Trivia question. Who sired a steeplechase winner first? Runhappy or Imagining? The first was a champion sprinter. The second was a Grade 1 winner going long on the turf.
The answer is Runhappy, but it was a photo finish. The Claiborne Farm stallion’s 3-year-old son Circus won the first race at Shawan Downs in Maryland Saturday afternoon. One race later, 4-year-old Bogey’s Image won the day’s second race to give his sire Imagining of Maryland’s Anchor and Hope Farm his first jump winner. Both were stylish maiden hurdle victories, and – along with winners sired by Kitten’s Joy, Tiznow and bred in Louisiana, England and Ireland – showcased the melting pot that is American jump racing.
Purchased for $30,000 by trainer Elizabeth Voss’ Atlanta Hall Racing at Fasig-Tipton Kentucky’s horses of racing age sale in July, Circus dominated six other 3-year-olds en route to 7 1/4 length win for The Fields Stable, Voss and jockey Eddie Keating. It was the third win of 2021 for Voss, from just 15 starters as her stable shrunk during the Covid-19 pandemic. Bred in Kentucky by Judy Hicks, Circus sold for $230,000 at Fasig-Tipton Kentucky’s October yearling sale in 2019 but lost twice as a 2-year-old for DJ Stable and John Servis before being moved to trainer Matt Shirer and winning a $15,000 maiden claimer at Fair Grounds in January.
Out of sakes winner Charming N Lovable, Circus is a half-brother to Grade 1 winner Fault and $408,548 earner Betweenhereandcool. The dark bay gelding could make his second start in a 3-year-old hurdle at Far Hills Oct. 16.
As the first meet of the autumn season, Shawan was big on maidens with three solid fields starting the seven-race card. Bogey’s Image won the second, rating off early leader O Dionysus early and then kicking away from Hail Michigan and State Of Affair late to win by 4 1/4 lengths for trainer/jockey Sean McDermott. The 4-year-old races for Dan Colhoun, Achsah O’Donovan and Harvey Goolsby after making his first two starts for breeder South Branch Equine. Maryland-bred and Maryland-sired, Bogey’s Image picked up a $5,000 Maryland Million bonus to earn $14,000 from a race carrying a purse of $15,000.
Del Rio Chasers’ Step To The Bar graduated in the third for trainer Kate Dalton and jockey Bernie Dalton. The 5-year-old, bred in Louisiana by Del Rio partner Gigi Lazenby, rallied from seventh early and then put his experience to good use late to outrun Queen Empire in the stretch and win by 2 1/4 lengths. The winner, a son of Behindatthebar, ran once each over jumps in 2019 and 2020, and came into Saturday with two seconds in five tries this year.
Owned by Upland Flats Racing and John Lewis, West Newton won the fourth race, a $25,000 handicap hurdle for horses rated 120 and below, for trainer Ricky Hendriks. Apprentice Skylar McKenna stayed patient on the 5-year-old, arriving from fifth to take the lead on the final turn and win by 8 1/2 lengths over Compass Zone with Presence Of Mind third. The winner came in off a third in allowance company at Saratoga and got a five-pound allowance for McKenna. Hendriks claimed the English-bred (breeder: The Queen) son of Kitten’s Joy for $15,000 in May and has gotten two wins, a third and three fourths.
Timber veteran Schoodic did it again in the $20,000 open timber, rallying in the final stages to defeat clear leader Tomgarrow by 1 3/4 lengths. Connor Hankin rode the winner, who collected his 13th win over jumps – the first as a 3-year-old hurdler in 2013. Now owned by Dolly Fisher and trained by her son Jack, Schoodic won for the second time this yeaer but could easily be unbeaten as he slipped and fell while making a big move in the My Lady’s Manor in April and got there too late when beaten by a neck at Willowdale in May. Amateur jockey Hankin won 18 races in three seasons before joining the Marine Corps after college in 2016 and returning on a limited basis this year. Saturday’s win was his first since 2016.
Irish-bred Elusive Exclusive proved to be more than a tongue-twister as he won his timber debut for Black and Blue Stable and trainer Leslie Young in the $10,000 maiden. Tom Garner rode the winner, who made his American debut after going 0-for-17 in his home country including two hurdle starts in March. Saturday, he closed with a rush to take over from Elucidation and win by 3 lengths with First Friday third. The latter was elevated to second when Elucidation’s jockey Gerard Galligan weighed in under weight.
Two training flat races closed the card, and showcased potential hurdle and timber starters for later this year. Mekong won the first for owner/breeder Greg Hawkins, trainer Janet Elliot and McKenna. Sleight Of Hand took the finale for Hudson River Farm, trainer Keri Brion and jockey Parker Hendriks. The latter is a half-brother to hurdle stakes winner Iranistan.
The NSA schedule turns to Foxfield in Virginia this week, where a Sunday cared includes seven races and stepped up purses of $100,000.
Trainer Jack Fisher won his first jump race since Snap Decision’s Iroquois triumph in June when Schoodic won the open timber. Fisher, Brion and Young are tied atop the trainers’ leaderboard with nine wins each, followed by Neil Morris with eight. Garner and Graham Watters are tied among the jockeys with 13 apiece.
And, in a contest with no winner, the TIHR handicappers were back in action at Shawan. Joe came up with Bogey’s Image, West Newton, Schoodic and Sleight Of Hand. Sean countered with Bogey’s Image, Schoodic and Sleight Of Hand. Tom had Schoodic.