By Tod Marks
The second-to-last weekend of racing on the National Steeplechase Association 2021 schedule provided a series of accomplishments involving the numbers two and three. With 13 races at two venues on Saturday in Georgia and Virginia, consider these quirky highlights:
At Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Ga., jockeys Parker Hendriks and Graham Watters each won two races as did trainer Jack Fisher, Riverdee Stable, and owner Irv Naylor. With the exception of one race on the card, the winning margin for the others was less than two lengths. Meanwhile at the Montpelier Hunt Races in Charlottesville, Va., jockeys Jamie Bargary and Barry Foley each tripled, while trainer Doug Fout took a pair. Foley also finished second twice, as did Eddie Keating, to go along with his one win.
The string of curious coincidences was broken at the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup Races in Unionville on Sunday, where four different owner, trainer, and rider combinations took home the winner’s share.
Overall, this weekend’s winners included 13 different owners, 10 separate trainers, and nine jockeys.
As for specific results, here’s how the races played out:
Steeplechase at Callaway Gardens
The six-race card began with the $15,000 Steeplethon, where Irv Naylor’s A Silent Player turned the tables on Silverton Hill’s Bodes Well, scoring by 1 ½ lengths in the three-horse field for Parker Hendriks and trainer Keri Brion. At the International Gold Cup Races in Virginia two weeks earlier, Bodes Well was a 5 ½ length winner over his rival. Both horses are relatively new to steeplethons over mixed obstacles, having been serious runners over hurdles for quite a while.
In the $15,000 hurdle for apprentice riders, 11-year-old Boss Man, a winner of nearly $400,000, led a cavalry charge to the wire, getting there first by a half length under Elizabeth Scully for trainer Arch Kingsley. Leipers Fork Steeplechasers’ Court Ruler was second. Boss Man, owned by Carrington Holdings, won the 2018 William Entenmann novice stakes at Belmont Park, one of 10 victories in his long and productive career.
In the $30,000 maiden hurdle, owner-rider Alex Leventhal guided Frontline Citizen to a length victory over Richard Colton’s Mr. Alec and Ross Geraghty for trainer Mark Beecher. It was only the third career start for the five-year-old Irish-bred, who signaled his readiness for a big effort with a sharp second to Hurricana Farm’s Merry Maker at 19-1 at Great Meadow last month.
In the featured $75,000 AFLAC Supreme novice stakes, which like all hurdle races at Callaway were contested at 2 ⅜ miles, Riverdee Stable’s re-energized City Dreamer made it two in a row for jockey Graham Watters and trainer Jack Fisher, who teamed up to take the $75,000 Foxbrook Champion hurdle stakes at Far Hills three weeks ago. At the wire, City Dreamer was a half length winner over Atlantic Friends Racing’s Historic Heart, with William Russell’s Animal Kingston, third. Historic Heart came into the race off of a win in the Harry Harris Stakes at Far Hills, his first U.S. start after 15 in Europe. Before the Foxbrook, City Dreamer had been winless — though stakes placed multiple times — since taking the Marcellus Frost stakes in Nashville in May 2019.
Riverdee, Fisher, and Watters made it two straight when Twenty Years On scored by 1 ½ lengths in the $20,000 maiden claiming hurdle over “house” horse Three O One, owned by Callaway race chairman Mason Hardaway Lampton.
And in the finale, a $15,000 hurdle for apprentice jockeys, Naylor’s Global Freedom, with Parker Hendriks up, prevailed by 1 ½ lengths over Meadow Run Farm’s Glencorrib Sky, ridden by Parker’s cousin, Skylar McKenna. Cyril Murphy was the winning trainer. Bruton Street-US’ Bassmatchi, with Stefan Tobin, finished third.
Montpelier Hunt Races
The human stars of the show at Montpelier, the former home of President James Madison, were Jamie Bargary and Barry Foley, both three-time winners on the day. Foley’s wins, in fact, came in succession, and he just missed a fourth when beaten a half length in the opener. Foley also finished a close second again, this time aboard Irv Naylor’s Amschel, who trailed Hudson River Farm’s Iranistan.
Speaking of Iranistan, the seven-year-old son of Einstein, ridden by Eddie Keating and trained by Keri Brion, had his earnings crack the quarter-million-dollar mark in the featured $40,000 Noel Laing Stakes over Montpelier’s fabled natural brush fences. It was Iranistan’s third win in his last four starts, and his first since back-to-back victories at Saratoga in 2020, after which he went on the sidelines with an injury.
Lisa Nelms’ Big Dave, a Pennsylvania-bred gelding trained by David Bourke and a veteran of 34 starts on the flat — all but two of which came at Penn National — opened the day with a half-length tally over Bruce Collette’s Grunion in the training flat race on the dirt. Big Dave made his debut over jumps at Virginia Fall in Middleburg last month, but lost all chance when he hit a wing and lost his rider.
Melissa Cantacuzene’s Yankee Doodle Boy gave Foley — and trainer Doug Fout — his first winner of the day in the second race, a handicap for horses rated at 110 or lower. The five-year-old son of Declaration of War raced toward the back of the pack early, took command during the second lap and drew clear of Potter Group USA’s Don’t Shout and Tom Garner by 2 ¼ lengths. The latter was making his second NSA start after a career in Europe.
In the third, a $15,000 maiden claiming hurdle, Kinross Farm’s Sea Mast, with Foley in the irons, prevailed by a length under a vigorous hand ride over Petticoats Loose Farm’s The Kid Rocks, with Teddy Davies aboard.
The fourth race, a $25,000 maiden hurdle, was another thriller, and gave Foley his third straight when he urged Irv Naylor’s Scorpion’s Revenge to the wire in a driving finish 1 ¾ lengths ahead of Kiplin Hall’s Gearhead, ridden by Jamie Bargary. It was only the third lifetime start for the five-year-old Irish-bred son of Scorpion, trained by Cyril Murphy, and his second win. The first came at Cork Race Course in his home country back in April.
The second division of the maiden hurdle gave Bargary his second of three wins on the card, this time with Riverdee Stable’s Queens Empire, who defeated The International Venture’s Going Country by 3 ½ lengths. Queens Empire, a four-year-old Empire Maker gelding trained by Jack Fisher, was coming off a solid third, beaten just 1 ½ lengths, in the $50,000 Harry Harris Stakes at Far Hills in October.
Bargary found the winner’s circle again in the sixth, a $25,000 allowance hurdle for fillies and mares, with Beverly Steinman’s Eve’s City, who went wire-to-wire besting Ted Gregory’s Screen Image by 1 ½ lengths. Eve’s City’s stablemate, Speed Alert, was another two lengths back in third. Doug Fout trained the winner and show horse.
Pennsylvania Hunt Cup Races
Armata Stable’s Goodoldtimes hadn’t won a race in two years, but on Sunday, after four successive third-place finishers, the lightly raced seven-year-old Irish-bred, under the care of trainer Alicia Murphy and Billy Santoro, unleashed a furious charge after the final fence to overtake multiple-stakes winner Mystic Strike in the 4-mile, $35,000 Pennsylvania Hunt Cup. It was the first stakes score for Goodoldtimes, who prevailed by 2 lengths over Upland Partners’ 12-year-old star. Kiplin Hall’s Renegade River was far back in third. The win was the second over jumps for young rider Colin Smith, and his first in a stakes. Goodoldtimes came into the race following a third to Mystic Strike and Dolly Fisher’s timber ace Schoodic in the Genesee Valley Hunt Cup in upstate New York. That race was run at 3 miles, and the longer distance of the Pennsylvania classic was obviously more to his liking.
In the opener, the $15,000 Lewis Ledyard timber stakes, which was marred by a late spill, Upland Partners’ Shootist gave jockey Skylar McKenna her 12th victory of 2021, when the seven-year-old Smart Strike gelding was the only horse in the field of eight to finish. Shootist, trained by Skylar’s dad, Todd McKenna, stalked Irv Naylor’s Indian Hawk in second and inherited the lead when Indian Hawk fell at the 14th fence. Sadly, the mishap claimed the life of Jeremy Batoff’s Elucidation.
Holwood Stable’s Road to Oz, making his first start since the Virginia Gold Cup last May, returned to allowance competition and eked out a hard-fought neck victory over Kinross Farm’s Pocket Talk in the $20,000 Arthur O. Choate Memorial at 3 miles over timber. Ridden by Graham Watters for trainer Mark Beecher, the six-year-old son of Quality Road sat behind pacesetter Pocket Talk, ridden by Teddy Davies, took the lead at the head of the long stretch and held on gamely during the spirited duel to the wire.
The day came to an end with the running of the Athenian Idol training flat race at 1 ⅜ miles. Upland Flats Racing’s Freddy Flintshire, a three-year Kentucky-bred son of the great turf star Flintshire, made his NSA debut a winning one, taking the finale by 2 1/2 lengths for jockey Parker Hendriks and trainer Keri Brion.
Coming out of an off-the-board finish in a maiden special weight contest at Keeneland three weeks ago, Freddy Flintshire, who began his career at Ascot, extended his lead through the stretch and was never seriously challenged. S. Rebecca Shepherd’s Clint Maroon was second under Teddy Davies. Virginia Korrell’s Tiepolo was third.
Full results from all three race meets can be found here: www.nationalsteeplechase.com/results/
A Look at the Leaderboard
With only one meet remaining this season, the Steeplechase of Charleston (South Carolina) next Sunday, the battle for leading jockey and trainer is still a horse race. The Charleston card consists of four races over hurdles plus a flat training event.
Among conditioners, Leslie Young and Jack Fisher are knotted at 15 wins apiece. Keri Brion, who has all but locked up the leading trainer award by purse earnings, has 13; Neil Morris has 12. Brion and Young have entries in all four hurdle races; Fisher and Morris have entries in two.
In the race for top jockey, Tom Garner and Graham Watters are tied at 19 wins apiece. Garner has accumulated the highest earnings to date. Both Garner and Watters are scheduled to ride in three of the four hurdle races.
The full standings can be found here: www.nationalsteeplechase.com/wp-content/uploads/pdf/CurrentStandings.pdf