Divine Fortune did everything he could do. He saved his energy, cut the corner, got first run, jumped the second-last like an Olympian, kicked up the rise toward the finish.
The problem was, Demonstrative did everything he could do. And was a head better.
The richest jump race of the spring lived up to its reputation, coming down to the final strides between two 2012 Eclipse Award finalists. In his first start of 2013 Jacqueline Ohrstrom's Demonstrative got the race, covering 3 miles in 5:42 2/5 to deny Bill Pape's Divine Fortune. Molotof was a well-beaten third. Robbie Walsh rode the winner for trainer Richard Valentine, who won three on the day.
Seven horses started in the Iroquois, but even before it started the race was about the two big names. Demonstrative and Divine Fortune finished a length apart in the Colonial Cup last November and are the lengths better than any others in the open stakes division. It was the same once the flat dropped Saturday. Lake Placid took the early lead, racing wide throughout. Recent import Molotof settled in second, followed by 2010 champion Slip Away, longshot Cornhusker, then Divine Fortune and Demonstrative. For 2 miles, the positions didn't change. On the long Iroquois backstretch, the race began anew. Lake Placid faded, Slip Away briefly advanced. Divine Fortune drafted into position, ready to strike. Demonstrative matched him, flying the final fence on the back to keep pace.
On the turn, three fences from home, Molotof led but was soon swarmed. Divine Fortune (Darren Nagle) cut the corner and kicked away, quickly putting Demonstrative on the defensive and taking a short lead. Trained by Jonathan Sheppard, Divine Fortune jumped the second-last from way back. Demonstrative did the same and gained ground. At the last, Demonstrative needed another big leap. Divine Fortune jumped it well and still led. Demonstrative carved at the advantage, drew even in deep stretch and just got up - with Walsh pumping his fist. The jockey was the only one who knew. Demonstrative won for the eighth time in 18 jump starts. The son of Elusive Quality was bed by Gainsborough Farm in Kentucky, raced on the flat in England and was purchased by Valentine at the Tattersalls July Sale not quite three years ago. The $90,000 first-place check pushed his career jump bankroll past $416,000. Divine Fortune settled for another runner-up finish. The 10-year-old Royal Anthem gelding has finished second in five Grade 1 stakes, including the last two runnings of the Iroquois.
The Rest of the Card
Beyond the feature, the day was filled with story lines.
- Former Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes starter Mr. Hot Stuff won the $75,000 Marcellus Frost, a novice hurdle stakes for owner Gill Johnston and trainer Jack Fisher. The 7-year-old Tiznow gelding, a full-brother to Travers winner and stallion Colonel John, won for the third time over jumps. Sean Flanagan rode the winner, who defeated Black Quartz and Sulwaan.
- Nashville-area resident Gus Dahl booted home Worried Man in the $50,000 Mason Houghland Memorial timber stakes for Fisher and owner Sonny Via, giving the meet a hometown winner. Worried Man ranged into contention on the backside and was much the best while winning over Tax Ruling and Grand Pride.
- Maggie Bryant's Well Fashioned (Willie McCarthy) won the $50,000 Margaret Henley filly/mare stakes for trainer Doug Fout. The daughter of Cozzene caught Kisser N Run in the final strides with Euro Power third.
- Rose Marie Bogley's Labonte (Danielle Hodsdon) powered off with a maiden hurdle for Valentine, who also sent out runner-up Young Bohemian with Tempt Me Alex third.
- Fisher won a maiden hurdle with Woodslane Farm's Sharp Numbers (Flanagan) in a front-running effort over Casual Creeper and Wait Outside.
- Valentine won the $35,000 Bright Hour amateur allowance hurdle with stakes winner Rainiero (Mark Beecher) for Augustin Stable. The winner kept Gawaarib safe with Sumo Power third.
- The $15,000 open flat went to Jamarjo, and Irish-bred owned by Irv Naylor and trained by Brianne Slater. Paddy Young rode the winner, who defeated Alburj and Lillehammer.
Trainers Fisher and Valentine each won three races on the day while Flanagan rode two winners.