Mellon Cup, High Hope Steeplechases This Weekend

Edited from a release

Sur La Tete Takes Aim At Steeplechase 'Preakness'

Smarty Jones isn't the only Thoroughbred trying to win the second leg of a Triple Crown Saturday, as steeplechase horse Sur La Tete tries to keep his streak alive in the $100,000 Mellon National Hunt Cup (NSA-I) at the Radnor Hunt Races in Malvern, Pa.

Owned by Kinross Farm and trained in Virginia by Neil Morris, Sur La Tete captured the series' opener at Atlanta April 10 with a dominant, 10-length win. At Radnor, the 6-year-old son of Sky Classic faces seven foes including the second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth horses from Atlanta. Two newcomers join the group for the 2 1/4-mile race.

"I thought Atlanta might not suit him, but it did," said Morris, of that race's short 2-mile distance. "It set up perfectly for us because they went so blistering fast early and it looks like there is plenty of speed in this one too. We aren't going to do anything different. We will lay off the pace, be handy at the top of the hill and see if we can get there."

Morris said Sur La Tete, whose steeplechase record includes three wins and $137,500 earned, will ship to Pennsylvania Thursday night, stay at a nearby farm until Saturday morning and take the short van ride to the race course Saturday.

"Dealing with his confidence and the baggage (claustrophobia, nerves, shipping troubles) he travels with are the hard things with him," said the trainer. "I didn't train him to be a good horse. He's been that. All I have to do is stay out of the way, manage him properly and don't mess up."

Sur La Tete came from off the pace and drew off to win by 10 3/4 lengths at Atlanta. Marilyn Ketts' Cherokeeinthehills was second there after also sitting off the pace, and returns for another try at Radnor. The former flat stakes horse should appreciate the extra quarter-mile at Radnor, as will Sur La Tete.

Martin Cherry's Serazzo, a highly regarded flat convert from John Kimmel's barn, will try to improve upon his fifth-place run at Atlanta and could be sitting on a big race. Trained in Maryland by Tom Voss, the 8-year-old (a full-brother to grade I flat winner You And I) won a flat prep at Atlantic City May 5 and gets a change to veteran jockey Chip Miller. Like Sur La Tete and Cherokeeinthehills, Serazzo will appreciate a fast pace to run at in the race's later stages.

And now for the speed. Mauritania, Racey Dreamer and Naughty Prince have all been frontrunners and should ensure a quick first half of the race. Mauritania, winner of four races last year, was third after racing up front early at Atlanta. Racey Dreamer has won two straight (both wire-to-wire) for EMO Stable and trainer Doug Fout, but gets a big class test. Naughty Prince competed in last year's Steeplechase Triple Crown (second at Churchill Downs) but hasn't run over jumps this year for Barracuda Stable and trainer Ricky Hendriks, the same owner/trainer combination that won the Iroquois Hurdle Stakes last weekend with Tres Touche.

"He's great," Hendriks said of Naughty Prince, who finished second to Mauritania in a flat prep May 1. "We didn't have him ready for Atlanta, but I think he's ready now. It should be a good race."

The National Hunt Cup field (with trainer, jockey) in post position order:

Horse, trainer, jockey
1--Frecuente, Sanna Hendriks, Gus Brown
2--Sur La Tete, Neil Morris, Chris Read
3--Raise A Storm, Kathy Neilson, Rob Massey
4--Cherokeeinthehills, Jonathan Sheppard, Danielle Hodsdon
5--Naughty Prince, Ricky Hendriks, David Bentley
6--Mauritania, Richard Valentine, Calvin McCormack
7--Serazzo, Tom Voss, Chip Miller
8--Racey Dreamer, Doug Fout, Matt McCarron

Radnor's racing day includes five other races and total purses of $215,000. Post time is 1:30 p.m.

Lexington Jumps With Annual High Hope Meet

Sunday's High Hope Steeplechase isn't quite Keeneland, but the steeplechase meet becomes the center of Thoroughbred activity in Lexington, Ky., at least for a day. Four steeplechase races and the popular Blood-Horse Sportsman's Challenge flat race highlight the day.

In the latter, a non-sanctioned flat race, area farms send out entrants competing for a year of bragging rights while restricted to jockeys who have not ridden as a professional in the past five years. Past participants in the race include Steve Cauthen, Julie Krone, and Bill Mott. This year's field includes horses representing Juddmonte Farm, Ramsey Farm, Castleton/Lyons and WinStar among others.

The steeplechase highlight is a quality maiden hurdle worth $25,000 that showcases seven steeplechase newcomers. Kentucky trainers Bill Wofford, Lee McKinney, and John Griggs all have runners in the race but the Jack Fisher-trained Can'tfindmyglasses brings the best flat credentials into the race. Xavier Aizpuru rides the 5-year-old son of Theatrical for owner Alex Campbell.

In other High Hope action, graded-stakes placed Dancewel goes after his second straight win in a $15,000 starter allowance hurdle. In addition to the races, High Hope offers a popular leading jockey award. Sponsored by Ken and Sarah Ramsey and Thoroughbred Times, the award gives $1,000 to the leading jockey on the day and more importantly honors the memory of Jonathan Kiser who died in 2000 after winning two NSA jockey titles.

Post time at High Hope, held on the grounds of the Kentucky Horse Park, is 2 p.m.