Snap Decision Takes Highly Anticipated Matchup vs. Footpad at Middleburg Spring Races

Bruton Street-US' Snap Decision, with Graham Watters up, won the Grade 2 Temple Gwathmey at the Middleburg Spring Races. Photo by Tod Marks

Bruton Street-US’ powerhouse, with Graham Watters in the saddle for trainer Jack Fisher, ran his winning streak to eight straight over two years, romping by nine lengths over Del Rio Chaser’s game newcomer Razoul for Bernie and Kate Dalton. European star Footpad was fourth in his first sanctioned U.S. start.

With the Gwathmey field reduced to six when Noah and the Ark was a race-morning scratch, Hudson River Farms’ Galway Kid, under Ross Geraghty spurted to an early lead and set a fast pace. He remained in front of the bunched pack for about one-and-a-half miles before tiring. Snap Decision, who carried 156 pounds — second only to Footpad’s 162 — was rated early and took charge effortlessly with three fences to go in the 2 ½-mile G2 stake, and was much the best. It was Snap Decision’s second appearance in open stakes competition.

Razoul, a six-year-old Irish-bred and veteran of 21 European starts, put in a solid effort in his NSA debut, and closed ground to pick up second, about six lengths ahead of Irv Naylor’s Amschel, ridden by Jamie Bargary, also making his first NSA appearance. 

As for Sonny Via’s Footpad, who finished 40 lengths behind Amschel, he settled in the rear of the field from the get-go and never really mounted a threat in his first effort since January 2020. 

Upland Partners’ Mystic Strike, with Tom Garner up, won the Middleburg Hunt Cup. Photo by Tod Marks

“Mystic” strikes again in Hunt Cup

After two hard luck starts this spring in Maryland — a slip at My Lady’s Manor and broken stirrup at the Grand National — Upland Partners’ top timber horse Mystic Strike showed his true colors with a four-and-a-quarter-length score over former Eclipse-Award winning steeplechaser Zanjabeel, making his sanctioned timber debut, in the 3 1/4 mile Middleburg Hunt Cup on Saturday.

Ridden by Tom Garner for trainer Todd McKenna, the 12-year-old captured his fifth career timber stake and ran his career bankroll to nearly a quarter-million dollars.

The son of Smart Strike dueled Irv Naylor’s Super Saturday for much of the race and drew clear at the final fence as Zanjabeel (and Eddie Keating), who was unhurried from the start, got up for the place spot.

Straylight Racing’s Invocation and Sean McDermott won their third steeplethon in a row. Photo by Tod Marks

Steeplethon King Invocation Wins Another

Straylight Racing’s Invocation has been a steady performer on the NSA circuit since coming over from the United Kingdom in the fall of 2016, and he has asserted himself as the undisputed king of the steeplethon, a unique race over mixed obstacles. The eight-year-old French-bred son of Intense Focus, ridden by Sean McDermott and trained by Mark Beecher, won three steeplethons during the Covid-abbreviated 2020 campaign, and picked up where he left off with a dominant performance on Saturday in the $20,000 Alfred Hunt. Riverdee Stable’s Gibralfaro, in his first steeplethon after competing in high-level hurdle stakes, finished second, beaten eight-and-three-quarter lengths.

And in other action…

Owner Beverly Steinman has achieved Grade 1 success on both the flat and over hurdles with Colstar and Dark Equation, and on Saturday, she and trainer Doug Fout found the winner’s circle with Speed Alert, a five-year-old Gio Ponti mare making just her second try over hurdles.

With Richard Boucher in the saddle, Speed Alert rated in fourth or fifth position for the first mile and a half of the 2 ⅛-mile filly and mare event, then dueled Gigi Lazenby’s Tap Dance Star (also making her first hurdle start), through the stretch to prevail by half a length.

In another close finish, Bon Nouvel Chasers Repeat Repeat gave jockey Ross Geraghty and trainer Julie Gomena an allowance hurdle victory by three-quarters of a length over William Russell’s Animal Kingston. It was a well-deserved victory for the seven-year-old son of Arch after two close runnerup finishes last season to Gill Johnston’s Brianbakescookies, who became a stakes winner at the Queens Cup on April 24, and Galway Kid, a multiple-race winner who ran in the Temple Gwathmey and has finished in the money in two novice stakes.

Sara Collette’s Virginia-bred Eryx has made 10 of his 13 career starts in the Commonwealth, so it was only fitting that the seven-year-old son of Xenodon finally broke his hurdle maiden on home turf. Now trained by Madison Meyers, Eryx and Dylan McDonagh, who just recently came stateside to ride, quickly secured the lead after two fences and fought off a stiff challenge from Gill Johnston’s Bickley, whom he outfinished to score by six lengths.  

In another maiden hurdle, Graham Watters piloted his second winner of the day, aboard Charlie Fenwick’s Withoutdestination, trained by Todd Wyatt, by two lengths over Hurricana Farm’s Sherkali, trained and ridden by Arch Kingsley. Withoutdestination was another runner making his NSA debut after eight starts in England.

The Middleburg card featured one waiver maiden claiming hurdle, and the winner was Tricked Up who has spent the past year or so straddling the flat and steeplechase worlds. Owned and trained by Kathy Neilson and ridden by daughter Skylar McKenna, the eight-year-old son of Dynaformer overtook Melissa Cantacuzene’s Yankee Doodle Boy in the stretch to win going away by three-and-three-quarter lengths. In a post-race interview, Neilson credited her daughter for convincing her to acquire the horse.

Click here for full results: www.nationalsteeplechase.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/Middleburg-Results.pdf

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