By Don Clippinger, National Steeplechase Association
Stakes winners Ice It and Show Court are among 16 nominees to Iroquois Steeplechase’s $100,000 Marcellus Frost Champion Hurdle, a showcase for American Steeplechasing’s rising stars, on Saturday, May 13.
Show Court, owned by prominent South Carolina attorney Mark W. Buyck Jr., struck first with a seven-length victory in the Carolina Cup for novices—horses in their first seasons of competition over fences—on April 1.
DASH Stable’s Ice It, sixth in the Carolina Cup, came back on April 29 to run a strong race in the Queen’s Cup MPC ’Chase, also for novices, at the Queen’s Cup Steeplechase near Charlotte, N.C. In that race, Ice It closed ground late to overtake a front-running Show Court and won by a length.
Ice It is trained by Jack Fisher, and Irish-bred Show Court is trained by Arch Kingsley Jr.
Fisher, the sport’s champion trainer for the last five years, also nominated Bruton Street-US’s Moscato, winner of a Queen’s Cup maiden hurdle, and Gil Johnston’s With Rhythm, a maiden winner at the Atlanta Steeplechase on April 22.
Leading owner Irv Naylor nominated Osmoz, winner of a Middleburg Spring ratings handicap on April 22, and newcomer Royal Caviar, who would be making his first U.S. start after finishing fourth in the Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Steeplechase at the Cheltenham Festival in March. Both are trained by Cyril Murphy.
Nominated from the stable of trainer Richard Valentine were Johnston’s Miguel Grau, most recently fourth in the Queen’s Cup, and Magalen O. Bryant’s Personal Start, third in an allowance hurdle at the Tryon Block House meet in North Carolina on April 15.
Potentially looking to spring a surprise in the spring’s richest novice stakes is Wendy Hendriks’ Surprising Soul, who has won his two starts this season for trainer Ricky Hendriks, the owner’s son.
Trainer Leslie Young nominated Michael A. Smith’s Mercoeur, second to Surprising Soul in a Tryon Block House allowance hurdle, and Straylight Racing’s Invocation, second in a Queen’s Cup ratings handicap.
Top timber jockey Mark Beecher is launching his training career and nominated Jeffrey S. Amling’s and Merriebelle Stable’s My Afleet, who won a Tryon Block House maiden hurdle by more than 30 lengths.
Here are the nominees to the $100,000 Marcellus Frost Champion Hurdle in alphabetical order. The horses’ National Steeplechase Association ratings are in parentheses at the end of their profiles.
Curve of Stones 2011 gr. or ro. g., Arch—Exceptionally, by El Prado (Ire). Owner: Sarah Rebecca Shepherd. Trainer: David M. Bourke. Breeder: Audley Farm (Va.) 2016 record: 3-2-0-0, $56,400. Won maiden victory at 2016 Virginia Gold Cup and came back two weeks later to win $35,000 allowance hurdle at Radnor. Finished fifth in Monmouth Park ratings handicap. (118)
Ice It. 2012 gr. or ro. g., Tapit—Spice Island, by Tabasco Cat. Owner: DASH Stable. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Breeder: Qatar Bloodstock (Ky.) 2017 record: 2-1-0-0, $47,250. 2016 record: 5-1-3-0, $68,250. 2015 record: 3-1-0-0, $18,600. Won 2017 Queen’s Cup MPC ’Chase after sixth in Carolina Cup. Won 2016 Georgia Cup optional allowance hurdle impressively, then second in Marcellus Frost Novice Stakes at Iroquois Steeplechase. Finished sixth in Belmont’s William Entenmann Memorial Novice Stakes before seconds in Far Hills’ Foxbrook Champion Hurdle and Aflac Supreme Hurdle. Won Far Hills’ Gladstone Hurdle to lock up 2015 three-year-old championship. (126)
Invocation (Fr). 2013 dk. b. g., Intense Focus—Fabiola, by Medicean. Owner: Straylight Racing. Trainer: Leslie Young. Breeder: E.A.R.L. Elevage Des Loges (Fr). 2017 record: 1-0-1-0, $4,500. 2016 NSA record: 2-1-0-1, $20,000. Finished second in 2017 Queen’s Cup ratings handicap. Won a 2016 Colonial Cup allowance hurdle by 18 lengths after third in Far Hills’ Gladstone Stakes, his U.S. debut. Maiden on flat in England but frequently in the money. (111)
Laser Light (Ire). 2011 b. g., Kutub—Sioux Falls (Ire), by Monashee Mountain. Owner: Tantivy Racing LLC. Trainer: Ted Thompson. Breeder: Clongiffin Stud (Ire). 2017 NSA record: No starts. In final start in England, won a Kempton allowance hurdle. In six career starts in England, won three and never off the board.
Lyonell (Ger). 2011 b. g., Montjeu (Ire)—Lysuna, by Monson. Owner: Robert A. Kinsley. Trainer: Elizabeth Voss. Breeder: Gestut Hof Ittlingen (Ger). 2017 record: 1-0-1-0, $5,400. 2016 NSA record: 2-1-0-1, $22,000. Opened 2017 season with second in Middleburg Spring ratings handicap. Won Radnor maiden hurdle in May 2016 after third at Virginia Gold Cup in his hurdles debut. Won a flat handicap in Germany last year. (117)
Macnicholson (Ire). 2009 b. g., Definite Article (GB)—Heroic Performer, by Royal Applause (GB). Owner: James S. Carter. Trainer: Jimmy Day. Breeder: D. Shine (Ire). 2017 record: 1-0-0-9, $0. 2016 NSA record: No starts. Lost rider in his first U.S. start, 2017 Carolina Cup. Finished third in a steeplechase allowance at Gowell in January. Looking for first victory since August 2015. (133)
Mercoeur (Fr). 2011 gr. or ro. g., Archange d’Or (Ire)—Erivia, by Kendor. Owner: Michael A. Smith. Trainer: Leslie Young. Breeder: Ambrose Dupont (Fr). 2017 record: 1-0-1-0, $6,300. 2016 record: 4-1-0-2, $19,500. Finished second in 2017 Tryon Block House allowance hurdle. Scored maiden hurdle victory at 2016 Montpelier Hunt Races. (116)
Miguel Grau. 2010 b. g., City Zip—Zuri Ridge, by Cox’s Ridge. Owner: Gil Johnston. Trainer: Richard Valentine. Breeder: Sea Horse Breeders (Ky.) 2017 record: 2-0-0-0, $3,750. 2016 record: 6-1-1-2, $50,850. 2015 record: 6-1-1-1, $34,200. Opened 2017 with seventh in Carolina Cup, then was fourth in Queen’s Cup MPC ’Chase. Finished second in Belmont’s 2016 William Entenmann Memorial Novice Stakes, then was third in Far Hills’ Foxbrook Champion Hurdle. Won Suffolk Downs ratings handicap by 9 3/4 lengths, then finished fifth in Saratoga overnight handicap. (121)
Moscato (GB). 2011 gr. or ro. g., Hernando (Fr)—Alba Stella, by Nashwan. Owner: Bruton Street-US. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Breeder: Miss K. Rausing (GB). 2017 record: 2-1-1-0, $22,500. 2016 NSA record: No starts. Made a promising start to U.S. career with close second in 2017 Carolina Cup maiden hurdle followed by 7 1/4-win at Queen’s Cup Steeplechase.
My Afleet. 2011 gr. or ro. g., Afleet Alex—My Own Story, by Lasting Approval. Owners: Jeffrey S. Amling and Merriebelle Stable. Trainer: Mark Beecher. Breeders. Jeffrey S. Amling and Charles Noell. 2017 record: 1-1-0-0, $18,000. 2016 NSA record: No starts. Made a successful jumps debut with 34 1/2-length victory in 2017 Tryon Block House maiden hurdle. Stakes winner on flat finished second in Saratoga’s John’s Call Stakes in final flat start. (116)
Osmoz. 2012 dk. b. or br. g., Birdstone—Wichitoz, by Affirmed. Owner: Irvin S. Naylor. Trainer: Cyril Murphy. Breeder: Wertheimer et Frere (Ky.) 2017 record: 1-1-0-0, $18,000. 2016 record: 3-1-0-0, $20,950. Opened 2017 with win in Middleburg Spring ratings handicap. Won Parx maiden hurdle in July 2016. Made two starts on the flat in California for Racing Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella, with a fourth as his best showing. (114).
Personal Start. 2011 dk. b. or br. g., Jump Start—Personal Doreen, by Personal Flag. Owner: Magalen O. Bryant. Trainer: Richard Valentine. Breeder: Magalen O. Bryant (Ky.) 2017 record: 1-0-0-1, $3,500. 2016 record: 5-1-0-1, $23,800. 2015 NSA record: 1-0-0-0, $0. Opened 2017 with third in Tryon Block House allowance hurdle. Won 2016 Atlanta Cup maiden hurdle and fell in Marcellus Frost Novice Stakes at Iroquois Steeplechase. Set early pace and tired to finish sixth in Saratoga allowance hurdle after third in Parx Ratings Handicap. Finished eighth in International Gold Cup allowance hurdle. (114)
Royal Caviar (Ire). 2008 b. g., Vinnie Roe—Blackwater Babe, by Arctic Lord. Owner: Irvin S. Naylor. Trainer: Cyril Murphy. Breeder: Kevin Fox (Ire). 2017 NSA record: No starts. Finished distant fourth in Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Steeplechase at 2017 Cheltenham Festival.
Show Court (Ire). 2009 b. g., Vinnie Roe—Sparking Gem, by Revoque. Owner: Mark W. Buyck Jr. Trainer: Arch Kingsley Jr. Breeder: Grange Stud (Ire). 2017 record: 2-1-1-0, $58,500. 2016 NSA record: 1-0-0-0, $0. Won 2017 Carolina Cup by seven lengths, then finished second in Queen’s Cup MPC ’Chase. Finished seventh in Colonial Cup ratings handicap after debut 10th in International Gold Cup flat race. Won maiden over hurdles in Ireland in late 2015. (123)
Surprising Soul. 2012 b. g., Perfect Soul (Ire)—Elusive Srprise, by Elusive Quality. Owner: Wendy W. Hendriks. Trainer: Ricky Hendriks. Breeder: Charles Fipke (Ont.) 2017 record: 2-2-0-0, $36,000. 2016 NSA record: 3-0-2-0, $13,200. Won maiden hurdle at 2017 Aiken Spring easily and won allowance hurdle at Tryon Block House. (123)
With Rhythm. 2011 gr. or ro. g., Thewayyouare—Rhythm and Rhyme, by Unbridled’ Song. Owner: Gil Johnston. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Breeder: Rhythm and Rhyme Syndicate (Ky.) 2017 record 2-1-0-0, $15,900. 2016 NSA record: 2-0-1-0, $10,250. Won 2017 Atlanta Steeplechase maiden hurdle after sixth in Carolina Cup maiden. On flat, had two wins in France and one at Gulfstream Park.