American steeplechase fans will have the opportunity to wager on a full card of jump racing May 27 with the annual spring running of the Fair Hill Races near Elkton, Md.
Home to Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) winner Barbaro, Fair Hill has hosted jump racing since the 1930s, including the first six runnings of the Breeders' Cup Steeplechase.
Fair Hill now cards eight races (three on the flat and five over jumps) worth $75,000 in total purses, with its Memorial Day weekend racing, betting, cotton candy sales, car raffle, and other shopping profits to benefit Union Hospital in Elkton. Post time is 1 p.m. at the course, which is north of Elkton and west of Newark, Del. at the intersection of Routes 273 and 213.
Five fillies and mares contest the $30,000 Valentine Memorial, which serves as the weekend's feature. Run in memory of longtime steeplechase supporters Joy and Miles Valentine, the race annually impacts the distaff division of jump racing and will surely do so again with three stakes winners in the field.
Lee McKinney's Feeling So Pretty breaks from the rail and races against her gender for the first time this year after twice chasing Sur La Tete home in open Grade I stakes. The 12-year-old mare finished third at Keeneland April 21 and was second at Nashville May 13, while pocketing $42,638. The Kentucky-based jockey Michael Traurig will ride at 160 pounds. Feeling So Pretty towers over the field in career jump earnings with $210,898, but she looks for her first win in more than a year.
The Field's Stable's Guelph galloped off with the NSA filly/mare championship with four wins from five starts last year for trainer Tom Voss. The 5-year-old daughter of Sky Classic
makes her 2006 debut and gets regular jockey Cyril Murphy. Guelph finished third in the 2005 Valentine, but reeled off three straight wins in the fall to claim the championship. She has beaten three of her four opponents previously.
Linda Klein's Orchid Princess won her first hurdle start in April 2005, and lost her next eight while finishing second four times and third once. The near-misses came to a dramatic end with a gutsy score in the Margaret Henley Stakes at Nashville May 13. Orchid Princess rallied over the final two fences to catch Imagina and win by three-quarters of a length. Xavier Aizpuru gets the mount.
Brigadoon Stable's Isla Mujeres comes off a powerful allowance score in her last start at Charlotte April 29, and while she gives away experience (just two career jump starts), she could be a rising star for Virginia trainer Doug Fout. The 4-year-old English-bred filly broke her flat maiden in California and raced four times for trainer Graham Motion before switching to jumps this year. Matt McCarron gets the ride at 138 pounds.
Otto Stolz's Artsy, a maiden in 13 flat and steeplechase starts, completes the field for trainer Ricky Hendriks and jockey Danielle Hodsdon. The daughter of Joyeux Danseur has a second and a fourth over hurdles this year.Colonial Downs, Philly Park, Saratoga Schedule Jump Races
The NSA's spring season wraps up with Fair Hill, but jump racing continues through the summer at Colonial Downs, Philadelphia Park, and Saratoga.
Colonial starts things off with two races every Sunday during the eight-week meet, which begins June 18. The highlight for the steeplechase season will be the $50,000 Zeke Ferguson hurdle stakes July 16. Total purses at Colonial are $260,000.
Philadelphia Park again cards the $50,000 Flatterer Stakes for Pennsylvania-bred steeplechasers. Created last summer, the race is part of Pennsylvania's Day at the Races Saturday, July 29.
Saratoga will again include steeplechase racing as part of its six-week meet with one race every Thursday starting July 27 and continuing through Aug. 31. The $75,000 A.P. Smithwick Memorial (NSA-II) Aug. 10 and the $150,000 New York Turf Writers Cup (NSA-I) Aug. 31 headline the schedule.