Demonstrative seeks third Iroquois but Rawnaq the horse to beat

Profile Picture: Vance Hanson

May 13th, 2016

Two past winners of the race, both former champions, are among eight geldings entered in Saturday's $200,000 Calvin Houghland Iroquois (NSA-G1). However, Rawnaq might be the horse to beat in the three-mile hurdle at Percy Warner Park in Nashville, Tennessee, the first top-level jump event of the 2016 season.

A nine-year-old son of Azamour, Rawnaq made a favorable impression in his first two starts in the U.S. last season, finishing a close third in the Grand National (NSA-G1) and then second in the Colonial Cup (NSA-G1). Dawalan captured both races en route to divisional championship honors.

Rawnaq kicked off 2016 in the Temple Gwathmey (NSA-G3) at Middleburg, Virginia, three weeks ago, romping to victory in the 2 1/2-mile handicap by 15 lengths over Scorpiancer.

Demonstrative, also nine, seeks his third win in the Iroquois. Victorious in 2013 and 2015, and champion of the division in 2014, he figures to show early foot in his first outing since a third-place effort in the Colonial Cup in November.

Pierrot Lunaire, the elder statesman of the field at age 12, won this race back in 2009 and was champion steeplechaser in 2012. However, he's raced sporadically the last three years and has not visited the winner's circle since a title-clinching score in the 2012 Grand National. Italian Wedding, trained by Jonathan Sheppard, makes his first start since running third in his title defense of the 2014 New York Turf Writers Cup (NSA-G1).

European imports Nichols Canyon and Shaneshill both appear serious contenders. Relatively young and from the yard of Willie Mullins, both placed in major stakes at the Cheltenham and Grand National festivals in England this spring.

The first of seven non pari-mutuel races at the Iroquois hunt kicks off at 1 p.m. (CDT). The Iroquois, the last race on the program, has an approximate post time of 4:30.

(NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography)