Vintage Vinnie prevails at the Manor

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The more things change, the more they stay the same. The My Lady’s Manor Races returned Saturday after missing 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic. The cancelation was the first since World War II, but did little to dampen enthusiasm.

Racegoers missed the bluegrass band and the pit beef sandwiches, but that might have been it as four races filled the program on a day of renewal in Monkton, Md.

The 110th Manor went to Vintage Vinnie in an upset as favorites Mystic Strike and Schoodic slipped and fell in separate incidents. Mystic Strike, who won the 2019 Manor and closed last year with a score in the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup, lost his footing and fell while navigating the uphill turn after the eighth fence. Vintage Vinnie (Chris Gracie) led from the start and was still in front as the pace quickened – and the closers cut into the advantage – on the downhill run into the final turn. He led over the 14th, but had company from an accelerating Schoodic who went from looking like a winner to skidding on his side when he too slipped down. Vintage Vinnie jumped the final two fences in the stretch and won by 5 1/4 lengths with Preseli Rock second and Drift Society third.

Both horses and jockeys Gerard Galligan (Mystic Strike) and Hadden Frost were up quickly, as Vintage Vinnie gave owner Armata Stable and trainer Joe Davies their first wins in the historic timber stakes. Sort of. Armata partner Ben Griswold IV won the race as a jockey twice, in 1957 aboard Doll Ram and in 1968 with Malakasia. Davies rode three Manor winners – in 1996, 1997 and 1999.

Griswold, who co-owns the horse with longtime friend Perry Bolton, talked his charge through the final stages.

“OK Vinnie, you jumped that well, two more to go,” the owner said from a spot along the snow fence at the top of the stretch. “Keep it going, one more. Attaboy, Vinnie.”

Bred in Ireland, Vintage Vinnie arrived in the United States with three wins over chase fences and a seventh (of 29) over the brush course at Aintree in the 2017 Topham Chase. The son of Vinnie Roe’s American starts typically start with him building long early leads and trying to hang on late. He was second in a maiden over the Manor course in 2018, second in allowance company at the Grand National in 2019 and ran away with an apprentice-rider timber at Great Meadow last fall. He led early again Saturday, but saved enough for the finish – especially after Schoodic went down.

• Kiplin Hall’s Renegade River (Eddie Keating) prevailed in the first maiden timber, scoring by 4 1/2 lengths over Our Legend with Great Road third. Trained by Willie Dowling, the winner tasted victory – in the 26th start of his career – after placing in three previous timber tries including a second at the Manor in 2019. Helen Pitts trained the Louisiana-bred son of Bellamy Road on the flat.

• Timber newcomer Road To Oz made it look easy in the third – rallying through the stretch under Graham Watters to win by 5 1/4 lengths over Midnight Shot with Sideling Hill third. Bred in Maryland, the winner raced on the flat for his breeder Larry Johnson and trainer Mike Trombetta (winning once at Laurel in May 2019) before getting claimed by Kieron Magee for $16,000. Dropped in for $5,000 at Laurel five months later, Road To Oz was claimed by jump trainer Mark Beecher. Now owned by Holwood Stable, the 6-year-old made two hurdle starts last year and has found a home over timber.

• Another former Trombetta runner, Super Saturday, won his first race since 2018 when he dug in late to capture the apprentice-jockey timber to close the card. The victory halted a 16-race losing streak – which included placings in nine stakes – and delighted jockey Skylar McKenna.

“Coming to the last I told him, ‘Buddy, you’ve jumped enough timber fences to do this, just jump it the way you can and you can win,’ ” McKenna said of a battle with Flash Jackson, Goodoldtimes and Cheers To Us. Super Saturday gave McKenna the jump she wanted and saw out a 1 3/4-length win over Flash Jackson with Goodoldtimes third.

Trained by McKenna’s mother Kathy Neilson, Super Saturday was making the 56th start of his career – including a Saratoga flat debut in 2011. Purchased by Neilson for Irv Naylor in 2012, the son of Any Given Saturday lost seven hurdle starts and switched to timber in 2014. Saturday marked his 40th start over timber, and his fourth win to go along with 16 placings. The 12-year-old gelding’s siblings include graded stakes winner (and now sire) Despite The Odds and the Grade 1-placed Chopinina.

The TIHR handicappers chased the favorites in the first, and were not rewarded; but Sean and Joe did come up with Road To Oz to take a slim lead on Tom after the year’s opening card. 

You can watch the Jump Racing USA recap show Monday at 7 p.m. online.

NSA Results.

Tod Marks Photos.