Champs 2012: Naylor wins again

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From the December edition of Steeplechase Times.

Racehorses, especially steeplechase horses, place owners at the intersection of good news and bad news. Every owner waits for the collision. For every good call, there is a bad call. Actually, it’s more like a 1-5 ratio. No owner is immune. The more horses you own, the more collisions.

In 2010, Irv Naylor won his first National Steeplechase Association owner championship with $329,300. In 2011, the Pennsylvanian shattered the yearly earnings record, couping $719,725 during the year. Leading NSA earner Black Jack Blues contributed $171,000 and an Eclipse Award. Naylor’s stable earned 16 percent of the total purses offered.

This year, Naylor balanced the good and the bad, picking up his third consecutive championship while campaigning 42 horses through 101 starts for 13 wins and $449,075 in earnings. He fell far off his own record-setting pace of the year before, but crushed his closest pursuer, Mary Ann Houghland, who rode the Pierrot Lunaire money train to $268,000 in earnings.

“This year’s big difference was Black Jack Blues. We didn’t have the dominant winner who carried the barn. In some instances you can run a horse but it’s more speculative to run than not to run,” Naylor said. “He had such a faint tear that you had to look at it four times in four directions, to see that there might be an injury pending, but who could take the chance? With an ordinary horse, you might say run him, but he’s not an ordinary horse. He’s too good to take that chance so we didn’t. He’ll be chewing at the bit come March ’13.”

That’s Naylor, analyzing what happened and looking forward to what can happen.

Naylor began his odyssey decades ago, owning a few horses, riding the Maryland timber races, aiming at the Maryland Hunt Cup. He was the quintessential amateur. Gradually, he switched his focus from timber racing to hurdle racing. Now he’s the quintessential capitalist. Relying on proven European horses and also developing younger prospects, claiming older horses and playing at all levels of the sport, Naylor has built a juggernaut, one that hasn’t been seen since Augustin Stable’s grip of 14 titles from 1974-89.

But like any juggernaut, it’s a constant clash of good news and bad news.

“The bad news is always ‘bad.’ You can put that second bad in quotes. There is no such thing as modestly bad news,” Naylor said. “You learn along the way that bad news can occur at the sacrifice of good news at any time, with any horse, in any situation. You’ve got to be prepared to accept that bad with all that good or you’re better served doing something else. Go play golf. Go buy a yacht.”

Naylor came in well under par and steered his ship among the good and the bad, the ups and the downs, the push and the pull of 2012. Tee it up and take a ride through his season. . .

The good. Import Pullyourfingerout capitalized on an off-season change to the novice stakes conditions, dominating the Imperial Cup at Aiken.
The bad. He didn’t run again.

The good. Champion Black Jack Blues picked up where he left off, routing the Carolina Cup in March. Undefeated in three starts in America, the veteran seemed poised to dominate at the top of the game.
The bad. He was finished for the year.

The good. Colonial Cup winner Tax Ruling was back for another season.
The bad. The talented veteran failed to win his third consecutive Iroquois and was on the sidelines by fall.

The good. Established veterans Decoy Daddy, Chess Board, Best Alibi, Saluda Sam and Fieldview looked capable of winning on any weekend.
The bad. None of them won a race.

The good. Imperial Gin returned for his second year of hurdling, after winning a classy maiden at Far Hills in 2011.
The bad. He ran once in 2012.

The good. New recruits Nearby, The Jigsaw Man, Plattsburg, Baraathen, Arctic Reach, Black Pond bolstered the ranks.
The bad. They didn’t win a race and were out of action by fall.

The good. Black Quartz hinted he was a real threat to the novice division, winning at Foxfield and Radnor.
The bad. He pulled up in both starts at Saratoga and was finished for the year.

The good. Novice champion in 2011, Lake Placid, still had eligibility in starters, scooping $15,000 at Virginia Gold Cup and $21,000 at Iroquois.
The bad. He, too, was finished after Saratoga.

The good. Another British import, Via Galilei won the Temple Gwathmey in his first start and the Zeke Ferguson in his second. The veteran of 41 starts from Nad Al Sheba to Cheltenham before he came here looked like a lock at Saratoga and a solid candidate to take Black Jack Blues’ place in the Grade 1 cauldron.
The bad. Part of a three-horse entry in the A.P. Smithwick, he beat one and didn’t run again.

The good. Naylor rolled through the beginning of the season, winning 12 of his first 47 starts.  
The bad. The stable finished 1-for-54.

The good. J.W. Delozier took over as Naylor’s main trainer in 2011. The former jockey produced clutch wins from Black Jack Blues, Lake Placid, Via Galilei and others.
The bad. The trainer was gone by the end of Saratoga.

The good. Imported before Saratoga, Charminster earned $56,000 in four starts.
The bad. He was winless in those four starts.

The good. Cordillera vaulted out of sellers in England to finish second, third and fourth in filly and mare stakes.
The bad. Not for a lack of trying, she didn’t win in three tries.

The good. Naylor ran four in the A.P. Smithwick, three in the Grand National and three in the Colonial Cup.
The bad. None finished better than fourth.

The good. Imported the week of Far Hills, Irish-bred Top Man Michael won the Gladstone at Far Hills, stamping himself as the 3-year-old leader.
The bad. While in contention at the last in the Raymond G. Woolfe, title in the balance, Top Man Michael fell.

The good. Last year, Naylor campaigned the top four earners.
The bad. This year, only Via Galilei cracked the top 10.

The good. Naylor earned his third consecutive owner’s title.
The bad. No bad in that.