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Rosbrian Farm's Optimus Prime led over the last fence of the Virginia Gold Cup's David Semmes Memorial (Gr. 2) on May 4. (Tod Marks photo)

Rosbrian Farm’s Optimus Prime, an easy winner of his two starts this year and the National Steeplechase Association’s top-rated hurdler, heads a crowded list of 15 nominees to Saratoga Race Course’s $150,000 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1) on Thursday, July 25.
Trained by Ricky Hendriks, the French-bred is no stranger to Saratoga. He made his U.S. debut there last August and won the New York Turf Writers Cup Handicap (Gr. 1). He has been beaten only once since then, a third to Eclipse champion Zanjabeel in Belmont Park’s Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1).
He opened his 2019 campaign with an easy 8¾-length victory in the Virginia Gold Cup’s David Semmes Memorial (Gr. 2) on May 4, a performance that earned him an NSA rating of 161. He signaled his readiness for Saratoga with a three-length win in a Parx Racing flat race for hurdlers on July 1.
Second in the ratings at 157 is Irv Naylor’s Bedrock, who arrived in the U.S. after two victories last fall in midlevel hurdle stakes races in Ireland. Now trained by Leslie Young, he would be making his first U.S. start.
The Maryland-based owner also nominated Sempre Medici, who set the pace in the Semmes and finished second. The French-bred, rated at 140, is trained by Cyril Murphy.
Jack Fisher, the runaway leader in the NSA’s trainer standings this year, nominated four to the 2 1/16-mile Smithwick. Two of them, Foxtrot NH Racing Partnership’s Vosne Romanee and Gill Johnston’s Peppay Le Pugh, would be making their American debuts after successful overseas careers.

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CHASING IN FOCUS

Fisher and Mitchell complete their bang-up spring with a big Fair Hill finale

Fair Hill capped the end of the NSA Spring season with two days of racing, and after nine sanctioned events, trainer Jack Fisher and jockey Michael Mitchell extended their impressive leads at the end of their respective standings. Heading into the summer season, Fisher tops all trainers with a remarkable 22 victories -- 15 more than his nearest competitor Jonathan Sheppard -- while Mitchell leads Sean McDermott in wins, 15 to nine. Among horses, Gill Johnston's Amnicalola took the featured Iris Coggins Memorial filly and mare stakes, while Bob Kinsley's No Wunder captured the Valentine Memorial. Tod Marks has the photo recap.

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SOME FACTS ABOUT JUMP RACING IN NORTH AMERICA

$6,233,399

NSA PURSES IN 2018

473 HORSES

RAN IN 2018

1,000,000+

SPECTATORS EACH YEAR

12 STATES

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