Barracuda Stable's Tres Touche finally got a win in a grade I steeplechase, charging past pacesetter Preemptive Strike on the backstretch, and galloping off with rider Dave Bentley to a 20 3/4-length win in the $100,000 Iroquois Steeplechase (NSA-I) in Nashville Saturday.The 7-year-old gelding came into the race with nearly $400,000 in career jump earnings, but had never been better than second at the grade I level. He had solid runner-up efforts in the 2003 New York Turf Writers Cup, the 2002 Breeders' Cup Steeplechase and the 2002 Colonial Cup for trainer Ricky Hendriks. Snowball Flannagan (Gus Brown) rallied late for second as Preemptive Strike fell at the last fence and Duke Of Earl (Xavier Aizpuru) was third. The winner covered the three miles in 5:38 3/5.At Nashville, three miles and 90-degree heat were apparently the ticket for Tres Touche, who was making his second start of 2004. Bentley called the win much deserved for a horse who has knocked on the door more times than anyone can remember."It's absolutely fabulous. This horse deserves it so much, it's just a great day for him," said the jockey. "He's my favorite horse. I started riding him as a 3-year-old and he's been second to some pretty nice horses through the years. He always gives 101 percent and today it paid off for him."Preemptive Strike (Robbie Walsh) set most of the pace, but was joined by Tres Touche with less than a mile to go. Jumping efficiently, the winner reeled in the front-runner with four fences to go, carried a two-length lead into the last and was in command the rest of the way. The others never threatened."We thought Preemptive Strike would make the running and we would take our time a little bit," said Bentley. "The plan was to jump our way down the backside and see what happened. He had plenty and it worked perfectly."The win gave the Maryland-bred son of Poles Apart nine career wins and duplicated a victory over the course at the two-mile distance last year.
Stakes veteran Al Skywalker dominated the $50,000 Marcellus Frost Stakes (NSA-III) on the Iroquois undercard for owner/trainer Jennifer Majette and jockey Tom Foley. The 11-year-old gelding ended a nearly year-long victory drought and was promptly retired by Majette to a life of babysitting young horses on her North Carolina farm.