SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y.— Armata Stable's New Member, racing in blinkers for the first time, took the lead outside of the final fence and went on to win, the $75,000 Jonathan Kiser Memorial Novice 'Chase, Saratoga's opening race of the 2018 season jump racing season.

No sooner had the Wednesday card concluded than the weather gods dealt 'chasing a blow. An overnight deluge forced the postponement of the $175,000, Grade 1 A.P. Smithwick Memorial Steeplechase to Monday, July 30. The 2-1/16 mile race will be carded as the first race on the program of 10 races with post time set for 1 p.m.

Jack Fisher, the reigning champion steeplechase trainer in both wins and purse earnings, sent the New Member, a 7-year-old Irish bred gelding, postward with Willy McCarthy aboard against five rivals in the 2-1/16 mile race over eight National Fences.

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After starting in fourth place from the flag, McCarthy kept his charge behind the pace setting Daneking and Darren Nagle awaiting a run around the far turn and down the home stretch of the Spa's Innter Turf Course. Daneking hit the fifth fence, faltered at the six and was pulled up approaching the eighth.

After he inherited the lead, New Member and McCarthy accelerated away to a 6-1/2-length lead at the head of the lane. With the rider keeping him to his task, New Member crossed the finish line 1-1/2 lengths to the good of a hard charging Mutasaay, the only American-bred in the field who is a son of the red-hot sire Tapit. Mike Mitchell rode the 8-year-old for Mrs. S.K. Johnston, Jr. Bruton Street-US' Lord Justice and Sean McDermott took third money.

New Member accomplished his task in 3:53.91 over a yielding course on a showery afternoon to earn $45,000 for Armata's racing account.

After the race, the winning rider said, “I knew the other horses were closing down on me. “But if they came to him, he would’ve held on. The blinkers just really helped his concentration toward the latter part of the race. I rode him earlier in the year, and I felt like I was a winner turning for home and he just let me down. So, the addition of blinkers was key for this race.”

If all the original entries in the Smithwick stay in, the race appears to be wide open.

Trainer Elizabeth Voss will send out Modem to try to cure his case of 'seconditis.' Since his arrival from Ireland, he has run second in all five starts, the last one being in the Grade 1 Iroquois where he was the leader for a good part of the three-mile run. The cut back in distance for Monday has him as the 9 to 5 morning line favorite over a course where he ran second in last year's Smithwick and the Grade 1 New York Turf Writers Handicap.

Iranistan, who is one of two in the race trained by Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard, brings in a four-race win streak. But, he will be forced to step up to Grade 1 company from the allowance ranks. The odds maker has him at 3 to 1. Sheppard's All the Way Jose is 5 to 2 overnight.

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