Steeplechase Handicapping: Back in the saddle

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It rained. And steeplechase trainers breathed. The annual question about turf conditions came up again last week and horsemen made their September plans and a short dry spell had some wondering whether racing this weekend was the right decision.

Then the soaking happened through most of the night Wednesday and pretty much all day Thursday. Turf courses at Shawan Downs in Maryland and Foxfield in Virginia surely drank up the water, and the races will be better for it as the fall National Steeplechase Association season gets going.

Saturday brings Shawan. The Maryland meet draws a mixed bag every year with flat, hurdle and timber races on a right-handed course near Baltimore. Post time is 1 p.m. for the first of six races. See Shawan Downs website for more.

First race. $20,000 maiden hurdle going 2 miles. Nine horses, including six steeplechase rookies, look for their first jump wins. Frozen Four finished second to Harrods Creek at Parx in July. Three Hundred makes his 2014 debut after finishing second three times in 2012 and 2013. Balance The Budget makes his sixth start of the year. Jack Fisher newcomers Dynafortwo and Ivy Mills will get attention.

  • Sean: Balance The Budget, Dynafortwo, Three Hundred.
  • Joe: Three Hundred, Soul Gleam, Frozen Four.
  • Tom: Dynafortwo, Ivy Mills, Tiz a Homerun.

Second race. $10,000 conditioned claimer going 2 miles.
Seven horses with a single win each face the flag.

  • Sean: Mr.Universo, Pie Town, Mr. Lickety.
  • Joe: Mr. Universo, Pie Town, Mr. Starr’s Report.
  • Tom: Mr. Lickety, Mr. Universo, Wahoo.

Third race. $20,000 open timber.
This is no longer a stakes, but drew a stakes-caliber field looking for a path to bigger races next month. My Lady’s Manor winner Nat Grew returns, along with 2013 Virginia Gold Cup winner Grinding Speed and two-time timber winner Brother Sy.

  • Sean: Nat Grew, Grinding Speed, Seer.
  • Joe: Nat Grew, City Press, Grinding Speed.
  • Tom: Seer, Nat Grew, City Press.

Fourth race. $15,000 maiden timber.
Tough calls all around here in a field of 10.

  • Sean: Durer, Super Saturday, Wingo Star.
  • Joe: Durer, Here Comes Badness, Super Saturday.
  • Tom: Super Saturday, Durer, Dubai Echo.

Fifth race. Training flat going 1 3/8 miles.
Fourteen in the body plus two on the also-eligible list.

  • Sean: Gun Point, Witor, Bob Le Beau.
  • Joe: Bob Le Beau, Witor, Hallam.
  • Tom: Hiwasee Gem, Witor, Bob Le Beau.

Sixth race. Training flat goin 1 3/8 miles.
Another big group looking to use this as a prep for later, including one whose only start was in Russia in 2011.

  • Sean: Inti, One Giant Step, Bramwell.
  • Joe: Inti, One Giant Step, Tiz Nasty.
  • Tom: One Giant Step, Inti, Schoolhouse Woods.

Shawan Downs Entries from National Steeplechase.

Foxfield kicks off Virginia season
Sunday, the racing turns to Foxfield in Charlottesville, Va. Similar to Shawan, the meet offers training flat options, plus several hurdle races. First post is 1:30 p.m. For more, see Foxfield Races for more.

First race. $10,000 maiden claiming hurdle going 2 1/8 miles. Field of 10 including three first-timers.

  • Sean: Amerigin, Wicklow, Tiz Relevant.
  • Joe: Professor Plum, Ruling Force, Amergin.
  • Tom: Amergin, Wicklow, Ruling Force.

Second race. Training flat going 1 1/16 miles. Six are entered including One Giant Step, who’s also in at Shawan.

  • Sean: Kingofalldiamonds, Beamer, One Giant Step.
  • Joe: One Giant Step, Kingofalldiamonds, Beamer.
  • Tom: One Giant Step, Beamer, Kingofalldiamonds.

Third race. Training flat for Virginia-breds going 1 1/4 miles. There are only four in here, but they’re likely prepping for a bigger task at Great Meadow next month.

  • Sean: Prima Facie, Complete Dyno, Wolverton.
  • Joe: Prima Facie, Complete Dyno, Wolverton.
  • Tom: Prima Facie, Complete Dyno, Wolverton.

Fourth race. $20,000 filly/mare maiden hurdle going 2 1/8 miles. Ten distaffers give it a try. The field includes seven first-timers. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Flagrant Honor makes her 11th start over jumps.

  • Sean: So Far Way, Flagrant Honor, E C’s Favorite.
  • Joe: So Far Away, E C’s Favorite, Fashion Princess.
  • Tom: E C’s Favorite, So Far Away, Forever Diva.

Fifth race. $20,000 maiden hurdle going 2 1/8 miles. Eight enter, including six first-time starters. If you want one to root for, Ready To Zip goes out for the estate of his breeder Frances “Snowie” Hill Myers, who died Sept. 6. The 4-year-old City Zip gelding makes his second steeplechase start for Myers’ son Hill Parker.

  • Sean: Hooping, Marq Your Bible, Tiz Relevant.
  • Joe: Marq Your Bible, The Crazy Champ, Hooping.
  • Tom: Marq Your Bible, Hooping, Albus.

Foxfield entries from National Steeplechase.

If you’re keeping score at home. . .well, we’re barely keeping score at work so here’s an update barring claims of foul or stewards’ inquiries. Sean leads the way with 43 wins on the year, followed by Joe with 39 and Tom with 35. Or, if you’d prefer, we can reset the table for the fall – everybody starts at zero. We’ll figure it out and let you know.