Planets Aligned wins at Callaway Gardens

On Nov. 4, 2006, Planets Aligned finished eighth in the Grade 3 Knickerbocker Handicap at Aqueduct for trainer Pat Kelly. Three hundred sixty-four days later, he won a Grade 1 steeplechase.

Fox Ridge Farm's Planets Aligned improved to 3-for-8 on the season with a 1 1/4-length victory in the $100,000 AFLAC U.S. Championship Novice hurdle stakes at Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Ga., on Nov. 3. Trained by Tom Voss and ridden by Chip Miller, the winner outran three Jonathan Sheppard horses for the victory. Lead Us Not finished second, Dr. Bloomer third and Divine Fortune fourth. Planets Aligned covered the 2 1/4 miles in 3:58 4/5 over a firm turf course.

Planets Aligned has bankrolled $142,600 this year, tops among all first-year steeplechasers with one more stop on the National Steeplechase Association circuit. The 6-year-old son of Gold Fever will be crowned the 2007 NSA Novice Champion barring a major upset by a first-year steeplechaser in the Grade 1 Colonial Cup on Nov. 18.

Bred in Kentucky by Fox Ridge, Planets Aligned won once in 2004 as a 3-year-old, and followed that up with a solo score in 2005 and two high-priced claiming victories in 2006. Sent to Voss with a career mark of 6-for-23 on the flat, Planets Aligned fell in his steeplechase debut in April and finished a well-beaten 10th in his next start. Teamed up with Miller, Planets Aligned broke his hurdle maiden in May at Nashville and won again at Saratoga in late August. Third in the $100,000 Foxbrook at Far Hills on Oct. 20, he needed to win at Callaway to pass Divine Fortune for the novice lead and delivered.

Fox Ridge, the stable of Peter Schiff, has long been a player in steeplechasing with past stakes wins by Petroski, Anofferucantrefuse and others. Schiff's father John owned steeplechasers in the 1950s and 1960s, and was the sport's leading owner in 1959.

Autumn has seen a resurgence from the Voss barn, as Planets Aligned was one of three winners on the weekend for the Maryland-based trainer. Since Sept. 29, Voss has won nine steeplechases to reach 15 for the year.