It’s come to this. Racing since March, the National Steeplechase Association seasons concludes Sunday with the Charleston Steeplechase in South Carolina.
The season finale includes five races and not a whole lot of drama as the jockeys’ and trainers’ races are pretty much sorted with Darren Nagle up by three (with four jump races to go) in the former and Jack Fisher running away with the latter. The owners are technically still racing, though leader Bruton Street-US sits out the meet and Gill Johnston needs to win with her only starter. Nagle won three last weekend to get to 17 on the season – and 100 for his career. Nagle has never won the NSA jockeys' crown. He's got a three-win lead on Sean McDermott, who will win the earnings title, with Ross Geraghty sitting third with 13 wins.
The other season-long standings report is much tighter as the TIHR Handicapping Challenge is still up for grabs. Last week, Joe came up with six winners (Dye Fore, Sixty Five, Motivational, Eryx, Swellelegent and Daddy In The Dark), but so did Sean (Dye Fore, Sixty Five, Motivational, Eryx, Lady Blanco and Class Brahms). Tom found five (Sixty Five, Zanjabeel, Motivational, Eryx and Class Brahms). And if you’re really following along, the allowance timber at the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup looms large as Sean’s pick Class Brahms held on to defeat Joe’s pick De Chera by a neck (they were the only finishers).
The Clancys are tied atop the big board with 46 wins each. Tom is just behind with 45. Five races remain. Who do you like?
Post time at Charleston is 1 p.m. Learn more here.
First race. $15,000 maiden claiming hurdle going 2 1/4 miles. Six face the starter while trying to earn a diploma on the season’s last day. They’re all pretty new at this. Change Maker was fourth in open company at Aiken while Say No Maux checked in third in the maiden claimer there. Bugle Blues has been running on the flat in New Jersey.
- Tom: Union Et Force, Change Maker, Say No Maux.
- Sean: Change Maker, Say No Maux, Rollforward.
- Joe: Change Maker, Rollforward, Say No Maux.
Second race. $25,000 maiden hurdle going 2 1/4 miles. The season’s last straight maiden lured eight and it’s a pretty good group with former turf standout Manchurian High getting the most attention. He was third last time, at Virginia Fall, and any improvement will make him very tough to handle. Ocean Ready couldn’t go with White Cape late at Aiken, but figures to be right there for Cyril Muphy (love the Cozzene mare angle). Demonstration returns off a layoff for Richard Valentine. Buck Benny and Mythmaker comes out of the Far Hills maiden. Go Get The Basil earned $247,490 on the flat in New York. Solid group.
- Tom: Mythmaker, Ocean Ready, Manchurian High.
- Sean: Mythmaker, Ocean Ready, Manchurian High.
- Joe: Ocean Ready, Manchurian High, Mythmaker.
Third race. $25,000 open hurdle for 3-year-olds going 2 1/4 miles. Eight first-year jumpers clash in a rematch (for some) of the Far Hills race. Snuggling crossed the line first that day, but was disqualified and placed third for interference. The filly Down Royal took the worst of that foul, and was moved up to second. Alshibaa was also right there in that race and wound up fourth. Cross Current comes out of a flat win at Great Meadow. Fisher tries again with What Gives.
- Tom: Snuggling, Alshibaa, Down Royal.
- Sean: Down Royal, Snuggling, Alshibaa.
- Joe: Down Royal, Snuggling, Cross Current.
Fourth race. $10,000 handicap hurdle for apprentice jockeys going 2 1/4 miles. Restricted to horses who have not won an open hurdle stakes, the last jump race of 2017 brought out a field of six. Indigo Heart (co-owned by Thoroughbred industry leader Dr. J. David Richardson) won a maiden claimer at Middleburg. Wigwam Baby is due to break through. Manacor won a similar race at Fair Hill in May. Waveless, a Juddmonte Farm-bred, is perfect in one start.
- Tom: Wigwam Baby, Waveless, Any Given Royal.
- Sean: Wigwam Baby, Any Given Royal, Waveless.
- Joe: Wigwam Baby, Waveless, Any Given Royal.
Fifth race. Training flat going 1 1/2 miles. And here’s the year’s final race. See you in 2018. The field of five spans $252,002 earner Birchwood Road to $4,245 earner Crosseyedcricket.
- Tom: On Tenterhooks, Cherished Prize, Birchwood Road.
- Sean: On Tenterhooks, Cherished Prize, Birchwood Road.
- Joe: On Tenterhooks, Birchwood Road, Cherished Prize.