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Friday, July 19, 2002


3-50 Newmarket - Lion Sports Mixture trophy, 1m


25/1 OASES






Each Way: 1/4 Odds 12

4.10 Newbury - Ladbrokes.com Handicap, 1m

14/1 SMIRK
















The Scoop6 is three years old this weekend, although it is the punters who'll be hoping for the happy returns as with the bet this week comes the real chance of someone landing the first part of a £1 million Win/Bonus double.

Before the pools open this Saturday £749,804 is already sitting in the Win and Bonus prize fundsthe twelfth biggest start of day total in the three year history of the betincluding a massive £441,338 in the Win find the second biggest ever. £308,466 sits in the Bonus Prize fund.

"It may be the bets birthday tomorrow but with a potential £1million up for grabs and only 63 declared runners, punters of Saturday's big bet might well think that Christmas has come early," said Tote spokesman Jeremy Scott.

"Punters have looked as though they've needed a hand with the Scoop6 in recent weeks as lines have gone crashing with a string of long priced winners. This weekend we're offering them a bit of a respite having opted not to make them suffer trawling through the form of the 24 runner Weatherbys Super Sprint and as a result there are just 63 decs at the overnight stage!"

"As a result of the changes we made in the way we allocate Scoop6 money in to the different pools the Win fund rollover has grown quickly in recent weeks and is now the second biggest in the history of the bet. With another mighty plunge expected from Scoop6 punters tomorrow, we're predicting that a single Win/Bonus fund winner will land a cool £1million."

Saturday's Scoop6 races are:
leg 12.05 Newmarket 02 Pay And Go Wild Handicap
leg 22.20Market Rasen Tote Scoop6 Summer Plate
leg 32.40Newmarket Food BrokersSmint Handicap
leg 43.15Newmarket Food Brokers 40th Anniversary Aphrodite Stakes
leg 53.50Newmarket Lion Sports Mixture Tophy
leg 64.10 Newbury ladbrokes.com Handicap



In late July, Thoroughbred racing turns its attention to Saratoga, and steeplechasing is no exception as the jumpers will take part in nine hurdle races scheduled for the famed upstate New York meet that begins July 24.

Steeplechase races are set for every Thursday, and every other Wednesday beginning July 31 during the sixweek stint. Highlights are the $75,000 A.P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. II) on Aug. 8 and the $100,000 New York Turf Writers Cup (Gr. I) on Aug. 29. Surrounding the two features are a core of classy allowance, starter handicap at claiming races. In all cases except the Turf Writers, the jump races are the first of the day.

Saratoga showcases steeplechasing's best, with no maiden races and no firsttime starters. The restrictions, which state that any Saratoga hurdle starter must have finished 123 in a previous hurdle race, ensure quality.

"We don't have that regulation at other tracks, and that's done to put an emphasis on the level of competition," said NSA director of racing Bill Gallo. "Our trainers specifically point to the meet and have been actively getting horses eligible for Saratoga, so we're coming into the meet with great expectations and a strong inventory of the very best horses in training."

Saratoga is the sixth racetrack to host steeplechase racing this season. During the spring run at Keeneland, Churchill Downs, Pimlico and Belmont Park, steeplechase handle figures soared to a total of $2.8 million or an average of nearly $500,000 per race. Churchill's race handled nearly $1 million on its own, while Pimlico's handle figure doubled the 2001 total.

Though not in that league, Colonial Downs has seen strong wagering numbers for its steeplechases this summer.

Steeplechasing has been a part of Saratoga since the beginning, with documents showing hurdles on the course as early as 1864. Steeplechase greats like Lonesome Glory, Flatterer, Zaccio and Life's Illusion competed at the Spa over the years.

This summer marks the 20th anniversary of Zaccio's second victory in the Turf Writers. The future Hall of Famer shouldered 161 pounds and won by a neck while giving away 15 pounds to Give A Whirl. Ricky Hendriks, then an 18yearold who recently graduated from the apprentice ranks, piloted Zaccio for masterful trainer Burley Cocks. Hendriks, now a steeplechase trainer, heads to Saratoga with several live steeplechasers including 2001 winner Tres Touche.

One change to the program this season is the removal of one fence on the Saratoga backstretch. The new configuration means the 2 1/16mile races will feature nine hurdles (as opposed to 11) and the 2 3/8mile races will include 10 instead of 12. The move was made to improve safety, and hasten more competition.

"Saratoga is a very important showcase for steeplechasing, and we want to put our best product out there," said Gallo. "Taking out a fence was discussed at length during the offseason. We feel it's a way to help make the races more competitive and better to watch."

The change has some precedent, as twomile hurdle races in England typically have eight fences.

Looking ahead to this season, the stakes division looks relatively wide open (like it's been all year) though It's A Giggle casts a long shadow. The 2002 earnings leader ($124,650) won three times at Saratoga last season (including the Turf Writers) and has been resting for the meet since winning at Keeneland in late April. Trainer Jonathan Sheppard entered the 8yearold in a training flat race at the Saratoga Open House Sunday after a planned flat start at Philadelphia Park was rained off the turf last week.

Other potential stakes starters include 2001 Breeders' Cup Steeplechase winner Quel Senor, 1998 champion Flat Top, Triple Crown hero Anofferucantrefuse, veteran Al Skywalker, the talented Lord Zada and rising star Tres Touche.

The allowance ranks overflow with young talent including undefeated Tallow. Owned by Ken Avanzino and trained in Pennsylvania by Bruce Miller, the 6yearold broke his maiden at Lexington in May and set a track record at Colonial Downs earlier this month.

Sheppard plans to run Stonerside Stable's Star Tide, a 4yearold with a 1for2 mark over hurdles, in the opener July 25. The homebred son of Seattle Slew won a quality maiden race at Nashville in May. Owner Bob McNair will be in town for the race, before heading to Texas for the start of the Houston Texans NFL training camp. Trainer Sanna Neilson won Colonial maiden races with Boomtown and El Guardaespalda, who will join stablemate Jumangi on the Saratoga allowance trail.

Trainer Tom Voss, like Sheppard known for quality flat horses as well as his jumpers, will take a full van of hurdlers north for the summer. Stars of the barn include stakes winner Anofferucantrefuse and allowance horses Major Hero, Equistar and Devil's Egg.

Beyond the horses on the course this summer, steeplechasing's Saratoga connections include trainers like Leo O'Brien and Tom Skiffington, who were former jump jockeys. O'Brien retired in 1976 with 137 lifetime wins.

Champion in 1976, 1977 and 1979, Skiffington hung up his saddle in 1979 with 115 career wins. Trainer Scotty Schulhofer, who retired last season, is also a former jump jockey and won 106 races in the 1950s and 1960s. Other Saratoga trainers with steeplechase roots include Allen Jerkens (a brief foray as a jockey), Graham Motion (former assistant to Jonathan Sheppard), Barclay Tagg (former jockey), Billy Turner (former jockey).

A successful summer steeplechase campaign at Colonial Downs comes to a close Saturday with the final two races of a 10race program.

Held every Saturday, the steeplechases helped the Virginia track realize strong gains in attendance and handle through the season's first four weeks. Steeplechasing even found a way to share the Virginia Derby Day program with two races last week. Attendance swelled past 8,000 and total handle on the day was $1.9 million. Colonial's average attendance and handle are up sharply over last season.

In the final steeplechase set, nine horses go in a $15,000 maiden hurdle (the last chance to earn a ticket to Saratoga). Leading trainer Tom Voss runs Count The Terms, while Sanna Neilson counters with Assembly. While those two vie for favoritism, horses like Double Foreignor, Mozo Alegre and I'm Hit Sarge look for the upset.

Also on Saturday, a field of 10 entered a $20,000 allowance hurdle (nonwinners of $9,100 once). Recent maiden winner Loverineveryport faces veteran Cambridge Bay and spring winner Gilded Son in the twomile test.

The gates of the Saratoga Race Course get a final test with the annual Open House Sunday. The day features free admission, a fairlike atmosphere, no wagering, three steeplechase races, a training flat race and three 2yearold trials.

The jump races are all maiden events, and give horses a final shot at qualifying for the real Saratoga meet. Hampered by small fields last season, this year's Open House events are crowded with two fields reaching 11 and another stopping at eight. Nine more including stakes winners It's A Giggle, Flat Top, Geaux Beau, Double Leaf and Shamrock Isle will hit the program for the training flat race.

Trainer Tom Voss (who won two last season and is always an Open House force) is represented by four hurdle starters on the day. The quartet includes John N Tom and King Of The Blues in the first, Renombrado Tom in the second and King Frost in the third, a race restricted to 3yearolds (all making their hurdle debuts). John N Tom, a 4yearold son of Gulch, won on the flat last summer at Saratoga so gets a chance at a rare double. Renombrado Tom won four flat races in Argentina and makes his hurdle debut.

Another 2001 Saratoga flat winner, Dogwood Stable's Gentleman Johnny, also goes in the first race. Trained by Sanna Neilson, the 6yearold earned $125,000 on the flat and makes his steeplechase debut.

Others to watch on the day are Preemptive Strike, whose jump record includes a second and a third, in the first race; One More, a New Zealand import with five flat wins, in the first; Capeless and Counselor Neil, who have both been close, in the second; and Naughty Prince, a halfbrother to stakes winner Tres Touche, in the third.

First race post time at the Open House is noon.


Heading into the weekend, trainer Tom Voss leads the NSA standings with 15 wins to 11 for Sanna Neilson and Jonathan Sheppard. Among the jockeys, Gus Brown (10 wins) holds a narrow lead on David Bentley, Rob Massey and Blythe Miller (nine each) and Matt McCarron (eight) . . . The NSA hosts its eighth annual golf tournament Aug. 13 at Saratoga National Golf Club. The tournament benefits The Steeplechase Fund for injured jockeys and is part of the new Saratoga Triple Crown Golf Challenge along with the Grayson Jockey Club Research Foundation tournament July 30 and the NYRA Backstretch Employee Assistance Team tournament Aug. 27.

July 20 Colonial Downs; New Kent, Va. (two races).

July 21 Saratoga Open House; Saratoga Springs, N.Y. (three races)
July 25 Saratoga Race Course; Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

July 31 Saratoga Race Course; Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

Aug. 1 Saratoga Race Course; Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

Aug. 8 Saratoga Race Course; Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

Aug. 14 Saratoga Race Course; Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

Aug. 15 Saratoga Race Course; Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

Aug. 22 Saratoga Race Course; Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

Aug. 28 Saratoga Race Course; Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

Aug. 29 Saratoga Race Course; Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

Sept. 15 Arlington Park; Arlington Heights, Ill. (two races)

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