Well, here we go. Light the match. The biggest day on the American steeplechase scene. One Lucky Lady and Get Ready Set Goes clash in the Peapack, the openenr on the stellar seven-race card.
Get Ready Set Goes. Well, it's about time. The filly and mare division needed a fresh face and here she is, bounding into the sport's richest day of racing off two impressive wins. Her first triumph came over the boys on a deep, tiring course at High Hope. Her second came against the girls on a flat, firm track at Saratoga. She's talented, versatile, improving and can easily make it three in a row.
Barbara's Smile. More than tripled her claiming price in her seven subsequent starts over hurdles, including a surprise win against the boys at Parx this summer. Sent off favorite at Saratoga, she led early but faded behind two of Saturday's rivals, Get Ready Set Goes and Willow U. Likeable mare benefits from 10-pound swing in weights with GRSG from Saratoga.
Willow U. Another one claimed off the flat last year, she made it look easy in maiden win in April, but has failed to threaten in two subsequent stakes tries. Another who is in receipt of a big swing in weights from Saratoga and there could be some room for improvement as she makes her fifth hurdle start.
Sarah Joyce. Irish-bred filly makes her American debut after winning once in six hurdle starts this season. Hinted at a Saratoga debut but waited for this. Trainer having a big year but she's without her 1-2 stable jockeys on the biggest day of the season. She was rated 101 in Ireland while leader of the division, One Lucky Lady, was rated 130. Mark Walsh, who rode her to win over hurdles said in The Racing Post, "The ground is on the quick side of good and that is what she wants. She jumped great and might like three miles."
Ivy Mills. One simple question. Can she duplicate her performance from Camden when she upended One Lucky Lady? If you draw a line through her two tries at major tracks, she's a picture of consistency. Drops seven pounds from her loss at Saratoga, which helps, and also gets reunited with five-time champion Paddy Young, who hasn't missed a check on her in five tries.
Troublante. Whew, an acid test here for second-time starter who finished nearly 40 lengths behind maiden fillies and mares at Foxfield and somehow doesn't get any meaningful break in weights from Get Ready Set Goes, a two-time winner, including a stakes. Tough task.
The Grange. Winner over the course last year, she couldn't handle Ivy Mills and One Lucky Lady in her next start but rebounded with a strong effort, a half-length behind One Lucky Lady at Nashville in May. Put away for the summer by design, prepped at Shawan by design. Adds salt to the soup.
Lady Yeats. British-bred 5-year-old makes her long awaited American debut after scratching at Saratoga. Rated 120 when she won her final start in Britain back in January, trainer George Moore called her "a game little bugger," after that win at Catterick. Raced prominently while winning two of four starts over hurdles.
One Lucky Lady. Veteran mare returns in the race that launched her American career last fall, she's won three times in five starts since leaving England. Put away for the summer with this in mind, she gets a new jockey as Sean McDermott climbs aboard after usual pilot winds up on Dino Mite. Spots weight all around, but there's only one reason for that, she's proven she's the best. Her crown to lose.
Dino Mite. A three-time winner - all at Taunton Racecourse, a right-handed sharp track - in England, she has yet to strike in four hurdle starts here and flummoxed supporters at Saratoga when she refused to start. Geraghty goes here, as he rides for Hendriks all day. Rated 122 over hurdles and fences in England, needs to show she's a willing participant.
Pure Deal. Maiden makes her sixth career start over hurdles, fresh off her best effort, a runner-up performance at Foxfield where she couldn't stave off first-time starter McDonald's Diva. Hard to side with a maiden making her stakes debut, but give her credit for earning a check every time she's run.