Saturday’s $200,000 Calvin Houghland Iroquois (G1), the season’s first and longest Grade 1 hurdle, will mark the return to action of Dawalan, the 2015 champion steeplechaser who was sidelined all of last season. The now seven-year-old gray will face five rivals in the three-mile chase around Percy Warner Park in Nashville.
Bred in France and imported from England in mid-2015, Dawalan finished third in the Lonesome Glory (G1) in his U.S. debut, but clinched championship honors with back-to-back wins in the Grand National (G1) and Colonial Cup (G1). Both victories came at the expense of Rawnaq, who in Dawalan’s absence last term gave owner Irv Naylor and trainer Cyril Murphy back-to-back steeplechase champions.
Rawnaq, who captured last year’s Iroquois, is himself sidelined for the duration of this season due to injury.
Dawalan faces a difficult task coming off a layoff nearly 18 months. Scorpiancer won the Lonesome Glory and ran a very close second to Rawnaq in the Grand National last fall, and kicked off his 2017 campaign with a photo-finish win in the Temple Gwathmey (G3) on April 22. A distant third in that Middleburg, Virginia, hurdle was the Grade 1-winning Mr. Hot Stuff, second by a neck to Demonstrative in this race two years ago.
Jack Fisher trains the aforementioned pair as well as Hinterland, a much improved second to the late Bob Le Beau in the 2015 Lonesome Glory at Belmont in his most recent start. The field is rounded out by the Grade 1-placed Andi’amu and Martini Brother.
Live streaming of the seven-race Iroquois card from Percy Warner Park will run from 1-6:45 p.m. (EDT) at www.irquoissteeplechase.org.