Trainers Jonathan Sheppard and Janet Elliot, legends in the world of jumping horses, will throw everything but the kitchen sink at Morley Street in trying to pull an upset in today's $250,000 Breeders' Cup Steeplechase.
Morley Street is the defending champion in the 2 5/8 -mile race at Fair Hill Race Course in northern Cecil County. The Breeders' Cup is the fourth of seven races, the first of which begins at 1 p.m.
From 12 entrants, Sheppard has four and Elliot three. But neither has what Gerald "Toby" Balding has: Morley Street.
The 7-year-old Irish-bred has won 15 of 24 career starts and is regarded as the top jumper in Europe. When the Breeders' Cup was conducted at Belmont Park last year, Morley Street, the 2-1 favorite, won the Steeplechase by 11 lengths.
"I'm hoping I've brought my horse here in better shape than last year," Balding said. "He's in very good shape right now."
The likeliest of Sheppard's horses to prevent Morley Street from becoming the first two-time winner of the race are Jimmy Lorenzo and Yaw. Jonathan Smart will ride Jimmy Lorenzo.
"The only way to ride him is to come late in the race," said Smart. "He's got plenty of speed; you just can't use it until late."
The only simulcast outlet for the race will be, remarkably enough, in Virginia. The state is host to its first program with pari-mutuel betting when Morven Park kicks off an eight-race card at 12:30 p.m.
Sixty mutuel tellers from the Charles Town Races have been hired for a steeplechase-dominated program.
"Everything looks to be going well," said Don Price, executive secretary for the Virginia Racing Commission. "All we need now is a crowd."
Price said his "conservative estimates" are 15,000 fans and a handle of $200,000 to $225,000.
Morven Park is just north of Leesburg on the west side of U.S. Route 15. General admission is $10 per person or $20 per car.