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 12 and one also-eligible. 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, who is the Coggins’ also-eligible. If she draws into the race, the seven-year-old mare would 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.
Jack Doyle, who currently leads the jockey standings by wins and purses, 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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Stars of tomorrow shine today at Iroquois
Of course, anything can happen, but based on their performance at the Iroquois Races in Nashville on May 12, the sport has a couple of electrifying up-and-comers in Zanjabeel and Iranistan. The former, a 5-year-old acquired from top European trainer Gordon Elliott by Rosbrian Farm and Ben and Wendy Griswold, won his first two US starts last fall, both stakes, then finished a solid second in the Colonial Cup and Temple Gwathmey this season. In Nashville, Zanjabeel busted out with a monster 5-length win for trainer Ricky Hendriks and jockey Ross Geraghty in the $200,000 Iroquois, besting the the top three finishers in the 2017 Grand National at Far Hills. Meanwhile, Ed Swyer's Iranistan, 4, the horse nobody wanted, made it 3 for 3 in his jumping career with another powerhouse score in the $100,000 Marcellus Frost Champion Hurdle novice stakes for leading trainer Jonathan Sheppard and jockey Darren Nagle. Maggie Bryant's Plated also came up big, taking his first stakes, in the $50,000 Mason Houghland over timber for Jimmy Day and leading rider Jack Doyle, while The Fields Stable's Sarah Joyce made it two Margaret Currey Henley filly & mare stakes in a row for Doyle and trainer Elizabeth Voss. Tod Marks has the full recap.