By Don Clippinger, National Steeplechase Association
Andrea and Graham Wylie’s dynamic duo of Nichols Canyon and Shaneshill have been nominated for a return trip to the United States and an assault on the biggest prize of American Steeplechasing’s spring season, the $200,000 Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1) on Saturday, May 13.
The Calvin Houghland Iroquois will cap an exciting day of racing at the 76th annual Iroquois Steeplechase at Nashville’s Percy Warner Park, where $525,000 will be on the line in its seven jump races. First post time will be 1 p.m.
Much is at stake in the three-mile race for Nichols Canyon, the third finisher last year who now is in line for the $500,000 TVV Capital Cheltenham-Iroquois Challenge. The prize goes to the horse that wins the Calvin Houghland Iroquois and Cheltenham’s Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle in the same 12-month period.
The seven-year-old long-distance specialist won the Stayers’ Hurdle by three-quarters of a length on March 16 with a dramatic charge up Cheltenham’s homestretch.
Nichols Canyon prepared for his American assault with a valiant second in the Ladbrokes Champion Stayers Hurdle in Ireland on April 27, and it is likely that he will again be ridden by 12-time Irish champion jumps jockey Ruby Walsh.
Both Nichols Canyon and Shaneshill are trained by Willie Mullins, who claimed his 10th champion trainer title last month. Shaneshill, second last year to eventual Eclipse Award champion Rawnaq, was unplaced in the Champion Stayers Hurdle after being pulled up at Cheltenham in the Stayers’ Hurdle.
Awaiting the Irish-based contenders will be a solid team of American horses, including several with overseas experience. Leading owner Irv Naylor, who races Rawnaq, nominated his 2015 Eclipse champion, Dawalan, to the Calvin Houghland Iroquois.
Trained by Cyril Murphy, the French-bred Dawalan claimed his American title with two Grade 1 victories that fall, but he missed the 2016 season because of injury.
Jack Fisher has been the champion trainer for the last five years in a row, and he nominated a formidable team to the Calvin Houghland Iroquois. Bruton Street-US’s Scorpiancer won his first Grade 1 race in last fall’s Lonesome Glory Handicap and opened the current season with a win in the Temple Gwathmey Handicap (Gr. 3) on April 22.
Mr. Hot Stuff races for Chattanooga horsewoman Gil Johnston and finished third in the Temple Gwathmey at the Middleburg Spring Races. The 11-year-old finished second in the 2015 Calvin Houghland Iroquois and is coming back after missing last season.
Fisher’s third contender is Sonny Via’s Hinterland, who also is coming back after missing last year. He finished second in the 2015 Lonesome Glory.
Racing Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard nominated Bill Pape’s Martini Brother, who won the Georgia Cup optional allowance hurdle on April 22.
Trainer Leslie Young nominated Ballybristol Farm’s French-bred Andi’amu, who finished fifth in the Tryon Block House Handicap on April 15.
A third overseas invader, Three Kingdoms, was nominated by Dermot Weld, who like Mullins has shipped horses around the world for major victories. The Street Cry gelding finished fourth in last fall’s Guinness Kerry National Steeplechase and was unplaced in his next start, a handicap hurdle on March 12 in Ireland.
Here are the nominees to the $200,000 Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1) in alphabetical order. The horses’ National Steeplechase Association ratings are in parentheses at the end of their profiles.
Andi’amu (Fr). 2010 b. g., Walk In The Park—Sainte Parfaite, by Septieme Ciel. Owner: Ballybristol Farm. Trainer: Leslie Young. Breeder: Therese Bouche (Fr). 2017 record: 1-0-0-0, $1,600. 2016 record: 6-1-2-0, $77,300. 2015 NSA record: 4-1-3-0, $56,400. Opened 2017 with fifth in Tryon Block House Handicap. Finished hard-driving second in 2016 New York Turf Writers Cup (Gr. 1) and was fourth in Grand National (Gr. 1). Won Monmouth Park ratings handicap, then was fourth in Saratoga ratings handicap. Finished second in Iroquois ratings handicap. (130)
Dawalan (Fr). 2010 gr. or ro. g., Azamour (Ire)—Daltawa, by Miswaki. Owner: Irvin S. Naylor. Trainer: Cyril Murphy. Breeder: Aga Khan Studs (Fr). 2016 record: No starts. 2015 NSA record: 3-2-0-1, $255,000. Won 2015 Eclipse Award with victories in the Grand National (Gr. 1) and Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup. In first U.S. start, finished third, beaten 1 1/2 lengths, in Belmont Park’s Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1) on Sept. 24. Accomplished handicap hurdler was overwhelmed in two handicap stakes at Cheltenham and Aintree this past spring before being imported. (156)
Hinterland (Fr). 2008 b. g., Poliglote (GB)—Queen’s Place, by Diamond Prospect. Owner: Harold A. “Sonny” Via Jr. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Jockey: Sean McDermott. Breeder: Eric Aubree and Christian Bresson (Fr). 2016 record: No starts. 2015 NSA record: 2-0-0-0, $27,000. Finished second in 2015 Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1), his second U.S. start after seventh in Saratoga’s New York Turf Writers Cup (Gr. 1). (138)
Martini Brother. 2008 dk. b. or br. g., A.P. Indy—Island Sand, by Tabasco Cat. Owner: Bill Pape. Trainer: Jonathan Sheppard. Breeder: Meadowview Farms (Ky). 2017 record: 1-1-0-0, $21,000. 2016 record: 3-0-0-1, $3,500. 2015 record: 2-0-1-0, $23,250. Opened 2017 with win in Georgia Cup optional allowance hurdle. Made comeback after more than a year on the sidelines with third in 2016 Noel Laing Handicap, then finished eighth in the Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup (Gr. 1). Finished second in the 2015 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1). Was one of 2013’s top novices. Grade 1-winning dam sold for $4.2-million at 2007 Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale while carrying Martini Brother. (128)
Mr. Hot Stuff. 2006 dk. b. or br. g., Tiznow—Sweet Damsel, by Turkoman. Owner: Gil Johnston. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Breeder: WinStar Farm (Ky.) 2017 record: 1-0-0-1, $5,000. 2016 record: No starts. Finished third in 2017 Temple Gwathmey Handicap (Gr. 3) after missing 2016 season. Won 2015 Temple Gwathmey (Gr. 3) at Middleburg Spring and then was second in the Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1) Won the 2013 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1) at Saratoga. (146)
Nichols Canyon (GB). 2010 b. g., Authorized (Ire)—Zam Zoom, by Dalakhani. Owner: Andrea and Graham Wylie. Trainer: Willie Mullins. Breeder: Rabbah Bloodstock Ltd. (GB). 2016 NSA record: 1-0-0-1, $20,000. Won the £300,000 Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle (Eng-Gr. 1) on March 16, then was second by a head to arch-rival Unowhatimeanharry in Ladbrokes Champions Stayers Hurdle in Ireland on April 27. Finished third in 2016 Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1).
Scorpiancer (Ire). 2009 b. g., Scorpion (Ire)—Janebailey, By Silver Patriarch. Owner: Bruton Street-US. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Breeder: Mary O’Connor (Ire). 2017 record: 1-1-0-0, $30,000. 2016 record: 6-1-3-1, $154,600. 2015 NSA record: 2-2-0-0, $75,000. Opened 2017 with victory in Temple Gwathmey Handicap (Gr. 3). Won Belmont Park’s 2016 Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1). Finished good second in Saratoga’s 2016 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1), then was third in New York Turf Writers Cup (Gr. 1). Finished second in Middleburg Spring’s 2016 Temple Gwathmey Handicap (Gr. 3), then fourth in Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1). Finished second in Fair Hill’s Valentine Memorial Ratings Handicap. Won 2015 Foxbrook Champion Hurdle. (150)
Shaneshill (Ire). 2009 b. g., King’s Theatre (Ire)—Darabaka, by Dayoun. Owners Andrea and Graham Wylie. Trainer: Willie Mullins. Breeder: Declan Johnson (Ire). 2016 NSA record: 1-0-1-0, $36,000. Wound up 2016-2017 jumps season unplaced in Ladbrokes Champion Stayers Hurdle in Ireland on April 27 after being eased in Cheltenham’s Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle. Finished a valiant second, beaten a neck, in 2016 Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1).
Three Kingdoms (Ire). 2009 ch. g., Street Cry (Ire)—Chan Tong, by Hampstead. Owner: R. Lambe. Trainer: Dermot Weld. Breeder: Darley (Ire). 2017 NSA record: No starts. Unplaced in England and Ireland in 2016-2017. Finished fourth in Guinness Kerry National Steeplechase last fall before unplaced finish in Naas Supporters Hurdle in March.