Royal Ruse, Cheers to Us take split division “Paddy” Neilson at Cheshire

Royal Ruse and Skylar McKenna rocket over the last in the first division of the Louis "Paddy" Neilson apprentice timber race. Photo by Tod Marks

By Tod Marks

Coming off of successful 2020 campaigns, Charlie Fenwick’s Royal Ruse and Wendy Hendriks’ Cheers to Us captured the first sanctioned National Steeplechase Association races of the year at Sunday’s Cheshire Point to Point in Coatesville, Pa. 

Royal Ruse, trained by Sanna Neilson, took the first division of the $7,500 Louis “Paddy” Neilson III at three miles over timber for apprentice riders after pacesetter Officer Sydney went off course in the four-horse field. Skylar McKenna rode Royal Ruse, one of three winners on the card for the young jockey. It was the second straight win for the seven-year-old son of Japanese stallion Hat Trick, who closed out an abbreviated 2020 campaign with an allowance win under McKenna at the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup Races following a third at the Virginia Fall Races in the National Sporting Library and Museum Cup. Sally Reed’s It’s Nothing, ridden by Aaron Davis, finished second.

In the second division of the Neilson, McLane Hendriks made amends for his miscue aboard Officer Sydney by guiding Cheers to Us to a three-length score over Nancy Reed’s Awesome Adrian. Cheer’s to Us maintained a lead throughout, but with three jumps to go, Awesome Adrian, with Skylar McKenna in the saddle, snatched the lead and looked like a winner, only to be overtaken by a resurgent Cheers to Us during a long uphill duel to the wire over the deep, soggy going. Both Officer Sydney and Cheers to Us have the same connections, owner Wendy Hendriks and trainer Ricky Hendricks, McLane’s grandmother and father, respectively. Last year, Cheers to us posted a first and a third in timber allowances in three starts.

The rest of the race day at Cheshire featured a bevy of fun sporting activities that perked up the otherwise rainy, dank conditions. There were a series of pony races, a lead-line pony trot for the littlest aspiring riders, flat races, a side-saddle contest, and two other timber events.

In the Joseph Walker III Memorial Cheshire Bowl, Michael Smith’s old warhorse, Le Chevalier, a two-time stakes winner over timber fences, defeated a pair of Irv Naylor runners, Jeffrey G and Super Saturday, for trainer Julie Gomena. McLane Hendriks was in the saddle for that winner, too. Skylar McKenna picked up her other timber winner aboard Armata Stables’ Highway Prince in the Miles Valentine Memorial novice race for her mom, trainer Kathy Neilson. Skyler’s third winner came on the flat with Irv Naylor’s Jim Key, also for her mom. For complete results of all the non-sanctioned events, click on this link:

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