Triple Jump. Picks and Preview

- -

Enjoy your steeplechase holiday last week? File an open weekend followed by a weekend with three race meets under “dumb things about American steeplechasing” and get ready for action from Montpelier in Virginia and Callaway Gardens in Georgia on Saturday, plus the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup on Sunday.

That’s 17 races over hurdles, timber and the natural brush course at Montpelier. It’s getting late in the season, but the human championship races are still up for grabs. Trainer Leslie Young’s double at the International Gold Cup two weeks ago gave her 15 wins on the year, three more than Jack Fisher and Neil Morris with Keri Brion fourth with 11 wins. Tom Garner (19 wins) holds a three-win lead on Graham Watters among the jockeys. All are in action this weekend.

With a crowded schedule, the TIHR handicapping challenge could have some movement too. Joe was the only player to have two wins (State Of Affair and Tomgarrow) at the Gold Cup, so leads Sean 16-15 with Tom third at 10.

And you can try to watch on the National Steeplechase Association website in between Breeders’ Cup races.

Montpelier in Montpelier Station, Va. (just outside of Orange).
Seven races on the former home of President James Madison and (somewhat later) owner/breeder Marion du Pont Scott’s Montpelier Stable which campaigned champions over fences and on the flat. Post time is 12:30 p.m. The $40,000 Noel Laing over the natural brush course is the feature and drew of six led by Redicean and Iranistan.

First race. Training flat going 1 mile on the dirt. Yes dirt. Montpelier has a dirt training track, which hosted Soothsayer and Proud Delta among others way back when, and seven runners give it a go. Gas Money steps in for Neil Morris. The son of Seville probably isn’t a fan of dirt (eight career starts, and two wins, on turf or synthetic) but that might not matter.

Joe: Gas Money, Big Dave, Economic Policy.
Sean: Gas Money, Grunion, Economic Policy.
Tom: Gas Money, Twentyoneguns, Economic Policy.

Second race. $20,000 handicap hurdle for horses rated 110 or lower going 2 3/8 miles. A field of seven, each with a single win over jumps. Shaka ruled maiden claimers at Foxfield. Yankee Doodle Boy has been close against tougher in his last two. Argentic makes his 12th start (flat and jump) and eyes his third win of 2021. Don’t Shout was fourth in his American debut at Middleburg, behind Yankee Doodle Boy. Gostisbehere gets off the bench in his first start since August.

Joe: Yankee Doodle Boy, Don’t Shout, Shaka.        
Sean: Yankee Doodle Boy, Don’t Shout, Gostisbehere.
Tom: Gostisbehere, Yankee Doodle Boy, Don’t Shout.

Third race. $15,000 maiden claiming hurdle going 2 3/8 miles. Getting late for the maidens and 10 tackle this. Mr. Haire abandons a timber experiment. Prince Khozan makes his hurdle debut. Jackson S was second at Montpelier way back in 2018. Sea Mast was second to Shaka last time. Swim – by English Channel – ought to be better than he’s shown. Wind Ridge probably learned plenty at Middleburg.

Joe: Prince Khozan, Sea Mast, Wind Ridge.
Sean: Sea Mast, Wind Ridge, Mr. Haire. 
Tom: Sea Mast, Criticize, Prince Khozan.

Fourth race. $25,000 maiden hurdle going 2 3/8 miles. Getting late for the maidens 2.0. Seven line up here and cover plenty of bases from Grade 2 stakes winner and first-timer hurdler Focus Group to the sitting-on-big-efforts Master Plan and Duckett’s Grove.

Joe: Master Plan, Duckett’s Grove, Focus Group.
Sean: Duckett’s Grove, Gearhead, Master Plan. 
Tom: Scorpion’s Revenge, Shendam, Focus Group.

Fifth race. $25,000 maiden hurdle going 2 3/8 miles. Getting late for the maidens 3.0. Another seven look to graduate and stamp themselves as 2023 prospects. Cause For Pardon has been close all year with two seconds and four thirds. Queens Empire is 0-for-4, but has run three quality races. Going Country will be better for the run at the Gold Cup.

Joe: Queens Empire, Cause For Pardon, Going Country.
Sean: Queens Empire, Cause For Pardon, Going Country.
Tom: Queens Empire, Cause For Pardon, Going Country.

Sixth race. $25,000 filly/mare allowance (NW2) hurdle going 2 3/8 miles. Six bid to be the third-best filly/mare hurdler of 2021 behind The Mean Queen and Down Royal. Speed Alert, Eve’s City and Screen Image have finished behind both this year and will appreciate the easier spot. Bella Coola looked pretty good winning at Foxfield. The dams of half the field won over jumps – Brilliant Match (Cup Of Aiken), Zafeen’s Pearl (Bella Coola) and Ptarmigan (Eve’s City).

Joe: Eve’s City, Bella Coola, Speed Alert.
Sean: Screen Image, Speed Alert, Bella Coola.
Tom: Speed Alert, Bella Coola, Eve’s City.

Seventh race. $40,000 Noel Laing Handicap going 2 1/2 miles over brush. Named for Montpelier’s former rider and trainer, who won the 1932 Maryland Hunt Cup aboard Trouble Maker, the race used to be a final prep for the Colonial Cup and has been won by some greats including Tuscalee, Tingle Creek, Soothsayer and Zaccio. The jumps can be something new for some horses and the course can suit certain types. Mon Villez won it three years in a row. Decoy Daddy won it four times in five years (and was second). Amschel won it in 2019, the last time it was run, and could be a player again though he faces a solid group led by Redicean and Iranistan (second and fourth in the Ferguson two weeks ago). Brianbakescookies was third there and also figures. Chosen Mate tries to live up to his Irish reputation in his third start in three weeks. Who jumps, stays and takes advantage of the places to make up ground (downhills and turns)?

Joe: Iranistan, Redicean, Brianbbakescookies.
Sean: Redicean, Presence Of Mind, Amschel. 
Tom: Redicean, Iranistan, Presence Of Mind.

Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Ga.
The limited southern schedule returns with six races at Callaway. Post time is 12:40 p.m.

First race. $15,000 allowance (NW2) timber going 3 1/2 miles. Just four line up here and let’s see how they handle the right-handed, hilly course. All are relatively new to timber, which usually doesn’t factor that much here.

Joe: Bodes Well, A Silent Player, Adjutant.
Sean: Bodes Well, Motivational, A Silent Player.
Tom: Bodes Well, A Silent Player, Motivational.

Second race. $15,000 handicap (120 and below) hurdle for amateur and apprentice jockeys going 2 3/8 miles. Five run. Mighty Mark will still have to run the race, but looks toughoff a second at Far Hills. He won three in a row before that.

Joe: Mighty Mark, Boss Man, Knockholt.
Sean: Mighty Mark, Boss Man, Knockholt. 
Tom: Mighty Mark, Boss Man, Court Ruler.

Third race. $30,000 maiden hurdle going 2 3/8 miles. Getting late for the maidens 4.0. We’ve said it all year, maiden races fuel every other division. Bring them on. Six run with Frontline Citizen and Ace Venture coming off seconds at Great Meadow. Arch Kingsley, whose first-timers are always dangerous (see Merry Maker at Great Meadow) brings Mr. Alec (a two-time winner on the flat) who ran against the likes of Rockemperor and Cross Border. Honor Up won six races on the flat and should move forward from his hurdle debut at Great Meadow. Keri Brion unveils Irish import Caughtmeoncamera. McSteamy won on the flat for jockey Richard Boucher and trainer Lilith Boucher at Presque Isle last month. Their daughter Mell gets aboard for a hurdle start.

Joe: Mr. Alec, Ace Ventura, Caughtmeoncamera.
Sean: Ace Ventura, Frontline Citizen, Mr. Alec. 
Tom: Mr. Alec, Ace Ventura, Frontline Citizen.

Fourth race. $75,000 AFLAC Supreme hurdle novice hurdle stakes going 2 3/8 miles. City Dreamer won at this level at Far Hills. Can he duplicate that effort? He’ll have to deal with Animal Kingston, winner of his last two; Booby Trap, third at Far Hills and a winner at Saratoga; Historic Heart, a 4-year-old hurdle stakes winner at Far Hills; Decisive Triumph, allowance winner at Great Meadow; French Light, who regressed at Far Hills after good efforts this summer; and the Happy Giant, who exits two decent flat tighteners. Good race. Who can handle the pressure late?

Joe: City Dreamer, Historic Heart, Animal Kingston.
Sean: City Dreamer, Historic Heart, Booby Trap. 
Tom: City Dreamer, Historic Heart, Decisive Triumph.

Fifth race. $20,000 maiden claiming hurdle going 2 3/8 miles. More maidens. Awesome. Five get a chance to graduate. Westerland was second at Middleburg. Twenty Years On has been third in his three U.S. starts. Hero’s Return was second at Great Meadow.

Joe: Twenty Years On, Hero’s Return, Westerland.            
Sean: Hero’s Return, Twenty Years On, Westerland. 
Tom: Twenty Years On, Westerland, Three O One.

Sixth race. $15,000 handicap hurdle (120 and below or $25,000 claiming) for amateur and apprentice jockeys going 2 3/8 miles. Sempre Medici and his 125 rating can win this for owner/rider Alex Leventhal, but it’s no picnic. Global Freedom can take a step forward. Bassmatchi gets some class relief and gets in light.

Joe: Global Freedom, Sempre Medici, Bassmatchi.
Sean: Global Freedom, Bassmatchi, Glencorrib Sky. 
Tom: Global Freedom, Bassmatchi, Sempre Medici.

Pennsylvania Hunt Cup in Unionville, Pa.
We’re not finished yet. The traditional timber meet – tailgating, hills, snow fence, stiff jumps, wind (usually) – heads to the post with the first of four races at 1:30 p.m. It’s the last timber racing of the season and the feature gives fans another chance to watch Mystic Strike. He’s won every race he’s finished this year and won this race in 2019 and 2020. Jacko won three in a row in the early 1970s.

First race. $15,000 maiden timber going 3 miles. Ten give it a go. Monbeg Stream figures off a second at Middleburg. Shootist was second over the course last fall. Elucidation is capable. The rest haven’t shown much, but could adapt to the Pennsylvania hunt country.

Joe: Monbeg Stream, Shootist, Master Seville.
Sean: Monbeg Stream, Master Seville, Shootist.
Tom: Monbeg Stream, Elucidation, Dream Verse.

Second race. $20,000 allowance (NW2) timber going 3 miles. Note to somebody, make this a non-winners of three or non-winners over timber before the start of the year, or perhaps even a non-winners of a timber stakes. Something, to give horses more places to go. Field of six includes Withoutmoreado, who won by 40 1/2 (yes he did) at Genesee Valley, and First Friday, who won at Middleburg. Pocket Talk won over the course in 2020. Road To Oz returns from a decent spring, where he won the maiden at the Manor and went straight to stakes company.

Joe: Road To Oz, First Friday, Pocket Talk.
Sean: Road To Oz, Withoutmoreado, Pocket Talk. 
Tom: First Friday, Withoutmoreado, Pocket Talk.

Third race. $35,000 Pennsylvania Hunt Cup timber stakes going 4 miles. It’s not quite Maryland, but it matters. The race dates to 1921 and has been won by some big names – Haffaday, Dosdi, Jacko, Fort Devon, Cancottage, Von Csadek and Buck Jakes among them. Mystic Strike towers over this field, especially if he keeps the bad luck at bay. His 2021 includes a fall (on the flat) at My Lady’s Manor, a lost rider (broken stirrup leather) at Grand National, wins in his next two at Middleburg and Radnor, a lost rider (again on the flat) at Virginia Gold Cup and then a win at Genesee last month. He’s made $42,000 so even a win won’t get him the timber championship, but the 12-year-old son of Smart Strike has had some year. Rakhaa, Renegade River, Stand Down and Goodoldtimes will try to pull the upset.

Joe: Mystic Strike, Rakhaa, Renegade River.
Sean: Mystic Strike, Rakhaa, Stand Down.
Tom: Mystic Strike, Rakhaa, Goodoldtimes.

Fourth race. Training flat for apprentice jockeys going 1 3/8 miles. Named for champion steeplechaser Athenian Idol (a Pape/Sheppard standout in the 1970s), the race offers a chance for inexperienced riders every year. We dare you not to slip up and call Freddy Flintshire Freddy Flintstone. Yabba dabba doo. The field goes 12 deep. Bee Major, a full-brother to hurdle stakes winner Ritzy A.P., joins the Leslie Young team off a claim at the Meadowlands Oct. 9. Realist, a 3-year-old hurdle winner at Far Hills, looks for a flat spin. Beyond The Pale, a son of two of our favorite horses Imagining and Rowdy, makes his debut at age 4.

Joe: Realist, Freddy Flintshire, Bee Major.
Sean: Realist, Freddy Flintshire, Temple City Blvd. 
Tom: Realist, Bee Major, Grey Giant.