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As Irv Naylor’s Rawnaq headed back to the barn after his stirring Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1) victory on May 14, one question was left unanswered. Will he or won’t he?
The subject of the question was the Brown Advisory Cheltenham-Iroquois Challenge, a $500,000 prize to any horse able to win the Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1) and the Cheltenham Festival’s Ryanair World Hurdle (Gr. 1) in a 12-month period.
Trainer Cyril Murphy, who had watched the epic battle on the Iroquois Steeplechase’s giant matrix board, accurately pointed out that the three-mile World Hurdle was 10 months distant, and a lot can happen in that time. How well he knew. Naylor’s 2015 Eclipse Award champion, Dawalan, went to the sidelines for the year after an early-spring injury.
Naylor, who shattered his own earnings record last year, offered a subtle and definitive answer to the big question on that shining afternoon in Nashville. With wife Diane beside him, Naylor said: “I think this horse will represent the United States well in England next year.”
After two months and 18 race meets, the National Steeplechase Association spring season came to a rousing close with the traditional finale, the Fair Hill Races in Maryland on Memorial Day weekend. The 7-race card was run under hot, summer-like conditions, making it the perfect setup for Saratoga, which will showcase a dozen jump races, beginning July 27. Other steeplechase races are scheduled for Monmouth Park, Suffolk Downs, and Parx, beginning June 17. Tod Marks has the photo recap from Fair Hill, where Amy Taylor Rowe's Maserati captured the featured $45,000 Valentine Memorial allowance hurdle. For prints and other usage inquiries, visit www.todmarks.photoshelter.com. - tm
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