Novice hurdlers get their last chance at grade I glory this year in the AFLAC U.S. Championship Novice hurdle stakes (NSA-I) Saturday at the Callaway Gardens Steeplechase in Pine Mountain, Ga.The $100,000 race lured a field of nine including six horses from the Foxbrook at (NSA-I) Far Hills, which was run Oct. 22. That race was run over a turf course saturated by rain, which favored runaway winner Move West.Move West and second-place finisher Bulawayo aren't in the field this time and a firm turf is expected.Otto Stolz's Irish Actor finished third at Far Hills and rates the choice at Callaway off several good races this year. Trained by Ricky Hendriks, the 5-year-old son of Theatrical won an allowance in April and finished second against more experienced foes at Saratoga. Rob Massey gets the ride and the inside post for the 2 1/4-mile feature.Sonny Via's Good Night Shirt won a Saratoga allowance in August and finished fourth behind Irish Actor at Far Hills. Firm turf should help the 4-year-old son of Concern who is trained in Maryland by Jack Fisher. Xavier Aizpuru gets the return riding assignment. Timber Bay Farm, co-owner of NetJets Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) winner Artie Schiller, will be represented by Underbidder, who finished fifth at Far Hills for trainer Jonathan Sheppard. The 4-year-old son of Awad struggled on the soft ground at Far Hills. Danielle Hodsdon will be aboard.Why Not Baby, Wild N Rowdy and Latino also exit the Far Hills race and could move forward on the firmer turf conditions. The Callaway card, which gets started at 1 p.m., also includes a $50,000 stakes for fillies and mares - the Crown Royal (NSA-III). Ten horses, including the first five finishers in a similar race at Far Hills, face the starter's flag.
The Fields Stable's Guelph won at Far Hills and tries for her third victory in four tries this year. The $30,000 first-place check would elevate her past spring star Class Yankee for the National Steeplechase Association's filly/mare championship for 2005. She will again have to beat Vente, Classic Gale, Feeling So Pretty and Orchid Princess - who filled out the next five spots at Far Hills.