Steeplechase owner Irv Naylor staked his claim to a fourth consecutive steeplechase owners’ championship with five wins at two meets Saturday. The streak included stakes wins by Decoy Daddy in Virginia and Alfa Beat in Maryland to launch Naylor to the top of the standings.
Start with the latter. Irish-bred Alfa Beat, a competitor in the English Grand National at Aintree last year, broke his timber maiden in the $30,000 Grand National timber stakes for trainer Billy Meister. Winless in three timber tries last year, the 9-year-old opened 2013 with a third at My Lady’s Manor and used that as a springboard to an even better effort vs. stakes horses Saturday in Butler, Md. Alfa Beat (James Slater) outran Garryowen Star (Marin Rohan) over the final three fences to post the win with Battle Op (Connor Hankin) third. The race is normally a key final prep for the Maryland Hunt Cup next week, but neither of the top two have tried the big timber up the road at Glyndon. Battle Op is always a player in the Hunt Cup, and could be again. Last year’s Hunt Cup winner Twill Do was a well-beaten seventh in the Grand National.
Also at Butler, Merriefield Farm’s Foyle wound up with the $15,000 allowance timber – via the disqualification of Guts For Garters and Spencer Road. The first two finishers went off course, going to the wrong side of a beacon between the third-last and second-last fences. Foyle maintained the proper course, losing ground to the other two, and crossed the line third for trainer Bruce Fenwick and jockey James Slater. Voler Bar Nuit (Rohan) wound up second with Catch The Echo (Jeb Hannum) third. In the finale, Frank Bonsal’s Terko Service (Nick Carter) won the $7,500 restricted allowance timber for trainer Ann Stewart, turning back Idol Maker and Crossing Again.
At Middleburg, veteran Decoy Daddy recorded his second Temple Gwathmey victory in three years for Naylor and trainer Brianne Slater. The 11-year-old won the Gwathmey in 2011 and repeated with a score in the $50,000 stakes over Country Cousin and Gustavian for apprentice jockey Carol Ann Sloan.
Naylor and Slater (wife of James) also won with Charminster (optional claimer) and Sacred Soul (maiden hurdle) at Middleburg. Other winners on the Virginia card were Hot Rize in the open timber, Critical Point in a maiden hurdle, Absolum in the maiden claimer. Naylor and Meister won the Alfred Hunt Steeplechase with Saluda Sam and Kasari closed the day with a training flat win for Peggy Steinman and trainer Doug Fout.