07/23/2013 3:28PM

Saratoga: Martini Brother excelling over jumps


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As a product of Grade 1 winners A.P. Indy and Island Sand, expectations probably were pretty high for Martini Brother when trainer Nick Zito and owner Len Riggio had him.

But, unable to succeed on the flat, Martini Brother seems to have found a home as a steeplechaser, and on Thursday, he’ll seek his third straight win in the $75,000 Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes at 2 1/16 miles over national fences.

Martini Brother is one of three horses entered in the race by Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard, though he is expected to scratch Powerofone, who, like Martini Brother, is owned by William Pape. Both have Darren Nagle named to ride.

“He’s a very well-bred horse, but he wouldn’t train,” Sheppard said of Martini Brother. “A couple of Irish kids from Lexington acquired him and did a good job with him. They ran him in a couple of flat races and a couple of jumping races. Then Mr. Pape bought him, and he is 2 for 2 for us. He’s a nice, quality horse with some ability.”

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Sheppard said he was a little disappointed in Martini Brother’s work last Friday, but said he has “made a nice recovery.”

Sheppard, who has won at least one race at each Saratoga meet since 1969, also will start Barnstorming, a horse he owns himself. He is 2 for 7 over the jumps.

Sheppard said he believes Dr. Skip is the horse to beat coming off two steeplechase victories for trainer Edward Graham. Dr. Skip was a five-time winner on the flat.