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In a year of records, leading owner Irv Naylor has set a remarkable record. He has established a mark for owner purse earnings—in the middle of October and five weeks before the conclusion of the 2016 National Steeplechase Association season.
Naylor broke the mark that he set last year, $778,650, and he left that milepost in the dust at the Far Hills Races on Oct. 15. When the sun went down on a picture-perfect day in central New Jersey, Naylor’s 2016 purses totaled $841,800.
Last year, the Maryland-based owner won three races at Far Hills, including the $300,000 Grand National (Gr. 1) with eventual Eclipse Award champion Dawalan. This year, he needed only the one victory—in the Grand National, worth $350,000—to go over the top.
Rawnaq, undefeated this year, won America’s richest steeplechase race by three-quarters of a length. Naylor also had a second in the Peapack Stakes with One Lucky Lady and a third in the Harry E. Harris maiden hurdle with Hooded. In all, Naylor’s Far Hills purses totaled $227,000.
The 2016 annual mark, which was the third earnings record that Naylor has set since he ventured wholeheartedly into hurdle racing less than a decade ago, followed a record spring meet in which his horses earned in excess of a half-million dollars. Highlighting the spring season was Rawnaq’s victory in the $200,000 Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr.) at Nashville on May 14.
Rawnaq started the year with a dominant victory in Middleburg Spring’s Temple Gwathmey (Gr. 1). His $360,000 in 2016 earnings all but assures him the Lonesome Glory Champions Award as the NSA’s leading earner, and he also will be the favorite in the balloting for this year’s Eclipse Award after his two courageous Grade 1 victories.
Rawnaq’s trainer, Cyril Murphy, also had an excellent afternoon at Far Hills and has almost $700,000 in purse earnings. But Naylor’s principal trainer is more than $200,000 behind Jack Fisher, who is on track for his second consecutive year with earnings exceeding $1-million.
Through the Far Hills meet, Fisher’s 2016 earnings totaled $923,260. He trained the first two finishers in the Foxbrook Champion Hurdle, Special Skills and Ice It, respectively. He also trained Bruton Street-US’s Scorpiancer to a game second-place finish in the Grand National.
On as spectacular a weather day as you'll ever find anywhere, Irv Naylor's Rawnaq demonstrated the quickess of a lightweight and the punch of a heavyweight, reaffirming his status as America's top steeplechaser. Racing on or near the lead for the entire 2 5/8 miles of the $350,000 Grand National, the 9-year-old, ridden by Irish legend Ruby Walsh and trained by Cyril Murphy, battled European challengers Sharp Rise and Days of Heaven, then held off a serious threat from Bruton Street-US' Scorpiancer -- arguably the sport's second-best runner -- to capture the biggest prize on the NSA circuit. The win was Rawnaq's third in three 2016 outings (earlier he won the Grade 1 Iroquois as well as the Temple Gwathmey) , and all but assuredly locks up the Eclipse Award. The rest of the $700,000 card was also first rate, with Get Ready Set Goes, Yellow Mountain, Perfect Union, Le Chevalier, Officer's Oath, and Special Skills also victorious on the stakes-studded card. Photographer Tod Marks (www.todmarks.photoshelter.com) has the recap - tm
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