The Fields Stable’s Portrade will bid to repeat in the Grade 1, $ 150,000 New York Turf Writers Cup – the premier steeplechase race on Saratoga Race Course’s docket – on Thursday at 2 3/8 miles in Race 1.
Trainer Elizabeth Voss has won the last two Turf Writers Cups, saddling Bob Le Beau in 2015 and Portrade last year, who handled the hurdles with aplomb in besting Andi’amu by one length. Portrade, who has raced four times since, is looking to return to the winner’s circle for the first time since that victory and will be coming off a nearly month-long break since finishing fourth in the Grade 1 A.P. Smithwick Memorial on July 27 at the Spa.
Portrade, 4-3-5 in 20 career starts, galloped in company with fellow Writers Cup entrant Modem last week, and Voss said both looked ready for the race contested over eight jumps.
“He put in a nice work the other day; he’s a horse who just doesn’t want to get beat and he tries his heart out,” Voss said.
Last year, Portrade parlayed a third-place effort in the A.P. Smithwick into a win in the Turf Writers Cup, and the 8-year-old gelding will look to follow a similar path.
“He needed that race this year so hopefully with that under his belt will help,” Voss said. “Jumping is his strong suit, so it doesn’t help that we don’t have the last fence, but he’ll give it his all. He started kind of fading down the backside [last out] but he ran well. I was happy with him.”
Jockey Gustav Dahl will have the return call from post 3 carrying 146 pounds.
Modem will be making his 48th career start and is coming off a runner-up finish to Swansea Mile in the A.P. Smithwick in his North American debut. After previously racing exclusively in Great Britain and Ireland, Modem who won the Novice Weight For Age Steeplechase in his last start overseas on May 30 in Ireland, drew post 2 with jockey Jack Doyle aboard carrying the Highweight of 156 pounds.
“Coming from Europe and finishing second, I was really [pleased] with him,” Voss said. “He’s been doing well. I wish it was three weeks between the races instead of four. It’s just a little more than they’re used to, but knock on wood, everything is [fine].”
Show Court has two wins in four starts this year and is second only to Scorpiancer in earnings on the National Steeplechase standings. The 8-year-old Irish bred, trained by Archibald Kingsley, Jr., will break from post 4.
Jack Fisher entered August 17 with nearly double the victory total of the next-closest trainers on the National Steeplechase standings, logging 15 wins, 20 runner-up finishes and nine third-place efforts in 79 starts. He will saddle Choral Society and Mr. Hot Stuff.
Choral Society, an 8-year-old son of Holy Bull, won a handicap carrying 156 pounds over hurdles on August 9 at the Spa and drew the outside post in the 12-horse field. Danny Mullins will have his first mount since the 2016 A.P. Smithwick.
Mr. Hot Stuff, who was pulled up in his last start in the Grade 1 Iroquois, will make his third straight jump start off a three-month break. Owned by WinStar farm, the 11-year-old veteran ran fourth in last year’s Turf Writers Cup. Sean McDermott, second among steeplechase riders with eight wins, will be in the irons from post 8.
Richard Hendriks, second to Fisher on the trainer money list, saddles Swansea Mile, who won his first U.S. race in eight starts last out. Swansea Mile will break from post 10 with jockey Michael Mitchell carrying 150 pounds.
Diplomat, the third-place finisher behind Modem and Swansea Mile last out, will make his second consecutive start over hurdles, drawing post 6 with Bernard Dalton carrying 138 pounds.
Jonathan Sheppard trainer All the Way Jose, who drew the rail, and Alcazar de Maram, from post 5. Rounding out the field is Colla Pier, owned and trained by David Dunne out of post 7; Casino Markets, trained by Emma Lavelle in leaving post 9; and the George Weaver-trained Three Kingdoms making his first North American start in exiting post 11.
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