05/11/2017 3:50PM

2015 steeplechase champion Dawalan launches comeback in Grade 1 Iroquois


One star will be returning to the races after a 17-month hiatus but another will be conspicuous by his absence when the first Grade 1 hurdle stakes of the spring is held Saturday at Percy Warner Park in Nashville, Tenn.

Dawalan, the Eclipse Award champion steeplechase horse of 2015 who missed the entire 2016 season with an injury, launches his 7-year-old campaign in the Grade 1, Calvin Houghland Iroquois, a three-mile race over National Fences.

The Iroquois is the seventh and last race on a program worth $525,000 that includes three other stakes for jumpers.

Nichols Canyon, winner of the Stayers’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March, was scheduled to run in the Iroquois, where he finished third a year ago, in his quest to claim a $500,000 bonus for winning both races. But Nichols Canyon sustained an injury shipping from Europe for the rest and was withdrawn.

Dawalan will be racing for the first time since winning the Grade 1 Colonial Cup in November 2015, just his third start since coming to the United States from Britain.

His five challengers Saturday include three runners trained by perennial leading trainer Jack Fisher – Scorpiancer, Mr. Hot Stuff, and Hunterland.

The 8-year-old Scorpiancer won his season’s debut in the Grade 3 Temple Gwathmey. Last season, he won the Grade 1 Lonesome Glory at Belmont Park and was a close second in two other Grade 1 jumping events, the A.P. Smithwick at Saratoga and the Grand National at Far Hills.

The 11-year-old Mr. Hot Stuff was a distant third in the 2 1/2-mile Temple Gwathmey, his first start since September 2015. He was narrowly beaten in the 2015 Iroquois.

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Hinterland missed all of last season after a narrow loss in just his second American race in the 2015 running of the Lonesome Glory.

Fisher will also saddle the 5-year-old Ice It, the 3-year-old champion of 2015, in the $100,000 Marcellus Frost Champion Hurdle for novices going 2 1/4 miles over National Fences. Ice It comes off a one-length victory in the Queen’s Cup MPC Chase at Charlotte on April 29.

Yet another Fisher-trained horse, Two’s Company, who went 4 for 6 during his 2016 timber championship campaign, will look to rebound in the $50,000 Mason Houghland Memorial, a three-mile stakes over timber.

Two’s Company was in contention until he fell at the final fence making his 8-year-old debut in the Middleburg Hunt Cup on April 22.

The 9-year-old mare One Lucky Lady, making her first start since November, will try to win the $50,000 Margaret Currey Henley, a 2 1/4-mile race over National Fences for fillies and mares, for the second straight year.