During a short stay in Saratoga last summer, jump jockey Jack Doyle got to know Bob Le Beau – partnering the horse in two novice hurdle stakes and riding him in the mornings – then went home to Ireland. Doyle returned this spring and reunited with Bob Le Beau again at the Maryland farm of trainer Elizabeth Voss.
“Is this even the same horse?” Doyle said the first day he rode the 8-year-old. Bob Le Beau moved better, looked better, acted way better.
“They told me he had something wrong with his back last year and Elizabeth could just never get him right,” Doyle said. “I got back this year and he’s a completely different animal. Elizabeth’s just done a really good job with him. Last year, he’d cower in the back of the box, you couldn’t even say hello to him. Now he’ll stand there with his head out. We’ve been putting draw reins on him every day (to gallop) and he just thriving, just thriving.”
That was evident again Thursday at Belmont Park as Bob Le Beau rallied to pass six horses in the final half-mile and win the Grade 1 Lonesome Glory by a half-length. Bred in Ireland by Anamoine Ltd., Bob Le Beau took control of the steeplechase championship race with his third stakes win (and second Grade 1) this year for The Fields Stable. Hinterland rallied late for second in the 2 1/2-mile Lonesome Glory, with Dawalan third in 4:41.27.
Doyle parked the son of Big Bad Bob seventh in the eight-horse field as Syros blasted off from the start to find an uncontested lead. In what looked like a mild pace, Alajmal checked in just behind the front-runner, followed by Dawalan, Charminster, Diplomat, All Together. Hinterland dropped back to last early. By the third fence, Diplomat advanced to third while in the clear. Dawalan and Charminster galloped together in the next flight. With a mile go to, Bob Le Beau still had just one horse beaten while tucked away on the inside.
“Getting him to settle is the biggest thing, and switch off, and conserve his energy,” said Doyle. “He has so much speed off the flat that all you need is half a gap and he’ll be gone.”
Under the new course configuration mandated by the New York Gaming Commission’s equine medical director Dr. Scott Palmer, the field jumped the last fence on Belmont’s sprawling backside and raced for a half-mile to the finish. Syros led over the last, but was joined by Diplomat and Aljamal. They sped three abreast into the final turn, stalked by Charminster and All Together. Doyle kept Bob Le Beau on heels, and ready. Alajmal cracked first, backing out of the duel up front just when the pace quickened. Syros and Diplomat kicked away briefly, but were soon attacked by the winner – who came out from behind horses at the eighth pole – and everyone else. The early leaders wound up in the back as Hinterland rallied last of all after getting impeded slightly by Charminster in deep stretch.
Doyle knew his horse could quicken, so wasn’t worried about the long flat run, but did wonder if he’d found the front too soon.
“It’s definitely different,” Doyle said of the course set-up. “It played to my strengths, but if you’re on a real good jumper the likes of Syros it probably hindered him. My fellow pulled himself up when he got to the front. I got there with loads of horse. I don’t think the two jumps would have affected him. I still think he would have won.”
Bob Le Beau improved to 3-for-4 over jumps this year with wins in the Grade 3 National Hunt Cup at Radnor in May and the Grade 1 New York Turf Writers Cup at Saratoga in late August. The only defeat came in Saratoga’s A.P. Smithwick. With $216,250 earned over jumps this year, he leads all steeplechasers in earnings. Despite being owned by local residents the Merck family, Bob Le Beau will likely pass on the $300,000 Grand National at Far Hills, N.J. Oct. 19 (he’s at his best on firm ground so it’s all weather dependent) in favor of a start in the Colonial Cup on the season’s final day in November.
Doyle has plenty of confidence in the horse, who carried 154 pounds Thursday and gave away up to 14 to his rivals while picking up 14 from the Turf Writers win.
“I think he’s a very good horse,” he said. “I think he never got the ground he wanted at home (in Ireland). He loves (firm) ground. You could run him down the motorway outside and he’d love it. They never get it like that at home. It’s always watered. They wouldn’t race on it.”
Bob Le Beau again raced in a hood (like blinkers, only with socks over his ears and no cups blocking his vision), and Doyle swears it’s made a difference.
“It just settles him, and I think he’s only going to get better from here,” he said. “He had to carry top weight today and he’s probably going to get more weight wherever he runs. I’m not too worried about it. He’s used to carrying that much weight from being in Ireland, it’s only 11 stone. It’s just having that much of a difference from other horses. It was a little bit much to put him up for one win, but obviously not if he can go and do that.”
In Thursday’s opener, leading NSA trainer Jack Fisher won the 17th jump race of his season (nine more than his nearest rivals) and swept the top three placings as Overwhelming, Broxbourne and Schoodic landed the trifecta in the $75,000 William Entenmann Memorial. The novice hurdle stakes drew 10 runners, including four from Fisher’s Maryland barn (the first three home plus Choral Society).
Owned by Woodslane Farm, Overwhelming let Broxbourne set the early pace while drafting into third. The 5-year-old son of Hard Spun made a play for the lead at the top of the stretch and prevailed by 2 1/2 lengths for jockey Sean McDermott as no one closed. Broxbourne stayed for second in his first start since May and Schoodic was third. Choral Society was pulled up by Doyle after a jumping mistake on the final run up the backside.
Overwhelming raced on the flat for his breeder Phipps Stable and trainer Shug McGaughey before joining Fisher’s barn as a steeplechaser at the end of the 2013 season. Six starts into his rookie season in 2014, he broke his jump maiden at the Colonial Cup in November. This year, he finished second in a ratings handicap at Atlanta and won one of two allowance starts at Saratoga.
Saturday Catch Up
Saturday at Shawan Downs, Maggie Bryant’s Lea Von won the featured open timber for trainer Doug Fout and jockey Kieran Norris – scoring over seven others including heavy favorite Grinding Speed who finished fourth behind the winner, Peace Fire and Certain Swagger.
Other winners at Shawan were Bruton Street-US runner Scorpiancer (Connor Hankin) for Fisher in the ratings handicap hurdle, owner/trainer Leslie Young’s first-timer Comanchero (Paddy Young) in the maiden hurdle, Susan Granville’s Buckrail (Ross Geraghty) for Kevin Boniface in the 3-year-old maiden hurdle and Waterbaby Stable’s Class Indian (Gus Dahl) in the maiden timber for Ted Thompson. Elizabeth Voss stablemates Paris Vegas (Jack Doyle) and Atherton (Dahl) won training flat races for Merriebelle Stable and Trillium Stable, respectively.