By Tod Marks
Picking up where he left off last year, Leipers Fork Steeplechasers’ 2021 timber champion Tomgarrow, under new National Steeplechase Association rider Freddie Procter, led from start to finish in the $50,000 My Lady’s Manor Stakes, the first leg of the Maryland Timber Triple, defeating Upland Partners’ Mystic Strike by 2 1/2 lengths. Dolly Fisher’s Schoodic was third.
Breaking alertly under Procter, on his first NSA mount, Tomgarrow set a speedy pace. He was never headed, though Mystic Strike and Eric Poretz narrowed the gap through the stretch.
The victory was one of two on the card for both Procter, a 23-year-old amateur rider in the UK, and trainer Leslie Young. Young now has six wins on the season to lead in the trainer standings. Her horses have also finished in the money 12 of 15 times.
After 16 starts in his native Ireland, Armata Stable’s seven-year-old chestnut Our Friend made his U.S. debut a winning one in the $20,000 John Rush Streett Memorial maiden. With Teddy Davies riding for his dad, trainer Joe Davies, Our Friend battled for the lead with Gill Johnston’s Lost Story, ridden by Elizabeth Scully, for the entire three-mile journey. At the wire it was Our Friend by a length, with Bruton Street-US’ Notjudginjustsayin another length back in third. For Armata and Joe and Teddy Davies, it was one of two wins on the day.
The day’s most impressive winner was John Greene Jr.’s Monbeg Stream, who’s definitely a horse to watch. The five-year-old Irish-bred made his first career start at Virginia Fall in Middleburg in October, finishing within a length of Four Virginia Gents’ First Friday. After losing his rider in another timber maiden at the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup Races in November, Monbeg Stream bounced back on Saturday to romp by 15 lengths under Freddie Procter, also for trainer Leslie Young. Monbeg Stream led most of the trip, was never pressured, and drew off on the final turn.
Vintage Vinnie, Armata Stable’s record-setting 2021 Maryland Hunt Cup winner, flashed fine form in his first start of the season, taking the $10,000 John D. Schapiro allowance under Teddy Davies, for trainer Joe Davies. But the win didn’t come easy. Running in tandem with Kiplin Hall’s Renegade River, himself a stakes winner, throughout the three miles and 16 fences, the duo dueled through the stretch with Vintage Vinnie prevailing by a half length over his determined rival, piloted by another NSA newcomer, Jamie Neild. Boudinot Farm’s Elusive Exclusive, also ran well, closing stoutly in the stretch under Virginia Korrell, finishing just neck behind Renegade River.
And at Tryon…
Saturday’s 74th Tryon Block House races in Columbus, N.C., showcased a rising star in Paul and Molly Willis’ Boulette, who followed up his 6 ¼-length triumph in Aiken’s Imperial Cup last month with an even more lopsided victory in a similar handicap, the day’s $30,000 feature race, for horses rated at 120 or less. As he did in Aiken, the four-year-old son of Epaulette took charge from the outset, controlled the pace, and was much the best. William Russell’s Animal Kingston, who chased Boulette in Aiken, was second best. It was far back to the show horse, Allison Fulmer’s The Happy Giant.
Meanwhile, Graham Watters, who locked up his first jockey championship in 2021, signaled he’s looking to duplicate that success as a conditioner. Watters and his wife, Rosie, saddled Shamrock and Thistle’s Make A Stand to a 4 ¾-length win over Taking the Lead Stable’s Seville Barber in the opener, a $15,000 maiden claiming hurdle. Watters also rode the winner, who earned his first triumph in four tries over jumps. Never farther back than second, Make A Stand made his move heading into the final bend, carried it over the last, and drew clear. After the race, Watters shared his thoughts:
“This was our first win as trainers. We purchased ‘Stanley’ (Make A Stand’s barn name) last summer purely to just have a runner and learn the ropes of training and ownership. I have had a lot of help from Jack Fisher in letting me breeze on his training track and providing a few tips and tricks. Mark Beecher and Neil Morris have also offered their help and advice. For now we are happy with just him as a racehorse but we do have a few hunters along with Stanley’s best pal, Eclipse-Award winner Dawalan.
“Maybe it’s a possibility to train in the future as we’ve had a lot of fun in training him, but for now I’m hoping to have a few more decent years as a jockey. One thing I can take away from the experience is I have a lot more of an appreciation for trainers, grooms and owners in how much effort is put into doing it right.”
Tennessee horseman Ted Thompson found the winner’s circle in the second, prevailing over seven rivals with Brownland Farm LLC’s Jump Ship in a $20,000 handicap for horses rated at 110 or less. A veteran of 55 starts, it was the Virginia-bred 10-year-old’s first win since August 2019. For jockey Mell Boucher, the daughter of horsemen Lilith and Richard Boucher, it was her third sanctioned score over hurdles. Content to lag at the rear of the field for the first mile and a half, the son of Jump Start came with a rush going down the hill after the second last, collared the leader, Twenty Years On, approaching the final fence, and opened up by five lengths at the finish.
In the day’s other race, the International Venture’s lightly raced Going Country, a six-year-old Irish-bred son of Yeats, broke his maiden under Parker Hendriks. Going Country, making just his third career trip to the post, sat off the pace in the $25,000 contest for the first mile and a half, then got into gear after the second last for the long downhill run heading into the turn. From there, he hooked pacesetter Bickley over the last and the pair dueled to the finish. At the wire it was Going Country by a length. The victory was one of two on the card for Hendriks and trainer Keri Brion, who saddled Boulette in the feature.
Full results can be found at nationalsteeplechase.com/racing.