How was your vacation? OK, your break? Sabbatical? Forced absence of jump racing? Whatever you want to call it, the steeplechase season took two weekends off with no racing Sept. 30 and Oct. 7.

And now it’s back. Nine stops over the next five weekends will wrap up the 2017 season. Saturday, the caravan heads to Virginia Fall in Middleburg, Va. and Genesee Valley in Genesee, N.Y. A week from now, it’ll be early Christmas as the massive Far Hills card goes to the post in New Jersey Oct. 21.

Three weeks ago, the TIHR handicappers got back to work after an easy summer. Joe came up with six winners at Shawan and Foxfield – Hanno on the scratch of Ocean Ready, Aflutter, Second Amendment, Lyonell, Show King and Jump Ship – to get back in the race (sort of) for the season title. Tom had two (Aflutter and Lyonell) while Sean had three (Aflutter, Lyonell and Jump Ship). The race stands at 33 winners for Tom, 31 for Joe, 30 for Sean.

On to Saturday.

Start in New York. The longtime stop on the circuit includes a plethora of races, some NSA sanctioned and some classified as point-to-points. The NSA races include a maiden timber, a timber stake and two training flat races with small fields. Post time for the first NSA race is 1 p.m. For more see Genesee Valley website and NSA entries.

6th race. $15,000 maiden timber going 3 miles. Six give it a go and comes at it from all angles – a year layoff, a race at Shawan,  and a couple coming out of spring efforts. Touchdowntowny has been foruth, third and second this year. If the progression continues, he wins. Maryland Hunt Cup winner Gonzaque Cottreau jets in from France for the ride while Englishman Hadden Frost (second in the Hunt Cup) comes over to ride Preseli Rock for Jakc Fisher. The 7-year-old hasn’t finished either of his American starts.

Tom: Touchdowntony, Takepointsandrun, Durer.
Joe: Touchdowntony, Durer, Preseli Rock.
Sean: Preseli Rock, Durer, Touchdowntony.

7th race. Training flat going 2 1/4 miles for amateur jockeys. This is not quite War Admiral and Seabiscuit, but it’s a match race between Dr. K’eogh and Rollforward. The former is a New York-bred who was fourth for $5,000 tag at Delaware Park in August. The latter makes his first start since November.

Tom: Rollforward, Dr. K’eogh.
Joe: Rollforward, Dr. K’eogh.
Sean: Rollforward, Dr. K'eogh.

9th race. $30,000 Genesee Valley Hunt Cup going 3 1/2 miles. Always a stiff jumping test, the race lured five runners who will need to be ready. Beware of the chicken coop. Doc Cebu has four wins and a second in five starts over jumps. He won twice over timber this spring and is in line for a $100,000 bonus if he can win the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup next month. He’s the horse to beat. Class Indian will be in front early. Can he stay there?

Tom: Doc Cebu, Super Saturday, Class Indian.
Joe: Doc Cebu, Sumo Power, Class Brahms.
Sean: Doc Cebu, Super Saturday, Class Brahms.

10th race. Training flat going 1 mile for amateur jockeys. This one drew three – timber veteran Saluda Sam, 2015 hurdle winner Comanchero and three-time winner Manhattan Johnnie, who won at Finger Lakes in September.

Tom: Saluda Sam, Manhattan Johnnie, Comanchero.
Joe: Comanchero, Manhattan Johnnie, Saluda Sam.
Sean: Comanchero, Saluda Sam, Manhattan Johnnie. 

Virginia Fall Races
Middleburg, Va. is horse country and never more so than early October for the Virginia Fall Races. An eight-race card will keep Glenwood Park hopping all day. Post time is 1 p.m. For more, see Virginia Fall Races website and NSA entries.

1st race. $20,000 handicap hurdle (110 and below) going 2 1/8 miles.  Show King won at Foxfield, Bishop’s Castle tries to right the ship, Needle In The Hay and Norse Star return off decent springs, Manacor is the only three-time hurdle winner in the field of 11 and he stayed busy all summer after winning at Fair Hill in May.

Tom: Norse Star, Show King, Needle In The Hay.
Joe: Show King, Norse Star, Needle In The Hay.
Sean: Norse Star, Bishop’s Castle, Curve Of Stones.

2nd. $25,000 maiden hurdle going 2 1/8 miles. Albus has been second three times, Manchurian High won graded stakes on the flat, Barhanpour could be any kind, Barnacle Bill finished second at Great Meadow in May, Swellelegent has won five times on the flat and makes debut for Neil Morris. Live horses all over field of 10 with five on the also-eligible list.

Tom: Barhanpour, Barnacle Bill, Manchurian High.
Joe: Barnacle Bill, Swellelegent, Barhanpour.
Sean: Barnacle Bill, Albus, Manchurian High.

3rd. $35,000 Randolph Rouse Memorial handicap hurdle (120 and below) going 2 1/8 miles. Ten go here and range from Grade 1 winner Alajmal to maiden Expedient. Giza will be happy to get out of Saratoga, Hanno won at Shawan, Personal Start ran well there to be second to Second Amendment, Officer Sydney is better than he’s shown, Cognashene would have looked tougher in the 110 race but is competitive, Miguel Grau has his days and drops way down in class, Fort Collins needs to step forward, Unsinkable is a massive talent would could be tough to catch, Alajmal’s race at Atlanta in April would probably win this.

Tom: Hanno, Personal Start, Unsinkable.
Joe: Unsinkable, Alajmal, Giza.
Sean: Alajmal, Hanno, Personal Start. 

4th. $40,000 National Sporting Library and Museum Cup timber stakes going 3 1/4 miles. Good group of eight gives it a go here. Cornhusker (first or second in his last four) is the horse to beat. He’s won 10 times over jumps including three over timber at Glenwood. Rodriguez got the better of Cornhusker at Shawan and will be difficult to deal with as Jack Doyle takes a timber mount for Willie Dowling. Darren Nagle jumps off Rodriguez to ride Grand Manan, who won two stakes last fall for Billy Meister. Armata Stable lines its recent purchase up against stable star Cornhusker. If pedigree counts for something, and it must, Grand Manan is by Giant’s Causeway out of the Seeking The Gold mare Manoa and therefore a full-brother to Grade 1 winner Carriage Trail. For his part, Cornhusker is an English-bred son of Dynaformer and French Group 1 winner Nebraska Tornado. The field also includes stakes winner Straight To It, who makes is 41st start over jumps (eight wins, eight seconds, 12 thirds and veteran Worried Man, who was third to Rodriguez and Cornhusker at Shawan.

Tom: Rodriguez, Cornhusker, Straight To It.
Joe: Cornhusker, Rodriguez, Straight To It.
Sean: Cornhusker, Straight To It, Rodriguez. 

5th. $15,000 maiden claiming hurdle going 2 1/8 miles. Another full field with the maximum 10 in the body and six on the AE list. First-timers include Disobedience (out of Rosa Parks) from Ricky Hendriks, Battery Backup for Jimmy Day and Ten Saints for Jonathan Sheppard. Pac Yer Tack and Middle Road look like the class along with Street Passage and Life Said if he draws in. Nice to see Jim Steele with a steeplechaser in Sideling Hill.

Tom: Street Passage, Middle Road, Pac Yer Tack.
Joe: Pac Yer Tack, Street Passage, Middle Road.
Sean: Ten Saints, Middle Road, Pac Yer Tack.

6th. $15,000 maiden timber going 3 miles. Twelve line up here. Cocodimama was second at Shawan. Hishi Soar makes his timber debut three weeks after finishing third over hurdles at Foxfield. Dye Fore keeps getting close.

Tom: Dye Fore, Cocodimama, Hishi Soar.
Joe: Daddy In The Dark, Cocodimama, Dye Fore.
Sean: Daddy In The Dark, Cocodimama, Dye Fore.

7th. Training flat going 1 1/4 miles. Last chance for a tightener attracts stakes horses Top Striker, Parker’s Project, Show Court, Simenon, Macnicholson, Laser Light and Maserati.

Tom: Show Court, Maserati, Master Gunner.
Joe: Top Striker, Show Court, Master Gunner.
Sean: Top Striker, Show Court, Maserati.

8th. Training flat going 1 1/4 miles for Virginia-breds. This is a tuneup for the big race at International Gold Cup Oct. 28. Seven take a shot here including multiple hurdle winner Officer’s Oath, four-time winner Super Bird and first-timers Naughty In Nola and Eryx.

Tom: Officer’s Oath, Indian Ambush, Super Bird.
Joe: Officer’s Oath, Super Bird, Golden Mittens.
Sean: Officer's Oath, Super Bird, Shackleton.