Normally, this would be Iroquois week but as we’ve learned in the last year plus nothing is normal. So…the steeplechase circuit does not go to Music City. But Pennsylvania’s Kennett Square, the Mushroom Capital of the World, will more than suffice with the Willowdale Steeplechase Saturday.
Post time for the seven-race card is 1 p.m. There are Covid-related attendance limitations, but there will be people there and you can watch live on the National Steeplechase Association website. If you make the trip, swing by downtown afterward and get to Braeloch Brewing for a pint. You won’t be disappointed. Now, on to the races.
Last week at Middleburg, the TIHR handicappers woke up a little and found some winners.
Tom nailed Speed Alert (Doug Fout angle) in the opener. Sean got Mystic Strike (Joe didn’t want to jinx the horse again) in the third. Everybody had Snap Decision – who was awesome, again, while running his winning streak to eight – in the fourth. Joe came up with Eryx in the fifth. Sean and Joe got Withoutdestination in the sixth. And everybody had Invocation in the eighth. Flip the abacus around, carry the ones and that’s four wins apiece for Sean and Joe and three for Tom on the card. The season-long scoreboard is tied at the top, 6-6, between Joe and Sean with Tom one behind in third.
As an aside, Vintage Vinnie’s owner Perry Bolton called to inform us that “Tom Law is the only guy who knows what’s going on over there,” after Law came up with the Maryland Hunt Cup winner April 24. Maybe it helps to have never seen a timber race in person.
Here’s the Willowdale rundown:
First race. $10,000 claiming hurdle for apprentice jockeys going 2 1/4 miles. Eight take a look here, none more experienced than Orchestra Leader. He makes his 48th start over jumps. Mell Boucher rides for her mother Lilith. Boss Man has stakes form, but it’s been awhile and the timber experiment apparently failed. Elmutahid won twice last year and gets Maryland Hunt Cup-winning jockey Dan Nevin.
Tom: Hepcat, Praeceps, Boss Man.
Sean: Elmutahid, Boss Man, Hepcat.
Joe: Elmutahid, Mighty Mark, Boss Man.
Second race. $10,000 maiden claiming hurdle going 2 1/4 miles. Ten in the body of the race plus three on the also-eligible list. Western Crusader and Lemon Again ran well enough last year to contend here. They exit the same race at the Queen’s Cup, where Western Crusader fell at an early fence and Lemon Again labored home last of five finishers. Oceanographer fell at the second-last in that race. Lap Of The Gods was there too, finishing a well-beaten third to Gostisbehere. So…who do you like?
Tom: Pony Up, Lap Of The Gods, West Newton.
Sean: Boyfriend Brian, Sollozzo, Western Crusader.
Joe: Sollozzo, Western Crusader, Lap Of The Gods.
Third race. $15,000 handicap hurdle (110 and below) going 2 1/4 miles. Eight run here in what ought to be a competitive spot. Animal Kingston exits a second in a much tougher spot a week ago at Middleburg. Gostisbehere scored at the Queen’s Cup. Decisivve Triumph won at Foxfield last fall. Be Counted is the race’s only two-time winner including an apprentice-jockey claimer last year at Great Meadow. Eddie Keating (23 percent) rides for Todd Wyatt (50 percent).
Tom: Animal Kingston, Gostisbehere, Go As You Please.
Sean: Animal Kingston, Gostisbehere, Be Counted.
Joe: Gostisbehere, Decisive Triumph, Animal Kingston.
Fourth race. $35,000 Buttonwood/Sycamore Farm Willowdale Steeplechase timber stakes going 3 1/2 miles. Big pot here for timber horses and maybe Schoodic can reboot his year from a fall on the flat while leading late at My Lady’s Manor. It worked for Mystic Strike at Middleburg. The 11-year-old makes his 39th lifetime jump start for Dolly Fisher and her son Jack (that’s new Hall of Famer Jack). Officer Sydney pulled up in the Manor. Renegade River won a maiden there. Awesome Adrian looked good in an allowance score at the Grand National, and won over the Willowdale course in 2019.
Tom: Awesome Adrian, Schoodic, Officer Sydney.
Sean: Schoodic, Awesome Adrian, Hanno.
Joe: Schoodic, Awesome Adrian, Officer Sydney.
Fifth race. $10,000 maiden timber going 3 miles. Twelve run (not 10 if you’re looking at PPs), and they come from everywhere. Our Legend was second at the Manor in a good effort. Jaleo looked like a winner in that same race, but fell. Worzel Gummidge is named for a walking, talking scarecrow in British TV. Oh, and he was fourth in the maiden timber at the Manor. First Friday has put together some decent efforts. Hafajay sounds like Haffaday, who won the Maryland Hunt Cup in 1968. Hafajay won his only English start over chase fences and won a point-to-point last year. He was second twice in point-to-point tries this spring.
Tom: Our Legend, On My Wish List, Jaleo.
Sean: Our Legend, On My Wish List, Jaleo.
Joe: Hafajay, Our Legend, Jaleo.
Sixth race. $10,000 maiden timber going 3 miles. Another 12-horse field, though it doesn’t seem as deep as the fifth race. My Afleet switches to Graham Watters and tries to translate his stakes form on the flat and over hurdles to timber. He’ll have to jump better than he did at the Grand National, but he’s a player. Elucidation’s hurdle form was good enough. He couldn’t handle Invocation at Middleburg last week. Great Road was third behind Renegade River and Our Legend at the Manor.
Tom: My Afleet, Corky Lemon, Great Road.
Sean: My Afleet, Elucidation, Corky Lemon.
Joe: My Afleet, Great Road, Elucidation.
Seventh race. $10,000 allowance timber for apprentice jockeys going 3 miles. Eight go here, headed by Grand National day winner Include It, capable veteran Katnap (a winner over the course and a danger in soft turf), Cheshire winner Cheers To Us and Green Spring point-to-point winner and Manor third-place finisher Goodoldtimes.
Tom: Include It, Goodoldtimes, It’s Nothing.
Sean: Include It, Goodoldtimes, It’s Nothing.
Joe: Include It, Goodoldtimes, Cheers To Us.