The following appeared at www.nationalsteeplechase.com and was written by Don Clippinger. The Montpelier Hunt Races take place Saturday November 2nd at the home/estate of former President James Madison in Orange, VA just north of Charlottesville. As of October 30th, the extended forecast for Saturday calls for sunny skies and temperature of 60 degrees. Details and ticket info is at montpelierraces.org.
Montpelier Hunt Races’ $40,000 Noel Laing Handicap attracted a bulging field of 15 entrants to contest the 2½-mile voyage over the Virginia course’s lofty natural brush fences on Saturday.
The Montpelier meet, on the property of President James Madison’s restored home, drew several full or oversubscribed fields for its seven races. First post time is 12:30 p.m.
Topping the Noel Laing handicap at 158 pounds is Riverdee Stable’s Gibralfaro, who is coming off a sharp 3½-length victory in the International Gold Cup’s $75,000 David L. “Zeke” Ferguson Memorial (Gr. 2) last Saturday. Trainer Jack Fisher did not name a jockey to ride the seven-year-old Irish-bred.
The Noel Laing will draw heavily from the Far Hills Races’ Appleton Handicap, a ratings handicap. Woodslane Farm’s Pik Em, also trained by Fisher, won the 2 1/8-mile Appleton by 3½ lengths at 24.30-to-1 odds. One of the fall season’s most improved horses, the five-year-old Tapit gelding will carry 150 pounds.
Also coming out of the Appleton are Leipers Ford Steeplechase’s Querry Horse, the second finisher; Rosbrian Farm’s Stooshie, who finished third; Buttonwood Farm’s All the Way Jose, fourth; Jeffrey Amling and Merriefield Farm’s My Afleet, fifth; Irv Naylor’s Amschel, sixth; Rather Be Racing’s Kremlin, ninth; and Gill Johnston’s Peppay Le Pugh, 10th.
Mrs. Johnston also will be represented by Set to Music, who finished ninth in an International Gold Cup ratings handicap last Saturday. Trainer Kathy Neilson named Skylar McKenna to ride the eight-year-old Dynaformer gelding.
Rosbrian also entered The Holy One, who was pulled up in Far Hills’ Grand National (Gr. 1) in his first U.S. start. Trainer Ricky Hendriks named Jack Doyle aboard both Stooshie and The Holy One.
Also coming out of the Far Hills meet on Oct. 19 is Mark Buyck’s Show Court, who finished 11th in the New Jersey Hunt Cup, a flat stakes race. A Grade 1 winner last year, Show Court is trained by Arch Kingsley Jr.
Straylight Racing’s Invocation has followed an alternate route to the Noel Laing by racing in Virginia’s steeplethons on courses of mixed obstacles. A two-time winner in ratings handicaps last fall, the French-bred finished second in Virginia Fall’s Kinross steeplethon on Oct. 12 and third in the International Gold Cup’s Steeplethon Stakes last Saturday.
Mark Beecher trains Invocation and My Afleet.
Here is the field for the $40,000 Noel Laing Handicap in post-position order. The horses’ handicap weights are in parentheses at the end of their profiles.
Kremlin. 2012 ch. g., Eskendereya—Dock Leaf, by Woodman. Owner: Rather Be Racing stable. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Jockey: Open. Breeder: Juddmonte Farm (Ky.) 2019 record: 1-0-0-0, $0. 2018 2-1-0-0, $18,000. Pulled up in Far Hills’ 2019 Appleton ratings handicap. Won 2018 Queen’s Cup ratings handicap, then was pulled up in Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1). (146)
All the Way Jose. 2010 b. g., Senor Swinger—Maternity Leave, by Northern Baby. Owner: Buttonwood Farm. Trainer: Jonathan Sheppard. Jockey: Gerard Galligan. Breeder: Jonathan Sheppard (Pa.) 2019 record: 6-0-0-1, $40,750. 2018 record: 6-0-1-1, $ 68,200. Finished third in Belmont Park’s 2019 Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1), then was fourth in Far Hill’s Appleton ratings handicap. Finished fifth in Saratoga’s 2019 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1) and New York Turf Writers Cup Handicap (Gr. 1). In 2019 debut, finished fourth in the Temple Gwathmey Handicap (Gr. 2), then was fourth in Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1). Finished second in 2018 Noel Laing at Montpelier Hunt Races. Finished third in 2018 Grand National Gr. 1) for second straight year. Won 2017 Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1). (152)
Show Court (Ire). 2009 b. g., Vinnie Roe—Sparking Gem, by Revoque. Owner: Mark W. Buyck Jr. Trainer: Arch Kingsley Jr. Jockey: Open. Breeder: Grange Stud (Ire). 2019 NSA record: 4-0-0-0, $3,500. 2018 record: 6-2-0-0, $122,000. Finished 11th in Far Hills’ 2019 New Jersey Hunt Cup on flat after being eased in Saratoga’s A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1), which he won in 2018. Opened 2019 with sixth in Carolina Cup Handicap, then was pulled up in Temple Gwathmey Handicap (Gr. 2) and fourth in Valentine Memorial Handicap. (148)
Gibralfaro. (Ire). 2012 b. g., Dalakhani (Ire)—Ronda, by Bluebird. Owner: Riverdee Stable. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Jockey: Open. Breeder: Sarl Darpat France (Ire). 2019 record: 5-2-1-0, $144,000. 2018 record: 5-1-3-0, $77,250. Won International Gold Cup’s 2019 David L. “Zeke” Ferguson Memorial (Gr. 2). Finished second in Saratoga’s New York Turf Writers Cup (Gr. 1) after fourth in A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1). Opened 2019 with victory in Queen’s Cup MPC ’Chase for novices, then was sixth in Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1). Finished second in Far Hills’ 2018 Foxbrook Champion Hurdle division and Aflac Supreme Hurdle. (158)
Querry Horse (Fr). 2012 b. g., Equerry—La Richelandiere (Fr), by Garde Royale (Ire). Owner: Leipers Fork Steeplechase. Trainer: Leslie Young. Jockey: Ross Geraghty. Breeder: Pierre Duvignaud (Fr). 2019 NSA record: 3-0-3-0, $11,700. Since spring 2019 arrival in U.S., has had three second-place finishes, most recently in Far Hills’ Appleton ratings handicap. (140)
Amschel (GB). 2014 b. g., Nathaniel (Ire)—Darinza (Fr), by Dalakhani (Ire). Owner: Irvin S. Naylor. Trainer: Cyril Murphy. Jockey: Graham Watters. Breeder: Newsells Park Stud (GB). 2019 record: 1-0-0-0, $1,500. 2018 NSA record: 1-0-0-1, $12,500. Made 2019 debut with sixth-place finish in Far Hills’ Appleton ratings handicap. In only other U.S. start, finished third in division of Far Hills’ Foxbrook Champion Hurdle. Won three straight races in Ireland in 2018 before export. (152)
Repeat Repeat. 2014 dk. b. or br. g., Arch—Dattt Echo, by Stormy Atlantic. Owner: Bon Nouvel Chasers. Trainer: Julie Gomena. Jockey: Open. Breeder: Dattt Farm (Ky.) 2019 record: 4-1-1-1, $34,700. Finished second in 2019 Virginia Fall ratings handicap, then was pulled up when impeded in International Gold Cup ratings handicap. Won his steeplechase debut by a neck at the 2019 Carolina Cup, and then was third in tough allowance hurdle at Iroquois after setting early pace. Had four consecutive first-place finishes on flat in 2018. (142)
Invocation (Fr). 2013 dk. b. g., Intense Focus—Fabiola, by Medicean. Owner: Straylight Racing. Trainer: Mark Beecher. Jockey: Open. Breeder: E.A.R.L. Elevage Des Loges (Fr). 2019 record: 4-0-2-2, $24,100. 2018 record: 2-2-0-0, $48,000. Finished third in International Gold Cup’s 2019 Steeplethon after second in Virginia Fall’s Kinross Steeplethon. Finished second in 2019 Carolina Cup, then was third in Virginia Gold Cup’s David Semmes Memorial (Gr. 2). In two 2018 starts, won ratings handicaps at Far Hills and Charleston. (152)
Pik Em. 2014 gr. or ro. g., Tapit—Seattle Smooth, by Quiet American. Owner: Woodslane Farm. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Jockey: Open. Breeder: Mercedes Stables (Ky.). 2019 record: 7-1-2-1, $61,000. 2018 record: 4-2-0-0, $33,500. Won Far Hills’ 2019 Appleton ratings handicap after score in Shawan Downs ratings handicap. Finished second in Cup Runneth Over and Virginia Gold Cup ratings handicaps before losing rider at Radnor in higher-level handicap. Finished fifth in division of Far Hills’ 2018 Foxbrook Champion Hurdle for novices. Won 2018 High Hope ratings handicap handily after maiden victory over fences in Radnor maiden claiming hurdle. (150)
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. Jockey: Kieran Norris. Breeders. Jeffrey S. Amling and Charles Noell. 2019 record: 3-0-1-0, $23,000. 2018 record: No starts. Finished fifth in Far Hills’ 2019 Appleton ratings handicap. Closed boldly for second in 2019 Queen’s Cup MPC ’Chase, then was sixth in Iroquois’ Marcellus Frost Champion Hurdle. Made a successful jumps debut with 34 1/2-length victory in 2017 Tryon Block House maiden hurdle, then won Virginia Gold Cup allowance hurdle before second in Frost. Stakes winner on flat finished second in Saratoga’s John’s Call Stakes in final flat start. (148)
Stooshie (Ire). 2013 b. g., Fracas (Ire)—Misty Native (Ire), by Be My Native. Owner: Rosbrian Farm. Trainer: Ricky Hendriks. Jockey: Jack Doyle. Breeder: Peter Tonery (Ire). 2019 NSA record: 2-0-1-1, $11,300. Finished third in Far Hills’ 2019 Appleton ratings handicap after second in Iroquois Steeplechase ratings handicap, his U.S. debut. (148)
Set to Music. 2011b. g., Dynaformer—Pussycat Doll, by Real Quiet. Owner: Gill Johnston. Trainer: Kathy Neilson. Jockey: Skylar McKenna. Breeder: Mr. and Mrs. M. Roy Jackson (Ky.). 2019 record: 6-0-0-1, $7,500. 2018 record: 5-1-2-2, $42,600. Finished ninth in 2019 International Gold Cup ratings handicap after seventh in Saratoga allowance hurdle and fourth in Shawan Downs ratings handicap. Finished third in 2019 Middleburg Spring allowance hurdle and fourth in Radnor handicap before fifth in Colonial Downs ratings handicap. (140)
The Holy One (Ire). 2013 b. g., Court Cave (Ire)—Vickate (Ire), by Old Vic (GB). Owner: Rosbrian Farm. Trainer: Ricky Hendriks. Jockey: Jack Doyle. Breeder: Rosemary Swan (Ire). 2019 NSA record: 1-0-0-0, $0. Pulled up in Far Hills’ 2019 Grand National (Gr. 1), his U.S. debut. Won a modest hurdle handicap in April and in most recent start finished in a dead-heat for third in a steeplechase allowance in August. (150)
Peppay Le Pugh (Ire). 2011 b. g., Arakan—Pinaflore, by Formidable. Owner: Gillian Johnston. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Jockey: Open. Breeder: John Kennedy (Ire). 2019 NSA record: 3-0-0-0, $0. Finished 10th in Far Hills’ 2019 Appleton ratings handicap. In U.S. debut, finished ninth in Saratoga’s 2019 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1), then was eighth in New York Turf Writers Cup (Gr 1). Raced extensively in lower-level hurdle and steeplechase handicaps in England. Closed out that phase of his career with a second at Carlisle in April 2019 after a win at Ayr. (150)
Henry San (Ire). 2007 ch. g., Exceed And Excell (Aus)—Esclava, by Nureyev. Owner: Casey Pinkard Savin. Trainer: Anna DiGennaro. Jockey: Archie Macauley. Breeder: Mrs. M. C. Sweeney (Ire). 2019 record: No starts. 2018 record: No starts. Most recently started in Iroquois Steeplechase’s 2017 Mason Houghland Memorial over timber and finished third. Won 2017 Queen’s Cup allowance timber. (140)