A year ago, For Goodness Sake won the emotion-laden Iris Ann Coggins Memorial Stakes with injured jockey Paddy Young listed as his trainer.
The Irish-bred mare returns on Saturday as a favorite to score a repeat victory in the $50,000 Iris Ann Coggins Memorial, the featured hurdle race on a jam-packed, nine-race program for the 49th edition of the Fair Hill Races.
Always a popular Memorial Day Weekend attraction in northern Maryland, the Fair Hill Races will have full fields across the board, with pari-mutuel wagering under the supervision of the Maryland Racing Commission on all races. First post time is 1 p.m.
The 2 1/4-mile Coggins Memorial drew a full field of 11 after scratches. The program also will feature a highly competitive edition of the $40,000 Valentine Memorial ratings handicap and two divisions of a Sport of Kings maiden hurdle, each carrying $30,000 purses. In all, Fair Hill purses total $210,000.
Young, now the owner of For Goodness Sake, was seriously injured in a fall at the Radnor Hunt Races a week before last year’s Fair Hill Races, and the five-time champion jockey lay in a hospital with a life-threatening head injury.
In the ensuing year, he has made significant progress in his recovery, and he attended this year’s Radnor event with his wife, Leslie, also a trainer.
For the Coggins Memorial, For Goodness Sake will be ridden by Willie McCarthy, who was in the irons for last year’s 2 3/4-length victory.
The six-year-old Yeats mare enters the Coggins Memorial with strong credentials. In her first start this year, she finished a good third, beaten only a length, in the Margaret Currey Henley Stakes at the Iroquois Steeplechase on May 12.
Young also is the owner-trainer of French-bred Sbarazzina, a seven-year-old mare who will be making her first U.S. after three career starts in England in 2016.
Trainer Richard Valentine will saddle Check Mark Stables’ Willow U, a seasoned competitor who defeated males in a Virginia Gold Cup allowance hurdle on May 5. Shane Crimin will ride.
Racing Hall of Fame member Jonathan Sheppard, currently leading the trainer standings by wins, will send out his Pram and Riverdee Stable’s Wigwam Baby. Pram won the Life’s Illusion Stakes at the Carolina Cup on March 31 and was fifth in the Henley. Darren Nagle, the 2017 champion jockey by wins, has the mount.
Sean McDermott was named aboard Wigwam Baby, who fell in the Henley.
Ricky Hendriks, who leads the trainer standings by purse earnings, will saddle Eve Ledyard’s Quarla and Rosbrian Farm’s Tay Lane. Michael Mitchell rides Quarla, a maiden winner at the Foxfield Spring Races on April 28, and Ross Geraghty will be aboard Tay Lane, a maiden winner in Ireland last year.
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Top Man Michael, Surprising Soul score at soggy Radnor
You know you're in trouble when even the tow trucks get stuck in the mud. On a super-soaker of a Saturday, the jumpers made the traditional Preakness Day stop in Malvern, Pa., for the Radnor Hunt Races. Though the course was mucky, the horses all came home safely. And in the featured $50,000 National Hunt Cup over hurdles, Wendy Hendriks' Surprising Soul, a novice standout last year looking to make a splash in open company, romped by nearly 11 lengths for trainer Ricky Hendriks and jockey Ross Geraghty, each of whom who had two victories on the card. In the co-featured National Hunt Cup timber stakes, it was sweet revenge, of sorts, for Irv Naylor, who finished first in last year's running with Ebanour, only to be disqualified, with Upland Partners' Mystic Strike being awarded the win. This time around, Naylor's Top Man Michael, with Darren Nagle up for trainer Cyril Murphy, defeated Mystic Strike fair and square. Photographer Tod Marks has the recap.