Updated on 09/15/2011 1:36PM

Fewer steeplechase races at Saratoga


ELMONT, N.Y. - The New York Racing Association has dropped three races from Saratoga's steeplechase calendar.

Instead of the usual 12, nine jump races will be run this year. And for the first time in several years, a steeplechase race will not open the 36-day meet, which begins July 25.

Previously, one jump race was scheduled every Wednesday and Thursday as the first race on a 10-race card, with the exception of the $100,000-added New York Turf Writers Cup, which is run as the feature. Now, the jumpers will run every Thursday and, beginning the second week, every other Wednesday.

"It was a NYRA business decision," said Mike Lakow, NYRA's racing secretary and handicapper.

The handle on jump races is usually lower than it is on flat races. The first two days of last year's meet featured a jump race as the opener. The total mutuel handle for win, place, and show wagering on those races was $178,450 and $149,415, compared to the $268,546 for the first non-jumper opener at the meet. That trend played out throughout the meet.

NYRA is still offering a 10-race card on opening day and has expanded its 10-race cards to every Saturday and Sunday.

The news of the reduction of jump races was met with disappointment among the steeplechase set. Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard, who annually brings a string of jumpers and flat horses to Saratoga, said for smaller outfits, it's a blow.

"It's not quite as bad for the likes of me and Tommy Voss, but for others, 12 races was pushing things anyway with the cost of going up there and paying for a place to live," Sheppard said. "I would think some people would think twice about going to Saratoga now. Nine is hardly even worth it to come."

A repaired Ommadon ready to gallop

Ommadon, who was bumped off the Triple Crown trail by injury, is back in light training at Belmont.

Trainer Tommy Walsh said Ommadon, who won last year's Nashua and was second in the Remsen, underwent nerve surgery to repair damage caused by a broken coffin bone on the inside of his right foot. Walsh said Dr. Stephen Selway performed the surgery at his Belmont clinic.

"It's like a root canal, where the nerve is removed," Walsh said. "He spent nine weeks in his stall, so he lost some muscle tone. Next week he'll start galloping and it won't take much to get him ready. He should be ready by the middle of September."

Ommadon won his only start this year in allowance company at Aqueduct on March 28. Walsh was preparing Ommadon for the Wood Memorial in hopes of going to the Kentucky Derby when his colt was injured.

Ten Flags takes a big step up

Ten Flags will make the leap from maiden ranks to Grade 1 company when she starts in the $350,000 Coaching Club American Oaks on closing weekend, next Saturday.

Donna Ward, who assists her husband, trainer John Ward, said she believes the two turns of the 1 1/2-mile Coaching Club American Oaks will suit Ten Flags.

"She was seven wide the other day and ended up going farther than a mile," Ward said. "She's the kind of filly who doesn't want to be rushed in the beginning of her races. I think two turns will be good for her because she wants to go farther.

"If the stakes looks too hard, there's a nonwinners of one on Friday, which gives us another choice," Ward added.

Ten Flags finished fourth in her debut at Keeneland in April. She then won a one-mile maiden race by six lengths here June 22.

Ward said Acorn winner Forest Secrets, also nominated to the Coaching Club American Oaks, will run instead in the $250,000 Test, a Grade 1 at seven furlongs, at Saratoga on July 28.

"What would a mile and a half prove at this point in her career?" Ward said. "It's easy to shorten her up and then after the Test, we can make a decision on the Alabama."

o City Zip, who skipped Saturday's Carry Back at Calder, worked a half-mile in 48.03 seconds, breezing, over Belmont's training track Friday. Linda Rice said City Zip would run next in the $125,000 Amsterdam at Saratoga on Aug. 3.