Two’s Company wins Shawan feature

- -

Sean McDermott had a choice for the timber feature at Shawan Downs Sept. 24. Jack Fisher aimed three horses at the $25,000 fall opener and gave the Irish-born jockey his choice between Two’s Company, Straight To It and Ballylifen.

With wins aboard Two’s Company and Straight To It, McDermott went with youth, siding with the 7-year-old Two’s Company as Paddy Young picked up the ride on 10-year-old Straight To It and Alice Mills took the first-time perch on 9-year-old Ballylifen.

McDermott chose correctly as the Irish-bred son of Soviet Star rallied in the final strides to nail Zanclus by a head in the $25,000 open timber. Owned by Bruton Street-US, Two’s Company earned his fourth career timber win since making his debut at My Lady’s Manor last spring.

The choice was McDermott’s for a change as Connor Hankin, son of Mike Hankin who co-owns the trio, enlisted in the Marines this summer.

“I don’t know how long it takes for him to get the news, but I’m sure he’ll be happy to hear he won,” McDermott said.

As for the choice, it was fairly easy at Shawan but will get tougher down the road.

“There’s not a lot between him and Straight To It. I felt like Two’s Company in the first run every term has a fitness advantage even though they do the same work at home,” McDermott said. “Straight To It will be on the level playing field next time. I had my choice this time, the next time will be more tricky. Ballylifen is good, too.”

Riding Two’s Company for the third time in a race, McDermott settled him inside in sixth as Super Saturday and Puller led early, Zanclus stalked in third, timber champion Grinding Speed found a sweet spot in fourth and Ballylifen sat in fifth. Straight To It followed closely behind his stablemates.

Going down the backside the final time, Zanclus picked it up as Grinding Speed and the Fisher brigade stalked. Turning for home and over the final two fences, Zanclus drifted toward the center panels and McDermott stayed inside. Coming to the last fence in the 3-mile feature, McDermott had another choice.

“Turning in, I thought I would get there easy enough, it’s a short run in,” McDermott said. “When I seen the way the timber fence was down, I was down the inside and it was in my mind that I need to get upsides but if I sit and wait and I’m quick, I might have the turn of foot to nab him. I half left up to him, he half jumped the smaller side and was a little slow away from it but he’s got a huge heart and wants to win, he dug it out.”

– Doug Fout continued his torrid spree, knocking out two wins at Shawan. By the end of the weekend, the Virginia trainer had crept into third behind Fisher and Cyril Murphy in the trainers’ standings.

Easy Exit provided the first win, wiring a full field of maidens under Brendan Crowley. Owned by Clorevia Farm, the 4-year-old Virginia-bred son of Mineshaft disappointed in his first two starts over hurdles – finishing fifth at Virginia Gold Cup and sixth at Parx. Fout added blinkers and Easy Exit added his hurdle diploma.

“With the two false starts, he got a little wound up down there. I wanted him close, but I didn’t plan on him being on the front end but it worked out that way, he never looked back. The blinkers made a huge difference,” Fout said. “I knew he was fit. He won his flat race and his point-to-point but then he was disappointing. He’s not a stake horse but he’ll win again.”

Later in the day, Fout sent out Adios Diablo to secure the maiden hurdle for Magalen Bryant. A West Virginia homebred, the son of Devil His Due was due after earning checks in nine of 10 timber tries over three seasons. Kieran Norris guided the 7-year-old who handled Rodriguez and Surf Classic.

“Finally,” Fout said. “He might have lost his best friend; I’m not sure what’s going to happen now but it was good for Maggie and good for him. It’s about time, he’s always there, he just never got the job done. The thing about the whole family, they just don’t have a huge burst of speed, but they’re good jumpers, he never touched a fence, he didn’t have a mark on his timber shins.”

– Fisher doubled on the day, sending out Time Out to wire nine rivals in the ratings hurdle. British import Alice Mills rode assertively, kicking clear by 25 lengths early in the 2-mile race, finding a breather along the backside the final time and kicking clear again to score by 3 3/4 lengths. Carolina Cup winner Balance The Budget, giving 20 pounds to the winner, chased in vain to be second while All For Us wound up third.

Fisher shipped Time Out to Kentucky Downs to finish third in a $133,000 maiden 13 days before his win at Shawan. A $420,000 yearling purchase, Time Out picked up his second hurdle win for Fisher and Dash Stable.

– McDermott doubled on the day, securing the opener aboard Officer’s Oath for Bruce and Edie Smart and trainer Jimmy Day. Bred in Virginia by Day’s Daybreak Stables, the son of Luftikus jumped accurately and won easily in his hurdle debut. In a five-way battle of neophyte jumpers, Officer’s Oath scored by a comfortable 2 lengths over Popcastle and Awesome Adrian.

Officer’s Oath broke his maiden as a 2-year-old, taking a 7-furlong restricted maiden at Charles Town for Ollie Figgins III. The bay gelding came back to win an allowance at Charles Town this summer.

“I rode him at Great Meadow in the spring and the first thing I said was how does he jump a hurdle?” McDermott said. “He’s such a balanced little horse, I thought he would make a nice 3-year-old hurdler. Jimmy rang me the following week and said he jumps great. He had him tuned for the day.”

– Shrugging off two hurdle races in seven days at Saratoga, Castle Hill easily took the first division of the maiden, settling in midpack before cruising to a 3 3/4-length win over Meteoroid and Atherton. Gerard Galligan guided the 4-year-old son of Munnings for Bill Pape and Jonathan Sheppard.

Castle Hill won the clash of experienced maidens, the first three home earned checks in 13 of their 15 career starts over hurdles.