For Demonstrative to nail down his third Calvin Houghland Iroquois Hurdle Stakes Saturday, May 14 at Percy Warner Park in Nashville, the 2014 champion steeplechaser will have to beat one other previous Iroquois winner and a pair of stakes winners from the barn of Ireland's champion steeplechase trainer Willie Mullins.
Always one of the most important events on the U.S. steeplechase schedule, a possible $500,000 bonus for this year's edition of the 75th Iroquois has attracted a highly regarded, international field of eight runners. Should the winner of this year's $200,000 Iroquois follow with a victory in the 2017 Ryanair World Hurdle at Cheltenham, they'll be awarded a $500,000 bonus.
A stakes winner over fences in England, France, and Ireland, Nichols Canyon put together his best season in 2015 when the 6-year-old Authorized gelding won five stakes races and placed in one other in six starts. Shaneshill, a 7-year-old King's Theatre gelding, boasts two stakes wins and earlier this season placed second in two more stakes.
While those two runners are expected to be formidable, 2014 champion steeplechaser Demonstrative will be returning to a course he loves. The 9-year-old Elusive Quality gelding won the 2013 and 2015 editions of the three-mile Iroquois. A 10-time winner of steeplechase stakes races in the U.S.--including seven NSA-I races--for owner George Ohrstrom Jr., Demonstrative prevailed by a neck in last year's Iroquois over Mr. Hot Stuff.
Trainer Richard Valentine will give Darren Nagle a leg up on Demonstrative.
The field includes one other previous Iroquois winner in veteran Pierrot Lunaire, who won the 2009 edition. The 12-year-old War Chant gelding has won two other top-level steeplechase stakes in the U.S. and also won a stakes in England. Mrs. Calvin Houghland's Pierrot Lunaire, who earned champion steeplechaser honors in 2012, finished fifth in last year's Iroquois.
In November officials from the Iroquois Steeplechase and Britain's Cheltenham Racecourse announced a $500,000 bonus for any horse who could win both the Iroquois Hurdle and the Ryanair World Hurdle within a year. The Brown Advisory Iroquois Cheltenham Challenge is straightforward: win the Ryanair World Hurdle at The Festival at Cheltenham in March and the Calvin Houghland Iroquois Hurdle, or vice versa, within 12 months, and receive the bonus.
This year's Ryanair World Hurdle winner Thistlecrack did not make the trip to Nashville, but the winner of this year's Iroquois would have the chance to complete the sweep and earn the bonus next year at Cheltenham.
Both contests take place over three miles, with the Iroquois Hurdle is part of the 75th Iroquois Steeplechase fixture Saturday while the 2017 Ryanair World Hurdle, worth at least £300,000 (approximately US$435,000), is provisionally set to take place on Thursday, March 16. Percy Warner, Saturday, May 14, 2016, Race 7
PP Horse Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L 1 1Nichols Canyon (GB) Ruby Walsh 158 William P. Mullins - 2 2Scorpiancer (IRE) Connor Hankin 158 Jack O. Fisher - 3 3Rawnaq (IRE) Jack Doyle 158 Cyril Murphy - 4 4Italian Wedding (FL) Gerard Galligan 158 Jonathan E. Sheppard - 5 5Shaneshill (IRE) Danny Mullins 158 William P. Mullins - 6 6Syros (KY) Sean McDermott 158 Jack O. Fisher - 7 7Demonstrative (KY) Darren Nagle 158 Richard L. Valentine - 8 8Pierrot Lunaire (KY) Bernard Dalton 158 F. Bruce Miller - 99 Tempt Me Alex (PA) Gustav Dahl 158 Elizabeth Voss -
Percy Warner, Saturday, May 14, 2016, Race 7