Champion Divine Fortune Takes Iroquois 'Chase

Eclipse Award winner of 2013 captures 3-mile race May 10 in initial start of season.

Divine Fortune, the Eclipse Award-winning champion steeplechase horse of 2013, started a successful defense of his title May 10, winning the Calvin Houghland Iroquois Stakes (NSA-I) at Percy Warner Park in Nashville, Tenn.

The 11-year-old Royal Anthem gelding went to the front in the 73rd running of the event at the drop of the starter's flag and stayed there throughout to win the $150,000 stakes race by four lengths before an estimated crowd of 25,000.

Jockey Willie McCarthy's winning ride aboard Divine Fortune in the three-mile race over 18 national hurdles was his third of the afternoon.

Divine Fortune, owned by William Pape and National Racing Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard, finished second last year in the Iroquois, losing by a nose to Demonstrative. The defending winner wound up sixth this year after trailing the field of nine for much of the way.

"It was poetic justice because he led every step of the way last year," Sheppard told The Tennessean. "Demonstrative was at the peak of his powers at that time. He's still a nice horse, but he's tapered off just a little bit."

Gustavian ran second with For Non Stop third. Local favorite Pierrot Lunaire, the winner of the 2009 Iroquois and owned by Mrs. Calvin Houghland, finished fourth.

Divine Fortune covered the distance on a firm turf course in 5:39 2/5 carrying scale weight of 158 pounds.

After the trophy presentation, Sheppard said Divine Fortune would make his next hurdle start in the $100,000 A.P. Smithwick Memorial Stakes (NSA-I) at Saratoga in July ''unless he needs a couple of flat runs at Penn National or somewhere else between now and then.''