Steeplechase field features many participants, numerous contenders

Thursday, May 12, 2011 at 6:16pm

Unlike most years, Dwight Hall can’t pick a frontrunner in this weekend’s Iroquois Steeplechase. That's because this year’s field isn’t like that of most years.

Hall, the race committee chairman, says the 10 entries in the featured race of the 70th running of the event, Saturday at Percy Warner Park, is the most in recent memory.

In years past, the field has featured as few as five horses and as many as eight. Hall believes part of the reason for more entries is because there “is no dominant horse.”

“Everybody feels like they have a good chance,” Hall said. “Whereas some years there has been clearly a real dominant horse, which scares some horses away. ... It is the best horses running in the country right now. That makes for a very exciting race.”

The race will feature last year’s champion Tax Ruling and 2009 winner Pierrot Lunaire. But Hall said the former champions will be challenged by a balanced field.

“This race is wide open,” he said. “It would be hard to handicap this race because it is so wide open. There are a lot of good horses. ... It is a very, very legitimate field.”

The Iroquois will be the last race of seven and will begin at approximately 4:30 p.m. The first race is scheduled to start at 1 p.m.

Hall says the event is nearly sold out and officials are expecting a crowd of 25,000 similar to 2010.  Heavy rains hit the area Thursday night but the course withstood worse rain last year as the race was held the weekend after the devastating May floods swarmed the Bellevue area, less than a mile from Percy Warner Park.

“This course drains very well. ... It is in grand condition, as good as it has ever been,” Hall said. “It should be really good going, very safe for the horses.”