Zanjabeel, the reigning Eclipse Award champion, returns to the races on Saturday in the $75,000 David L. “Zeke” Ferguson Memorial (Gr. 2), the featured hurdle race at the 36th annual International Gold Cup.
Also on the program are the $75,000 International Gold Cup over timber fences and the $40,000 Steeplethon Stakes over mixed obstacles.
Owned by Rosbrian Farm and Meadow Run Farm, Zanjabeel went to the sidelines 13 months ago after winning Belmont Park’s Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1) and locking up the 2018 title. He also won the Iroquois Steeplechase’s Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1) in May 2018.
Trainer Ricky Hendriks named Jack Doyle to ride the six-year-old.
Jack Fisher, who established a new record for National Steeplechase Association trainer earnings in a single year last Saturday, will saddle Riverdee Stable’s Gibralfaro and Sonny Via’s Hinterland.
Gibralfaro finished second in Saratoga Race Course’s New York Turf Writers Cup (Gr. 1) on Aug. 22. The Irish-bred seven-year-old will be ridden by Michael Mitchell, who is tied in the jockey standings with Doyle at 18 wins apiece.
Willie McCarthy will be aboard Hinterland, a consistent veteran who was second in the Lonesome Glory on Sept. 19.
Virginia-based trainer Julie Gomena is bringing back Stonelea Stable’s Balance the Budget after a nearly 18-month absence. The front-runner won the 2018 Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup (Gr. 1) by 6¼ lengths over Zanjabeel and then was third in the Virginia Gold Cup’s David Semmes Memorial (Gr. 2). Ross Geraghty has the mount on the 2017 International Gold Cup winner.
Two members of the Ferguson field are coming back after unplaced finishes at the Far Hills Races in New Jersey a week earlier.
Crocodile Pockets Syndicate’s Lethal Steps, now trained by Hendriks, finished eighth as the even-money favorite in the Harry E. Harris Stakes for four-year-olds, his first American start. Gerard Galligan has the call to ride.
Leslie Young, who is having the best season of her training career, entered Bruton Street-US’s Rashaan, who was pulled up in the Grand National (Gr. 1) in his American premiere.
Two other starters will be making their first starts since racing at Saratoga Race Course in the summer. Second in the 2019 Semmes, Irv Naylor’s Sempre Medici finished eighth in the A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1). Darren Nagle will ride for trainer Cyril Murphy.
Robert A. Kinsley’s No Wunder, trained by Elizabeth Voss, finished seventh in both the Smithwick on July 25 and the New York Turf Writers on Aug. 22 after winning Fair Hill’s Valentine Memorial in May. Sean McDermott has the mount.
Here is the field for the $75,000 David L. “Zeke” Ferguson Memorial (Gr. 2) in post-position order. The horses’ National Steeplechase Association ratings are in parentheses at the end of their profiles.
Balance the Budget. 2009 ch. g., Bellamy Road—Every Day Is Good, by El Corredor. Owner: Stonelea Stable. Trainer: Julie Gomena. Jockey: Ross Geraghty. Breeder: Liberation Farm & Oratis (Ky.). 2018 record: 2-1-0-1, $97,500. Won 2018 Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup (Gr. 1) and finished third in Virginia Gold Cup’s David Semmes Memorial (Gr. 2). Won International Gold Cup’s 2017 David L. “Zeke” Ferguson Memorial (Gr. 2) by nine lengths after setting all the pace. (141)
Sempre Medici (Fr). 2010 b. g., Medicean—Sambala, by Danehill Dancer. Owner: Irvin S. Naylor. Trainer: Cyril Murphy. Jockey: Darren Nagle. Breeders: Myriam Bollack, Noel Forgeard, and E.A.R.L. du Haras de Pierrepont (Fr). 2019 NSA record: 2-0-1-0, $13,500. 2018 record: 4-0-1-0, $24,500. Finished second in 2019 David Semmes Memorial (Gr. 2) at Virginia Gold Cup, then was eighth in Saratoga’s A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1). Finished second in 2018 David L. “Zeke” Ferguson Memorial (Gr. 2) after fifth-place finishes in Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1) and Semmes. Competed in England and Ireland for trainer Willie Mullins before being imported. Female-line descendant of foundation mare Best in Show, by Traffic Judge. (139)
Gibralfaro. (Ire). 2012 b. g., Dalakhani (Ire)—Ronda, by Bluebird. Owner: Riverdee Stable. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Jockey: Michael Mitchell. Breeder: Sarl Darpat France (Ire). 2019 record: 4-1-1-0, $99,000. 2018 record: 5-1-3-0, $77,250. Finished second in Saratoga’s 2019 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. (135)
No Wunder (GB). 2011 b. g., Rock of Gibraltar (Ire)—Iwunder, by King’s Best. Owner: Robert A. Kinsley. Trainer: Elizabeth Voss. Jockey: Sean McDermott. Breeder: Executors of the late J. Ellis (GB). 2019 record: 4-1-0-0, $27,000. 2018 NSA record: 6-0-3-0, $43,200. 2017 NSA record: 8-2-1-1, $67,150. Finished seventh in Saratoga’s 2019 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1) and New York Turf Writers Cup (Gr. 1). Won Fair Hill’s 2019 Valentine Memorial Handicap after sixth in Queen’s Cup MPC ’Chase. Finished fourth in Belmont Park’s 2018 William Entenmann Memorial Novice Stakes, then was sixth in Steeplechase at Callaway’s Aflac Supreme Hurdle. Finished close second in Saratoga’s Michael G. Walsh Novice Stakes. (125)
Rashaan (Ire). 2012 ch. g., Manduro (Ger)—Red Halo (Ire), by Rainbow Quest. Owner: Bruton Street-US. Trainer: Leslie Young. Jockey: Open. Breeder: The Aga Khan’s Studs (Ire). 2019 1-0-0-0, $0. Pulled up in 2019 Grand National (Gr. 1). Won the Keelings Irish Strawberry Hurdle in April 2019 and was last of 18 in Galway’s Mervue Hurdle. (146)
Lethal Steps (GB). 2015 gr. g., Lethal Force (Ire)—Tanda Tula (Ire), by Alhaarth (Ire). Owner: Crocodile Pockets Syndicate. Trainer: Ricky Hendriks. Jockey: Gerard Galligan. Breeder: Seaton Partnership (GB). 2019 NSA record: 1-0-0-0, $0. Finished eighth in Far Hills’ 2019 Harry Harris Stakes as even-money favorite. Won hurdle maiden in April 2019 and later won a Galway allowance hurdle at 10-to-1 odds. (129)
Zanjabeel (GB). 2013 b. g., Aussie Rules—Grain Only, by Machiavellian. Owners: Rosbrian Farm and Meadow Run Farm. Trainer: Ricky Hendriks. Jockey: Jack Doyle. Breeder: Kirsten Rausing (GB). 2019 record: No starts. 2018 record: 4-2-2-0, $265,500. Won 2018 Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1) and Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1) after second-place finishes in Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup (Gr. 1) and Temple Gwathmey Handicap (Gr. 2). Won Far Hills’ 2017 Foxbrook Champion Hurdle, his U.S. debut for former owners and trainer Gordon Elliott. For new owners, won Steeplechase at Callaway’s 2017 Aflac Supreme Hurdle. (151)
Hinterland (Fr). 2008 b. g., Poliglote (GB)—Queen’s Place, by Diamond Prospect. Owner: Harold A. “Sonny” Via Jr. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Jockey: Willie McCarthy. Breeder: Eric Aubree and Christian Bresson (Fr). 2019 record: 6-0-2-1, $62,450. 2018 record: 4-0-1-0, $63,750. 2017 record: 2-0-1-0, $36,000. Finished second in Belmont Park’s 2019 Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1). Ran evenly to be third in Saratoga’s 2019 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1) and fourth in the New York Turf Writers Cup (Gr. 1). Finished second in 2019 Valentine Handicap after fourth in Virginia Gold Cup’s David Semmes Memorial (Gr. 2) and fifth in Carolina Cup. Finished closing second in Belmont Park’s 2018 Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1), then was fourth in Far Hills’ Grand National (Gr. 1). (130)