Steeplechase: Busy weekend on a busy weekend

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Busy weekend for racing fans, especially if the dual-purpose variety with three steeplechase meets on top of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships out at Santa Anita.

Saturday and Sunday will make an impact on the National Steeplechase Association standings with 15 races up for grabs and leaders headed all over the place.

Jonathan Sheppard has inched away in the trainers’ race, 19-14, on Jack Fisher. Both will be in action at Callaway Gardens in Georgia Saturday while Sheppard also sends a few to Montpelier in Virginia. Sunday, it’s Fisher’s turn with runners at the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup.

Darren Nagle leads the jockeys’ standings with 14 wins, two more than Paddy Young and three more than Ross Geraghty and four more than the suddenly in-the-mix Bernie Dalton. Nagle and Dalton go to Callaway, Young and Geraghty to Montpelier, with Nagle and Young also tackling the timber in Pennsylvania.

Bill Pape and Irv Naylor are slugging it out atop the owners’ standings with Pape showing the way with $517,150 from 14 wins and 46 starts. Naylor’s 88-start juggernaut has won 20 races and earned $446,600. Both are active this weekend, with Naylor represented by 10 entries and Pape six.

As for the TIHR handicappers, the weekend will tell the tale. Joe nearly swept the Aiken card last week with four wins from of five races. Sean and Tom had one each. Joe leads the season standings with 43 wins. Sean is second with 38 and Tom third with 34.

Montpelier Races: You know a place is historic when a signer of the Declaration of Independence used to live there. The circuit makes its annual sojourn to James Madison’s former home Montpelier near Orange, Va. The setting is stunning, and packs some racing punch too as the former home of noted Thoroughbred owner/breeder Marion du Pont Scott, who campaigned the likes of Mongo and Proud Delta on the flat, Soothsayer and Battleship over jumps. Post time for a seven race-card is 12:30 p.m. For more about Montpelier.

First. Conditioned claiming hurdle going 2 3/8 miles. Big field of 10.
Joe: Prime Prospector, Saint Dynaformer, Searubyrun.
Sean: Prime Prospector, Dubai Echo, Saint Dynaformer.
Tom: Prime Prospector, El Season, Black Pond. 

Second. Maiden claiming hurdle going 2 3/8 miles with another full field of 10.
Joe: Annual Update, Pie Town, Gnostic.
Sean: Annual Update, Gnostic, Pie Town.
Tom: Pie Town, Gokokogo, Gnostic.

Third. Maiden hurdle going 2 miles with 10 more signed on.
Joe: Wildcatter, King Ting, Wicklow.
Sean: Wildcatter, King Ting, Manacor.
Tom: King Ting, Wildcatter, Manacor.

Fourth. Optional claiming hurdle going 2 3/8 miles with 11 in the field.
Joe: Awesome Pearl, Call Me Sonny, Verne.
Sean: Call Me Sonny, Verne, Awesome Pearl.
Tom: Verne, Lea Von, Call Me Sonny.

Fifth. $45,000 Noel Laing hurdle stakes. Naylor has four of the eight runners, including two-time race winner Decoy Daddy. The Irish veteran makes his 49th career jump start and won this race in 2010 and 2011. He settled for second last fall. The bold-jumping chestnut thrives over the brush course and will be a factor in a fairly wide-open group. Decoy Daddy won twice this spring, but hasn’t run since June.
Joe: Decoy Daddy, Lake Placid, Powerofone.
Sean: Decoy Daddy, Powerofone, Top Man Michael.
Tom: Powerofone, Spy in the Sky, Decoy Daddy.

Sixth. Training flat going 1 1/2 miles on the turf.
Joe: Plated, Beamer, Balance The Budget.
Sean: Plated, Ajzaa, Beamer.
Tom: Beamer, Plated, Walk Softly.

Seventh. Training flat going 1 1/2 miles on the turf.
Joe: Harmony Bay, Laterly, So Far Away.
Sean: Cocodimama, Laterly, Harmony Bay.
Tom: Harmony Bay, Laterly, Catch the Blues.

Callaway Gardens: After Aiken last week, the southern circuit continues with a visit to Georgia for Callaway Gardens. Hilly, right-handed course cards five races headed by two $50,000 stakes. Post time is 1 p.m. For more about Callaway Gardens.

First. Maiden hurdle going 2 1/4 miles with field of eight including Far Hills runner-up Broxbourne.
Joe: Broxbourne, Tempt Me Alex, Tropic Sea.
Sean: Broxbourne, Tropic Sea, Tempt Me Alex.
Tom: Broxbourne, Tropic Sea, Tempt Me Alex.

Second. Open claiming hurdle going 2 1/4 miles with six including Dugan on a quick turnaround from Aiken and two-time winner Easy Reach. Hard-knocking group.
Joe: Darkwatch, Easy Reach, Bodie Island.
Sean: Dugan, Darkwatch, Bodie Island.
Tom: Easy Reach, Dugan, Bodie Island.

Third. $50,000 AFLAC Supreme novice hurdle going 2 1/4 miles. Bluegrass Summer seeks his fourth win of 2013 – the first three all came in photo finishes. Wantan should be sitting on big race too. How good is Where’s The Beef?
Joe: Wantan, Bluegrass Summer, Grand Tier.
Sean: Grand Tier, Bluegrass Summer, Wantan.
Tom: Bluegrass Summer, Albany Road, Grand Tier.

Fourth. $50,000 Crown Royal hurdle stakes for fillies/mares going 2 1/4 miles. Seven of the eight exit the same race at Far Hills. Kisser N Run won that and is favored again.
Joe: Kisser N Run, Bittersweetheart, Opera Heroine.
Sean: Kisser N Run, Opera Heroine, Take Her Tothe Top.
Tom: Opera Heroine, Kisser N Run, Take Her Tothe Top.

Fifth. Maiden timber going 3 1/8 miles.
Joe: Seer, Sumo Power, Prince Ludovic.
Sean: Seer, Here Comes Badness, Prince Ludovic.
Tom: Seer, Here Comes Badness, Sumo Power.

Pennsylvania Hunt Cup: 
It must be fall. The traditional autumn timber stop comes to the Keystone State Sunday. Post time for the first of five races is 1:30 p.m., but get there early to see the ponies and everything else that goes along with the day. For more about Pennsylvania Hunt Cup.

First. Maiden timber going 3 miles. Eight run, including former Todd Pletcher trainee Idol Maker, who cost $310,000 as a yearling, finished fourth in the 2008 Remsen and has hinted at decent things over timber.
Joe: Leffingwell Lion, Be Great, Idol Maker.
Sean: Leffingwell Lion, Be Great, Jewel Of The West.
Tom: Be Great, Leffingwell Lion, Snow Secret Gin.

Second. Another maiden timber going 3 miles. Seven in here, including former hurdler Dr. Bloomer, ex-Mark Hennig runner Dax and the on-the-rise Grand Pride.
Joe: Grand  Pride, Nat Grew, Dr. Bloomer.
Sean: Nat Grew, Grand Pride, Dax.
Tom: Nat Grew, Grand Pride, Dax.

Third. Allowance timber for non-winners of two. Ten in the program.
Joe: Port Morsbey, Cornhusker, Old Timer.
Sean: Cornhusker, Port Morsbey, The Editor.
Tom: Crossing Again, Cornhusker, Worried Man.

Fourth. Pennsylvania Hunt Cup timber stakes with huge field of 13. Traffic has never been a problem in the 4-mile test, but might come into play this year. Headlines include Foyle, fresh off a win at the International Gold Cup, Dakota Slew, Alfa Beat, Delta Park, Moonsox and last year’s runner-up Sand Box Rules.
Joe: Foyle, Delta Park, Alfa Beat.
Sean: Alfa Beat, Foyle, Delta Park.
Tom: Foyle, Crossing Again, Alfa Beat. 

Fifth. Training flat for apprentice jockeys going 1 3/8 miles.
Joe: Address Unknown, Artie’s Jasper, Senior Senator.
Sean: Address Unknown, Artie’s Jasper, Senior Senator.
Tom: Lobo Del Norte, Address Unknown, Artie’s Jasper.