|By Tod Marks, Published on May 16, 2023|
|Scaramanga turns back Snap Decision, Bercasa celebrates special Mother’s Day, Tierney triples, and Kingsley has first training win with longtime partner Ed Swyer.|
Malcolm Denmark’s Scaramanga and Paul Townend led over the last in the $200,000 Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Grade 1). ©Tod Marks
|Saturday’s steeplechasing doubleheader at the Iroquois in Nashville, and Willowdale Races some 800 miles away in Kennett Square, Pa., offered a feast for jumpers at every level of the sport.
With 13 races and $545,000 in purses, the two meets drew 85 hurdle and timber entries from maidens, claimers, and ratings handicappers, to novices, allowance, and stakes stars, looking to increase their bankrolls as we head into the summer season at the flat tracks.
The centerpiece was the $200,000 Calvin Houghland Iroquois, the only Grade 1 of the spring, at Percy Warner Park. At three miles, the Iroquois is the longest hurdle stake on the circuit, an endurance test of a horse’s ability to handle the distance as well as the heat and humidity. And it was a fair fight since all eight starters carried equal weight of 158 pounds. The race took on special significance as Bruton Street-US’ star, Snap Decision, was seeking to become only the second horse to win the fixture three times and the first to do so in succession.
But it was not to be as superstar European trainer Willie Mullins shipped over Malcolm Denmark’s Scaramanga along with his first-call rider, Irish champion Paul Townend, to upend the only U.S.-bred horse in the lineup.
As is his custom, Snap Decision, under Sean McDermott – substituting for the injured Graham Watters but familiar with his mount as they partnered for three stakes wins in 2020 – took an early lead, setting a conservative pace and withstanding challenges from Gill Johnston’s Mortlach and Upland Partners’ Noah and the Ark, who conquered Snap Decision in the Grade 1 Lonesome Glory last year while getting a huge break in the weights. But Noah and the Ark couldn’t sustain his bid and Snap Decision appeared to pull away during the long uphill trek to the final fence. Scaramanga, however, who maintained a stalking position throughout, began gobbling up ground on the outside and headed Snap Decision at the last jump, drawing clear easily to win by 3 3/4 lengths under enthusiastic urging by Townend. Snap Decision held second by a diminishing half length over Irv Naylor’s Scorpion’s Revenge, a novice stakes winner making his first effort in graded stakes company.
For trainer Mullins, who did not make the trip – the horse was accompanied by his assistant Rachel Scoop Robins – it was his first victory with Scaramanga since he joined his stable from Paul Nicholls yard less than a year ago.
Until Saturday, Townend had never competed at the Iroquois Races. He did make two trips to the U.S., in 2017 and 2019, to ride at Far Hills, where he captured the Peapack filly & mare stakes in each of those years.
Owner Malcolm Denmark, making his first visit to the Iroquois, said afterwards how much he and his son, Callum, enjoyed their time in Nashville and indicated he would consider returning stateside with his star later this year.