By Tod Marks, Published on May 2, 2023
|The third time wasn’t a charm for Vintage Vinnie. Coming off of two straight record-setting performances in the historic Maryland Hunt Cup, Armata Stable’s 14-year-old star took his usual lead but gave way at the 18th of 22 fences, allowing Irv Naylor’s Withoutmoreado, who shadowed him from the flag drop, to surge to the front and repel a charge by a gutsy Royal Ruse in America’s longest and most challenging timber race.
Ridden by 19-year-old Conor Tierney of County Wicklow, Ireland, who was competing in only his eighth sanctioned race, Withoutmoreado tracked Vintage Vinnie in second with Lucy Goelet’s Rocket Star Red in third, and Charlie Fenwick’s Royal Ruse a close fourth. Running leisurely, it didn’t take long for Vintage Vinnie, piloted by Dan Nevin, to extend his lead to as much as 5 lengths, as the field of eight became more strung out. But unlike his past efforts in the 4-mile classic, Vintage Vinnie was unable to pull away over the soft going.
About four fences from home, Vintage Vinnie’s margin began to shrink, but Withoutmoreado showed no signs of fading, and Royal Ruse, under Elizabeth Scully, began gobbling up ground. By the 18th fence, Vintage Vinnie was out of gas and the 14-year-old was pulled up. From there, it was literally a two-horse race – the rest of the field had either been fallers or eased – with only a length separating the pair. The battle was on until the 20th fence, when Withoutmoreado dug in and pulled away, though there was no quit in Royal Ruse. At the wire, it was Withoutmoreado by 10 3/4 lengths.
For owner Naylor, who took home the $60,000 winner’s share of the $100,000 purse, it was his third victory in the Hunt Cup. His Make Me A Champ captured the Challenge Cup in 2005, while Askim did so three years later. For trainer Kathy Neilson, whose family has a long and storied history in the race, it was her second victory to go along with Young Dubliner’s win in 2002. Young Dubliner also finished second in 2004. Her other top three finishes were with Joshua G. and Western Fling. Kathy’s sister, Sanna Neilson, who trained runner up Royal Ruse, was a two-time Hunt Cup victor as a rider.
Reflecting on his victory several days later, Tierney said: “I am delighted with the big win on Saturday. I’m so grateful to Katherine Neilson and Mr. Naylor for giving me the fantastic opportunity to ride in the prestigious Maryland Hunt Cup. Seeing the fences for the first time was a bit daunting but after walking the course six times they weren’t so bad! The fence I was worried about the most was the third. I think the horse learned a lot after jumping that fence and we both settled down into a great race after that. When I jumped past Vintage Vinnie at the 18th, I knew Royal Ruse and Elizabeth were right behind me, so I knew there was still a tough task ahead getting over the last four fences. Once we cleared the last, I was afraid to look back so I kicked him on and kept my head down and prayed that we’d cross the line in first.”
At the Queen’s Cup
Just as Vintage Vinnie was the horse to beat in the Maryland Hunt Cup, on paper it looked like Sharon Sheppard and Gill Johnston’s impressive Carolina Cup winner Caramelised loomed large in the featured $50,000 Queen’s Cup novice stakes. But it was not to be as Upland Flats Racing’s Freddy Flintshire made it three wins in his last four starts with an emphatic 14 1/2-length romp
Content to sit in last in the field of six for the first 1 1/2 mile of the 2 3/8-mile contest, jockey Parker Hendriks asked the five-year-old son of the great turf runner Flintshire for run heading downhill toward the final fence, took command, and drew clear while racing through the stretch as Hendriks celebrated before the wire.
Riverdee Stable’s Cool Jet, the pacesetter who opened a wide lead at one point, dug in gamely to repel a bid by Caramelised, who flattened out and finished far back in third.
For Freddy Flintshire, trained by Keri Brion, it was his first start following a tough beat as the even-money favorite in the Michael G. Walsh novice stakes at Saratoga last summer in which he lost by a half length to stablemate Theocrat, also trained by Brion.
Before that, Freddy Flintshire captured an allowance race at the Spa.
In other action:
“Pop” goes the Ziggle
Picking up where he left off — two years ago — Bruton Street-US’ Ziggle Pops, with Jamie Bargary aboard for Jack Fisher, made a sweeping move coming off the downhill run on the final turn and took charge over the last fence to score by a length over Arch Kingsley’s gutsy Cainudothetwist in the opener, a $25,000 handicap for horses rated at 115 or less.
Ziggle Pops made his previous start at the 2021 Carolina Cup Races, where the British-bred son of Zoffany was a 7-length winner, before heading to the sidelines.
Eternal Story prevails in $30,000 maiden hurdle
Returning to the scene of his U.S. debut a year ago, Runnymoore Racing’s Eternal Story tracked leader Finding Freedom and inherited the top spot when Finding Freedom fell, then held off Richard Colton’s Barbados in a lengthy dogfight to the wire by a length.
The French-bred six-year-old, ridden by new NSA rider David England, finished second in his first NSA outing in a similar maiden race at the Queen’s Cup last year. In his subsequent start, Eternal Story wasn’t a factor at Colonial Downs over the summer, then resurfaced on Saturday and put in a huge effort for trainer Leslie Young. For England, it was his fifth victory of the season.
Barbados, who was also making his NSA debut after 27 starts in the UK, proved to be tough as nails, under another NSA newcomer, Stephen Mulqueen, as was Hudson River Farm’s L’Imperator. Trained by Arch Kingsley and ridden by Mark Watts, L’Imperator raced in last for most of the race before finishing with a flourish, beaten just over four lengths.
Veteran flat runner Go Poke The Bear scores in hurdle debut
After five years and 42 starts on the flat, Go Poke the Bear, a seven-year-old son of Kitten’s Joy, made the switch to hurdles a winning one, romping by 11 lengths in a $20,000 maiden claiming hurdle.
Owned by a syndicate going by the same name, Go Poke the Bear, under veteran Mark Watts, who has ridden sporadically since 2018, grabbed the lead after about a half mile, controlled the pace, and gradually drew clear with speed to spare. For trainer Leslie Young, it was her second victory on the card. Greg Hawkins’ Webb, ridden by Tom Garner for Janet Elliot, was second.
Bernie and Kate Dalton rolled out another good one in Haint Blue, a three-year-old daughter of the wonderfully named The Grey Gatsby — a multiple European Grade 1 winner of more than $4 million — to close out the day in a training flat contest.
Making her first career start, the filly, owned by Layton Register, was content to lag near the back of the field for most of the going, made a sweeping stretch move on the outside, and prevailed in a cavalry charge to the wire, drawing clear by 2 3/4 lengths over Greg Hawkins’ Kiyomori.
Upland Flats Racing’s Freddy Flintshire and Parker Hendriks in the Queen’s Cup novice stakes. ©Tod Marks
Saturday’s six-race card, five over hurdles at 2 1/8 miles, offered record purses of $180,000. In the featured Daniel Van Clief Memorial Sport of Kings stakes, Upland Flats Racing and John Lewis’ West Newton made it back-to-back wins.
In a career that has seen him go back and forth on the flat and over jumps, for trainer Ricky Hendriks, West Newton followed up his 120 handicap victory in the season opener at Aiken last month with a hard-fought nose score over Irv Naylor’s Scorpion’s Revenge. Breaking on top, West Newton, under Harry Beswick, grabbed the lead, was challenged in the stretch, and barely held off a hard-charging Scorpion’s Revenge, with Barry Foley, who made a furious rally from the back of the pack.
In other action:
Oscar Winner takes a bow in $20,000 maiden claimer
Coming off of 15 career starts on the flat at Penn National, Tom Rice’s Oscar Winner, a five-year-old Pennsylvania-bred, came from off the pace under Mikey Hamill to win going away, giving trainer Leslie Young her third overall winner on Saturday.
Racing in fourth most of the way, Oscar Winner launched his bid after the eighth fence, had a length advantage hitting the stretch, and powered to a six-length margin at the wire. Louisa Stevenson and Achsah O’Donovan’s Greylover, who stalked CFC Stables’ Undercover Rowdy, the pacesetter, was second best under Graham Watters.
Hooray for Hooroo
Fearnought Farm’s Hooroo improved upon his third place finish in similar company at Aiken to take the $25,000 handicap for horses rated at 110 or less. Trained by Doug Fout and ridden by Barry Foley, the six-year-old Irish-bred, who had a long career in the UK before coming stateside a year ago, was off slowly and gradually moved up in the field of six. With about five furlongs to go, Foley stepped on the gas and Hooroo scooted away to an 11-length win. Ashwell Stable’s Durragh, another recent import making his NSA debut for trainer Leslie Young, raced on or near the lead throughout, and finished second under Mikey Hamill.
Ping Pong Champ bounces to victory in $25,000 handicap
Exiting the maiden claiming ranks, Gill Johnston’s Ping Pong Champ, under Graham Watters, won for the second time in his last three outings with a declarative score in a handicap for horses rated at 110 or less.
Following a maiden claiming tally to close out 2022, the five-year-old son of Temple City ran a solid second to Fightinirishtabit in a 115 handicap at the Carolina Cup Races last month, setting him up Saturday’s performance. Sitting in third for most of the going behind The Fields Stable’s Circus and Paul Willis’ New Appointment, the Jack Fisher-trainee made his move with a half mile to go, assumed command easily, and prevailed by 3 1/4 lengths. Irv Naylor’s Fearsome, ridden by Erin Swope, was second.
Newcomer For the Parish gives Leslie Young her 16th victory
Trainer Leslie Young continued her torrid pace this spring, saddling Leipers Fork Steeplechasers’ first-time starter For the Parish to capture the $30,000 maiden special weights hurdle with Mikey Hamill in the saddle. The five-year-old Irish-bred ran like an old pro, breaking in second behind Buttonwood Farm’s Sa’ad, launching his bid just before the stretch run, and digging down to prevail by a length over Hard Game’s High Deff, a recent convert to jump racing after a dozen starts on the flat.
The win gave Young two on the day at Foxfield to go along with a pair at the Queen’s Cup, and 16 for the spring. Her closest competitors, Jack Fisher and Ricky Hendriks have six winners each.
Family Tree is icing on the cake for Naylor’s big day
Irv Naylor has been a leading timber owner for decades, and on the day he won his third Maryland Hunt Cup, it’s only fitting that he finish out Saturday with another victory over timber, this time with Family Tree.
After a lengthy career on the flat and over hurdles – where he was placed in novice stakes competition – the eight-year-old son of Galileo switched to timber this season for trainer Neil Morris. After an inauspicious first start at the My Lady’s Manor Races, Family Tree, under Barry Foley, put it all together with a last-to-first surge to win going away by 4 lengths over his Naylor stablemate Island Nation, trained by Kathy Neilson, who saddled Naylor’s Hunt Cup winner Withoutmoreado.