Willie McCarthy became someone else last Saturday.
“How would Paddy do this? How would Paddy do this?” McCarthy asked himself before the Iris Ann Coggins Stakes at the Fair Hill Races in Fair Hill, Md. May 27.
McCarthy didn’t stumble for an answer, hell, everybody knows how Paddy Young would have ridden For Goodness Sake.
“He’s going to get this filly covered up, he’s going to have her on the inside, he’s going to sit there at those fences and he’s going to have a lot of horse finishing up,” McCarthy said to himself, thinking about the five-time champion jockey who was still in an induced coma after a bone-crunching fall a week earlier at Radnor. “Nobody can do it like Paddy can do it, but I tried to put it together today because I know it’s his horse, he was with me.”
Shorter, thicker, less subtle, more deliberate and four titles shy of Young, McCarthy pulled off his best impersonation, placing For Goodness Sake in third, relaxed off of favorites Sarah Joyce and One Lucky Lady. Like a kettle of tea on slow boil, For Goodness Sake loved it, loping temperately and jumping fluidly as her four rivals slugged it out down the backside, around the turn and up the stretch in the $50,000 stakes.
Channeling Young’s patience, McCarthy allowed For Goodness Sake to slide to last on the final turn, before going outside Sarah Joyce and inside the rest, arriving once and for all before the last hurdle. For Goodness Sake launched long and bold at the last, opened up on Swoop and won with flourish. Nearly as much flourish as McCarthy whose Young impression went out the window in the final furlong. McCarthy turned his whip over and handed the winner four smacks and saluted the crowd with a whip-waving exultation.
It was worth it.
“It’s just emotional galloping out there, after doing it. Nobody can do it like Paddy can do it, but I tried to put it together today because I know it’s his horse, he was with me,” McCarthy said. “Hopefully, he can understand that this is happening today and hopefully he can get some kind of lift from it. I’m worried about him, everybody’s worried about him, he’s a great man, at the top of this sport, I just want to dedicate it all to him, I don’t want to talk about Willie McCarthy today. I want to talk about Paddy Young.”
Owned by Amy Taylor Rowe and trained by Young and his wife Leslie, For Goodness Sake won for the second time in her career and snapped an eight-race losing streak dating back to her maiden win at Market Rasen in May 2016 for English trainer Warren Greatrex. After that win, she finished second four times and third twice in England through October. The Irish-bred mare, a daughter of Yeats, made her American debut at the Iroquois two weeks earlier, finishing fifth behind Sarah Joyce.
• Keri Brion yearned for help.
“I looked around and realized that nobody else was traveling, so I said ‘If I’m going to win I’ve got to go,’ ” Brion said of the moment where she asked All The Way Jose to chase after longtime leader Balance The Budget in the Valentine Memorial.
Mark Watts had set an ambitious pace on Balance The Budget, opening 30 lengths on the field. Halfway down the backside the final time, Balance The Budget was still cruising while the peloton was losing members. Brion broke from the group, slowly and deliberately reeling in the tiring pacesetter to draw off by 15 lengths over Balance The Budget who held off Diplomat by a half-length for second.
Owned by Buttonwood Farm and trained by Jonathan Sheppard, All The Way Jose registered his first win since winning the Foxbrook Novice at Far Hills back in 2014. In between, the son of Senor Swinger sparred in Grade 1 stakes, had wind surgery and gradually returned to his best form this year. The 7-year-old Pennsylvania-bred finished third at Block House (behind Balance The Budget) and second in the 3-mile handicap hurdle at Iroquois two weeks before Fair Hill. Brion was aboard that day and wanted to erase that defeat.
“That hurt, second hurt really bad,” Brion said. “He came out of Nashville like a house on fire, we would have never run him back in two weeks but the first day he nearly dropped me in the barn, he was bucking and he doesn’t buck.”
Sheppard and Brion added blinkers for Fair Hill’s handicap (for horses rated 130 and below).
“At Nashville I didn’t feel like I could kick on by myself because he was so leery, that’s why we added the blinkers,” Brion said. “Here he sailed every fence, I was like, ‘There might be one more stride…’ I rode him a little more confidently, if it was chancy at Nashville, I would just sit there, where today, I was like ‘Go on with it.’ He’ll do it, it’s me riding more races too, I’m starting to learn when you can ask and when you shouldn’t.”
• Heather Austin said no. Then she said yes.
Austin’s son, Aaron, asked to borrow money for a new horse to purchase last fall. She said no, then Davis returned with investors and a plan. Austin said yes.
The plan came to fruition with a win by Manacor in the finale, the SOTA Apprentice Rider Race.
“I love him,” Austin said. “What a day.”
Trained by Willie Dowling, Manacor was originally meant to be ridden by Davis, but at a feathery 143 pounds, Dowling made a late change to Eric Poretz. The Maryland Hunt Cup-winning jockey accounted for his first hurdle win, guiding the 9-year-old to an easy win over late-running Fall Colors.
“Prize money is the key to getting new people in, it drives it,” Austin said. “It’s the second horse we’ve owned, my son wanted to buy another horse and I said no, so he went out and came back a week later and said he had found investors, I just need to borrow $2,000. I said I guess I have to give you $2,000. Aaron was one of the investors, Granddad was one of the investors. The plan was for the horse to convert to timber but he wasn’t able to convert quite as quickly as we planned.”
Irish-bred Manacor won two hurdle races and two flat races for trainer Jimmy Day, who imported the son of Refuse To Bend in 2011 after seven Irish starts. Day sold the now 9-year-old to what is now called Manacor Partners after a final start at Laurel in November.
Davis, who has ridden over timber, rode his first hurdle race on Manacor at Middleburg in April.
“Aaron had a thrill, I had a heart attack, it was so fast,” Austin said. “He’s a schoolmaster. It all worked out, hopefully we can convert him to timber, Aaron can ride him for a year or two and then I can foxhunt him. We’re just so happy, we’ve put so much into this. He’s a great little horse.”
• McCarthy doubled on the day, taking a division of the maiden hurdle with Dark Gemini for Serendipity Stable and trainer Jack Fisher.
“I haven’t been that excited about a young horse for a long time,” McCarthy said, as he walked back to the jocks’ room.
Dark Gemini sat well off the pace set by Mutin before making a methodical rally to win by 3 ¾-lengths over Mutasaawy and Mutin.
Purchased after breaking his maiden at Laurel for trainer George Weaver last fall, Dark Gemini made his debut at Nashville, finishing second to stablemate Kremlin.
• Trainer Elizabeth Voss and jockey Jack Doyle teamed up to win four races – two training flat to start the day, a maiden claiming hurdle and a maiden hurdle. In her American debut, 3-year-old filly Party Nights won the opener for Caroline Stautberg’s Willow Oaks Stable – emerging from behind horses in deep stretch with an inside move to win by 3 3/4 lengths over 7 furlongs. Best Mom Ever finished second with Maximum Horsepower third. One race later, going 1 1/4 miles, Mimi Voss homebred Tir Na Nog won his first start since 2015 – showing plenty of stretch run to score by 1 1/2 lengths over Mister Smarty with Ocean Ready third. The Maryland-bred winner is a 4-year-old son of Cape Blanco and Voss’ Malibu Moon mare Rowdy.
“The filly in the first, I was very impressed with her,” said Doyle. “She probably wants a bit quicker ground. I really liked her. The other fella is going to make a nice hurdler. He’s a big, raw, green horse. It’s taken him awhile to get him to where he is now. He just gallops, but he did it well. I couldn’t pull him up afterward, we went all the way around again.”
Doyle and Voss made it three in a row when they won the day’s first jump race, a $25,000 maiden claiming hurdle, with The Fields Stable’s Norse Star. The 6-year-old caught Middle Road in the stretch to score by a length with Corstorphine third in a field of 10. Irish-bred Norse Star raced on the flat in England (winning once) before switching to hurdles with Voss in 2015 and showing little in three starts. Sidelined, and very nearly sent to another career, until this spring, the son of Norse Dancer was second at Willowdale 13 days before Fair Hill.
“He’s had his day in the sun,” said Doyle. “You have to make him try, he’s lazy. Two weeks before he went to Willowdale he was going to be the hunter for the winter. No joke, that was the plan. They stuck him in and he’s run well twice.”
The mini streak ended in the fourth race as Iconic Artist pulled up in a maiden hurdle, but Doyle and Voss wasted little time as No Wunder lived up to his favorite’s role in the fifth race. Owned by Bob Kinsley, the 6-year-old looked every bit the professional in his third hurdle start – reeling in Finally Perked late and having plenty left to win by 2 3/4 lengths over Hooded with Other Cheek third. No Wunder won three races on the flat, including two allowance races at Delaware Park last year, before converting to hurdles this spring. He got too strong at Middleburg and faded to sixth, and was a solid third at the Iroquois.
Doyle was pumped for another try at Fair Hill.
“All I wanted him to do was just settle and enjoy the race at Nashville,” said Doyle. “He did and I got a little bit far out of it maybe. I pulled up and I said, ‘This horse will not get beaten wherever he goes next.’ ”
No Wunder made Doyle look smart, and punched his ticket for a Saratoga allowance or novice stakes.
“I thought he would have taken a lot of beating today,” Doyle said. “I like him. He’s got a lot of class and a lot of speed. He’s a proper Saratoga horse.”
With seven wins over jumps, Doyle is part of a four-way tie for second behind 2016 champion Kieran Norris in the jockeys’ standings. Norris is out for the season with an injury, leaving the championship scrap among (for now) Doyle, Sean McDermott, Ross Geraghty and Darren Nagle with McCarthy one behind that group.
“It was a little slow (early),” Doyle said of his season. “We haven’t had many running, and I was never going racing thinking I was going to have two or three winners. I came here today thinking I’d be disappointed if we didn’t get a couple winners.”
• Mark Beecher continued to stellar spring, training and riding Boogie Biz to win the novice timber for Happenstance Stable and Harry Lebo. The Maryland-bred son of Nobiz Like Shobiz sat in mid-pack before rallying to win by a 1 ¼ lengths over Coastal Moon and Aquies. Favorite Syros wound up fifth.
Boogie Biz won once on the flat before embarking a hurdle career that netted a second in three tries. The 7-year-old made his timber debut at Winterthur, finishing second to Kings Apollo.
For the spring, Beecher produced three wins from 11 starts as a trainer and four wins from 19 starts as a jockey.
NOTES: Young is still at Paoli Hospital in Pennsylvania, recovering from an injury at the Radnor Races May 20. The five-time champion continues to show signs of improvement according to his wife Leslie on Facebook . . . Jump racing heads to Parx July 9 and 11 and then on to Saratoga with racing slated for July 26 and 27, and Aug. 2, 3, 9, 16, 23, 24, 30, 31 . . . The TIHR handicappers found a few winners at Fair Hill, a rare pari-mutuel steeplechase meet. Tom came up with Dark Gemini ($5.20), No Wunder ($5.60) and All The Way Jose ($6.20) while Joe tabbed Party Nights ($9.60) in the opener, plus Dark Gemini and No Wunder. Sean went into the day tied for the lead with Tom, but could only manage a single with Dark Gemini. Tom leads the season series with 30 wins, follwed by Sean with 28 and Joe with 24.
Additional reporting by Joe Clancy.