By Tod Marks
Call him the king of consistency. Vintage Vinnie’s victory in Saturday’s $30,000 My Lady’s Manor timber stakes in Monkton, Md., was the 12-year-old Vinnie Roe gelding’s fifth straight in-the-money finish on the NSA tour since coming over from Europe in 2018 for Armata Stables.
Ridden by Chris Gracie for trainer Joe Davies, Vintage Vinnie was making his U.S. stakes debut, and prevailed in the three-mile contest against a tough field that included Mystic Strike and Schoodic, both accomplished stakes winners who slipped and fell during the race. Both emerged OK. Another foe, Officer Sydney, had bad luck of his own when he was impeded by a loose horse and pulled up.
Vintage Vinnie broke well in the six-horse field and maintained a clear lead from the start, leading by as many as 15 lengths and coasting easily to the wire by 5 1/4.
There were three other three-mile timber races on the card, two $15,000 maidens and a $10,000 allowance contest in the first sanctioned Maryland meet since the pandemic began a year ago. Fans were also allowed to attend, signaling more than a glimmer of hope that better times are ahead.
In the John Rush Streett maiden, Kiplin Hall’s Renegade River proved that perseverance pays off. After 26 tries over seven years, the eight-year-old Louisiana-bred won his first career start. Trained by Willie Dowling and ridden by Eddie Keating, Renegade River began his career in his home state, running at Evangeline and Delta Downs, and Fair Grounds race course before embarking on a jump racing career in the fall of 2018. On Saturday, Renegade River led from the break, spurting to the front by as many as nine lengths and maintaining his advantage for the entire circuit. At the wire, the winner was 4 1/2 lengths clear of runner up Our Legend.
After the race, here’s what trainer Dowling had to say: “I think being an experienced maiden in there was the the key to him winning. We used his jumping to our advantage . Eddie rode him well and he was second around that course two years ago. So happy for his owners Jay Griswold and Guy Dove. He’s nominated for the (Maryland) Hunt Cup so we just have to wait and see where we go!”
In the Thomas H. Voss Memorial, six-year-old Maryland-bred Road to Oz, a son of Quality Road, found the Emerald City, breaking his maiden in his third NSA-sanctioned try. Owned by Holwood Stable and trained by former timber jockey Mark Beecher, the winner stalked in second, took the lead at the final fence, and drew off handily for the victory in the field of eight.
Prior to switching to jumps, Road to Oz raced 13 times at Laurel, and also made single starts at Penn National, Delaware Park, and Pimlico. In all but one of those starts, he raced in claimers, winning once. In two previous sanctioned starts at Great Meadow and Middleburg last season, he was unplaced. But he did signal he had talent with a maiden timber score at the Shawan Downs point to point in September.
Super Saturday’s victory in the finale, the John D. Schapiro allowance, was extraordinarily popular as Irv Naylor’s charismatic 12-year-old near-white gelding has been a hard-knocking fixture on the NSA circuit since 2013. But he hadn’t found the winner’s circle in three years, despite coming close. Super Saturday stalked in second position for much of the race, rallied and took a narrow lead into the final fence, and dug down deep under jockey Skylar McKenna to prevail by a length and three-quarters over Ann Jackson’s Flash Jackson. Skylar’s mom, Kathy Neilson, trains the winner.