Edited press release
Hirapour will try to win the New York Turf Writers Cup Steeplechase (NSA-I) Aug. 31 on the road to year-end honors and a happy retirement.
Eldon Farm's 2004 steeplechase champion took the first step here Aug. 10, returning from an eight-month layoff following ankle surgery to win the A.P. Smithwick (NSA-II) by 4 lengths for Matt McCarron and trainer Doug Fout.
Hirapour, Fout, and McCarron all collected their first Turf Writers victory last year, but only three horses have ever won this race back-to-back. The 10-year-old won the 2005 edition carrying 158 pounds and has been assigned 164 for the 2006 edition. Only three horses have carried that much or more to victory in the Turf Writers. Two of them, Flatterer and Lonesome Glory, collected nine Eclipse awards between them and are enshrined in the Hall of Fame.
"I've never been on a horse that tries so hard," McCarron said. "He's a very good jumper, and he's got a great turn of foot, but his desire is just unbelievable."
Six other horses will take on Hirapour, each carrying from 10 to 26 pounds less than him. Bill Pape's Mixed Up enters on a two-race win streak. In May, the 7-year-old gelding won the Marcellus Frost (NSA-III) then took the Flatterer Handicap for state-breds at Philadelphia Park. Danielle Hodsdon, aboard for his two scores this year, gets the call from trainer Jonathan Sheppard. The Hall of Fame conditioner has won the Turf Writers 11 times, most recently in 2001 with It's A Giggle, one of the two Turf Writers winners he's trained for Pape.
Randleston Farm's Top Of The Bill is trained by Jimmy Day and ridden by Carl Rafter. The 5-year-old son of Lear Fan has two wins this year from three starts, all in Triple Crown events: he won the Carolina Cup in April, finished second (but was disqualified and placed last) in the Temple Gwathmey three weeks later, then rebounded by taking National Hunt Cup in May.
Other runners include Mark The Shark, Toughkenamon, Erin Go Bragh, and Underbidder.