Last spring, I sat down to recap my very first sanctioned win over hurdles, which was done on the huge stage of the Iroquois in Nashville, TN. Last fall I sat down to recap the aftermath of that first win, and to talk about my second win but also a few low points that followed. I told about the struggles of being an amateur/apprentice jockey who was trying to gain experience all while trying not to learn things the hard way at the expense of owners, trainer, horses and fellow riders. Last year was, what I thought, a banner year for myself. I had proved to myself that I had what it took to ride jump races and be competitive. I had won two races and I felt like I belonged. I was proud of myself, but I wasn’t too sure how much more success would come my way. I was content with myself, as I said at the beginning of the year if I did not win a race in 2016 I was not going to continue trying to ride races and would focus on a training career which I hope will be in my future. Never in a million years did I see things going the way they would for me in the spring of 2017, but wow, I am not complaining.
With a new name, a new location, and a new date on the spring calendar, the Tryon Block House Races attracted large fields, including a blockbuster lineup for Saturday’s featured $40,000 Block House Handicap.
The six-race program is a joint production of the Tryon Riding & Hunt Club (TR&HC) and Tryon International Equestrian Center and offers record purses of $175,000.
The 71st edition of the Block House races will be held at the state-of-the-art Tryon International Equestrian Center in western North Carolina, and the meet will occupy the third Saturday in April on the National Steeplechase Association’s spring schedule.
First post time is 1 p.m.
The 2 1/4-mile Block House attracted a top-shelf field that includes a Grade 1 winner, a novice champion, and the top novice earner in 2016. The race also marks the U.S. debut of Simenon, a globe-trotting performer who will be making his first start for owner Rosbrian Farm and trainer Ricky Hendriks.
Throughout his career, which numbers more than 50 starts and $900,000 in earnings, Simenon has mixed jump-racing with flat racing. Among his flat credits are fourth-place finishes in the Melbourne Cup (Aus-Gr. 1) and the Ascot Gold Cup (Eng-Gr. 1).
The long-distance runner settled into jump racing last season and had two victories for top Irish trainer Willie Mullins.
The 10-year-old Marju (Ire) gelding will face plenty of stiff competition for his American debut, in which he carries the 158-pound highweight. The weights are guided by the National Steeplechase Association’s ratings of each horse in competition over hurdles.
Ross Geraghty, who already has two 2017 victories for Hendriks, will ride.
Irv Naylor’s Rawnaq, who battled to victories in 2016’s two richest races, was honored Saturday with the Eclipse Award as the year’s outstanding steeplechase horse.
The award was presented at the Eclipse Awards dinner at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Fla. Also receiving an Eclipse Award for the year’s outstanding photograph was Tod Marks, the National Steeplechase Association’s official photographer.
Rawnaq, an Irish-bred trained by Cyril Murphy, began the year with a dominant victory in the Temple Gwathmey (Gr. 3) at Middleburg Spring. He then turned back formidable overseas competitors to win the $200,000 Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1) in Nashville on May 14.
He returned to competition for the year’s richest race, the $350,000 Grand National (Gr. 1) at Far Hills, N.J., in October. Again facing competition from overseas invaders, Rawnaq dispatched an all-star field and won by a half-length. He concluded the year with as second in the season-ending $150,000 Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup (Gr. 1).
His three wins from four starts produced earnings of $387,000. He previously received the National Steeplechase Association’s Lonesome Glory Champions Award as the year’s leading earner.
It was the second Eclipse Award in a row for Naylor and Murphy. In 2015, owner Naylor’s Dawalan claimed the sport’s most coveted prize. Naylor also won the 2011 Eclipse Award with Black Jack Blues.
Diane Naylor, the owner’s wife, accepted the award with Murphy and his family at her side.
Wow, you Americans are “in a pickle”, no? Who are you going to vote for? I know after all the kafuffle of past elections zat I am not eligible to run in zis race wiz my French birth certificate. I cannot even vote, which is a shame because I zink zat I would be better
The Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup on Nov. 19 brings down the curtain on another exciting year of steeplechase racing, and the 47th running of the historic Camden, S.C., race meet will honor the memory of Austin A. Brown.
Known as one of the Great Gentlemen of Steeplechasing, Mr. Brown died on May 4 in Hilton Head Island, S.C. He was 89.
The South Carolina Legislature has declared Nov. 19 as Austin Brown Day across the state, and the Colonial Cup will honor his many contributions to the race meet, Kershaw County, and steeplechase racing.
The meet’s Springdale Turf Club will be adorned with photographs of Mr. Brown and other Great Gentlemen of Steeplechasing. In conjunction with the Prostate Cancer Foundation, the Carolina Cup Racing Association will help to raise contributions for the foundation on race day and through a pre-race golf outing.
Austin Brown indeed was a Gentleman of Steeplechasing and, without question, a Gentleman of the Turf. In recognition of his lifelong devotion to jump racing, he was honored in 2007 with the F. Ambrose Clark Award, which recognizes those who have done the most to promote, improve, and encourage the growth and welfare of American Steeplechasing.
“He was deeply involved in many aspects of our sport for well more than a half-century, and he led with grace and charm,” National Steeplechase Association President Guy J. Torsilieri said at the time of his death.