Radnor steeplechase picks and preview

- -
Snap Decision (right) and Vae Patron jump
the last fence in the Iroquois. Tod Marks photo

And then there was one. The spring National Steeplechase Association season sets the parking brake Saturday with the Radnor Hunt Races in Malvern, Pa. The suburban Philadelphia meet always draws a crowd – pack the tailgate – and benefits the land preservation efforts of the Brandywine Conservancy.

The racing offers one last chance to win a race before the racing shifts to Saratoga and Colonial Downs for the summer.

There’s no sense progressing too far down that path without looking at last week, where the stars went to Nashville for the Iroquois Steeplechase. Snap Decision joined 1980s hero Uncle Edwin on the list of three-time winners of the Iroquois itself, a race dating to 1941 and now worth $200,000 as the most important spring hurdle stakes. The 10-year-old stalked newcomer Vae Patron throughout, went after the leader on the final run up the backstretch, took over with a big leap at the second-last and then had to dig in again as Vae Patron rallied after the last. The final margin was a neck. The first four – Snap Decision, Vae Patron, Zabeel Champion and Sebastopol – ran huge races and were within 2 3/4 lenghts of each other after 3 miles and 16 fences. Snap Decision gets the summer off with two stakes wins and $165,000 in the bank for Bruton Street US, Jack Fisher and Graham Watters. Others can head to Saratoga for the newest Grade 1, the $150,000 Beverly Steinman, as part of the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival June 9.

Local owners Leipers Fork Steeplechasers enjoyed a banner Iroquois with maiden wins by Irish imports Old Tom Morris and Ready To Wear, plus four seconds, all trained by Leslie Young. Abaan continued his climb through the novice ranks with a win over High Definition and Total Joy in the $75,000 Green Pastures. The Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Daigneault Thoroughbreds runner could step up to open company next, though he retains the novice condition if trainer Kate Dalton wants it. Ziggle Pops thrived at the expanded 2 3/4-mile distance in the 120 hurdle handicap, winning by 10 1/2 for Bruton Street, Fisher and Watters. The English-bred has won three of six over jumps, after making his debut in 2021. Right Tempo landed the filly/mare hurdle stakes in a romp for Young and owners Potter Group and Ashwell Stable. Hard Strike, a yearling purchase by Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Kenny McPeek, won his third timber start of 2023 in the finale at the Iroquois.

Up the road at Willowdale in Pennsylvania Saturday, Armata Stable’s Our Friend added the Buttonwood/Sycamore Farm timber stakes for trainer Joe Davies and jockey Teddy Davies. Proven Innocent got back to winning in the apprentice-rider hurdle for Whitney Schweitzer’s first win as a jockey. The son of Blame won a novice stakes in 2022 and has won four of 12 starts over jumps. I Am Fortunata, Codigo, Jimmy Dan, Court Ruler and Hero’s Return also picked up Willowdale wins.

The TIHR handicappers found some winners. Sean led the way with seven last week (Abaan, Snap Decision, Right Tempo, Hard Strike, Proven Innocent, Jimmy Dan and Court Rulter). Joe came up with six (Old Tom Morris, Abaan, Snap Decision, Hard Strike, Jimmy Dan, Hero’s Return). Tom had four (Jimmy Dan, Right Tempo, Abaan and Snap Decision). The spring race ends Saturday, with Joe (32 wins) leading Sean (29) and Tom (13) from 78 races.

And now we can get to Radnor. Post time is 1:30 p.m. You can watch the livestream on the NSA website.

First race. $30,000 maiden hurdle going 2 1/8 miles. Nine contest the opener. Travesuras keeps getting close. His owner Irv Naylor is on the verge of passing Augustin Stable as the sport’s career earnings leader among owners. Maybe today’s the day. Young enters Sir John Monash, who makes his U.S. debut, and Yup Ya Boy Ya, fourth at Great Meadow. Carloun was going OK when he lost his jockey at the last fence at Great Meadow.

  • Joe: Carloun, Travesuras, Yup Ya Boy Ya.
  • Tom: Yup Ya Boy Ya, Mischief Afoot, On The Couch.
  • Sean: Yup Ya Boy Ya, Northern Rye, Carloun.

Second race. $30,000 maiden hurdle, 2 1/8 miles. Eight more. Blue Nile, Nobel Speaker and Royne – second, third and fourth – come out of the same race at Great Meadow. Blue Nile was second, 34 lengths ahead of Nobel Speaker, who was 10 clear of Royne.

  • Joe: Nobel Speaker, Blue Nile, Royne.
  • Tom: Nobel Speaker, Blue Nile, L’Avvocato.
  • Sean: Blue Nile, Nobel Speaker, Honeymooner.

Third race. $25,000 allowance timber (non-winners of a stakes this year), going 3 1/4 miles. Theda’s Boy and Court Ruler come off wins, Mr. Fine Threads comes off a fall at the Maryland Hunt Cup, Mystic Strike makes his 15-year-old debut after winning the Virginia Gold Cup at 14. Elusive Exclusive won this race last year.

  • Joe: Mystic Strike, Mr. Fine Threads, Court Ruler.
  • Tom: Court Ruler, Mystic Strike, Elusive Exclusive.
  • Sean: Court Ruler, Mystic Strike, Theda’s Boy.

Fourth race. $35,000 allowance hurdle (non-winners of a race other-than) going 2 1/8 miles. Tease And Seize comes in off two strong efforts this spring, and adds Lasix. Foxy Walk was third in an allowance at Great Meadow. Lightning Ridge won twice last year, but has found it more difficult this year. He was too free early last time at Great Meadow. Kelmscott, Tufton Avenu and I Am Fortunata come off maiden wins. Frontline Citizen’s form will hold up here. Rocket One won twice last year and chased Go Poke The Bear home at Tryon in April.

  • Joe: Tease And Seize, Rocket One, Frontline Citizen.
  • Tom: Rocket One, Tease And Seize, Tufton Avenue.
  • Sean; Rocket One, Tease And Seize, Foxy Walk.

Fifth race. $15,000 maiden starter/optional claiming going 2 1/8 miles. The last two races go maiden with an optional claiming. Eight go here, one in for a $15,000 tag. Fox In The Park, Exuma and Giantsbane come off seconds. Westerland was third, in yet another decent effort, at Willowdale and is winless in 17 starts over jumps. Exuma was second at Great Meadow.

  • Joe: Exuma, Fox In the Park, Giantsbane.
  • Tom: Exuma, World Factor, Fox In The Park.
  • Sean: Exuma, Giantsbane, Fox In The Park.

Sixth race. $15,000 maiden starter/optional claiming going 2 1/8 miles. Three try the $15,000 tag this time in a field of eight. Boffo Kid was good at Middleburg, terrible at Great Meadow. Greylover (0-for-10 with three seconds and four thirds) tries again. Penicillin Success got off the bench to finish third at Great Meadow.

  • Joe: Penicillin Success, Boffo Kid, Greylover.
  • Tom: Department Of War, Penicillin Success, Greylover.
  • Sean: Department Of War, Penicillin Success, Greylover.