The 122nd edition of the $100,000 Maryland Hunt Cup has attracted 25 nominees, including the past three winners of the storied timber classic.
The four-mile test in Glyndon on Saturday, April 28, concludes the Maryland timber triple series that encompasses the My Lady’s Manor in Monkton on April 14 and the Grand National at Butler a week later.
Maryland horseman Joseph G. Davies nominated the past two winners, Gerry L. Brewster’s 2017 winner, Derwins Prospector, and 2016 victor Senior Senator, owned by Irvin L. “Skip” Crawford. Both will be making their first starts since the 2017 Hunt Cup.
In 2015, Raven’s Choice finished a close second and was placed first after first finisher Imperial Way lost saddle weights while jumping a fence. Raven’s Choice, owned by Ann Jackson and trained by Todd Wyatt, and Merriefield Farm’s Imperial Way, trained by Elizabeth Voss, both were nominated to this year’s Hunt Cup.
Derwins Prospector prevailed by three-quarters of a length last year in a scintillating stretch battle with Bruton Street (US)’s Drift Society. Trained by Jack Fisher, Drift Society also was nominated to this year’s Hunt Cup. Senior Senator, a favorite to win last year’s Hunt Cup after his brilliant 2016 victory, fell at the third fence.
Irv Naylor’s Ebanour, two-time winner of the Virginia Gold Cup and Pennsylvania Hunt Cup at four miles, has been nominated for a shot at the Maryland Hunt Cup’s big fences. The Irish-bred is trained in Butler by Cyril Murphy.
Richard Valentine, a two-time winning Hunt Cup trainer, nominated Kinross Farm’s Old Timer, who was leading at the top of the stretch but lost his rider at the 21st of 22 fences.
The beginning of the 2018 National Steeplechase Association season is just days away, and preparations are moving ahead for the 52nd edition of the always-sold-out Aiken Spring Steeplechase.
Paul Sauerborn took over as the president of the Aiken Steeplechase before last year’s spring meet, but it was by no means his first time around the course. Nor the second. A native of Aiken, Sauerborn is serving his third term as president of the NSA’s kickoff spring event.
He is a horseman of a casual sort. He rides for pleasure and does not hunt, although his wife, Beth, was involved with hunters and jumpers.
After graduating from the University of South Carolina with a concentration on engineering and business, he returned home to a career as an executive of the Savannah River Site, once the source of America’s enriched plutonium and now a research center focusing on nuclear environmental safety.
The Savannah River Site is deeply involved in the Aiken community, and Sauerborn on his own decided to reconnect with his hometown. “If I was going to reinsert myself into the community, what better way than the Steeplechase,” he said.
Those first steps, of course, placed him in contact with the legendary Ford Conger, who was by no means a casual horseman. But they found plenty of common ground in their first encounters in the mid-1970s. Sauerborn’s first duties with the Steeplechase were logistical, but he also was given the command that rings out from every race committee: “Go find the money.”
Over the years, the Aiken Steeplechase has found the money it needed. “We tried to design our event around our community and community involvement,” Sauerborn said. “We’ve given back more than $1-million to the Aiken community. For a small community, that says a lot.”
Through his three times at the helm, the meet’s revenues have roughly doubled. In addition to Events Coordinator Jessica Miller, the Aiken Steeplechase employs a bookkeeper to keep an eye on all the expenses.
Grady McCollum, an assistant to the late Racing Hall of Fame trainer Michael G. Walsh, died Monday in Raleigh, N.C. He was 85. A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. Saturday at the Pinelawn Memorial Park in Southern Pines, N.C.
Courtney C. Reid, who has become a mainstay of the National Steeplechase Association’s racing program since joining the NSA in November 2015, has been promoted to Manager of Racing Operations, effective immediately.
NSA President Guy J. Torsilieri announced the promotion. “In a short period, Courtney has become a very important asset to the NSA and steeplechasing,” he said. “She is extraordinarily competent, she is a very quick study, and she has brought much-needed technological skills into our racing operation.”
A native of Williamsburg, Va., she holds an undergraduate degree from James Madison University and a master’s degree from Liberty University. She previously worked for the Virginia Racing Commission under longtime racing official Bernard J. Hettel.
During her time at the NSA, she has graduated from the Racing Officials Accreditation Program’s stewards school and become an accredited steward. She also has worked in the racing offices of the New York Racing Association and the Breeders’ Cup.
“I am both flattered and grateful that the NSA Board has acknowledged my efforts with a promotion and a new title,” she said. “I am very grateful for the many opportunities the NSA has provided me in the short time I have been with the association, and I look forward to the future.
“Thoroughbred racing is my passion, and while steeplechasing represents a small segment of the industry, it is steeped in tradition and plays an important role in Thoroughbred history, especially at Saratoga, which is my favorite racetrack.”
Ms. Reid will continue to report to Bill Gallo Jr., the NSA’s director of racing. “Courtney Reid has had a distinct and definitive effect on our racing operations at the NSA,” he said. “In a very short time, she has grasped the scope of the racing program and has streamlined many of our racing functions.
“Her understanding of technology and its benefits when applied to the traditions of racing allows us to move forward with swift precision to better serve our horsemen and the race meets. She is an invaluable asset to me in my role as Director of Racing, and I am delighted that the NSA Board has recognized her many contributions,” he said.
Irv Naylor’s Rawnaq, the 2016 Eclipse Award winner who missed last year’s racing season, has returned to training and heads the first edition of the National Steeplechase Association’s 2018 official ratings.
Inaugurated in 2015, the ratings evaluate every hurdles winner in training and determine eligibility for ratings handicaps. The ratings are prepared by an expert three-member committee comprising Equibase chart caller Martin Chamberlin, Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred Editor Joe Clancy, and Virginia Fall Race Director Will O’Keefe. Their work is overseen by NSA Director of Racing Bill Gallo Jr.
Rawnaq received a 156 rating, 10 points above 2017 Grand National (Gr. 1) winner Mr. Hot Stuff, who is second in the ratings. The Irish-bred suffered an injury last January but now has resumed training with Cyril Murphy at Naylor’s farm in Butler, Md.
He scored a memorable victory over two overseas invaders in the 2016 Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1) at Nashville’s Percy Warner Park and won that year’s edition of the Grand National at the Far Hills Races. He also won Middleburg Spring’s Temple Gwathmey (Gr. 3) before his Iroquois victory.
Gillian Johnston’s Mr. Hot Stuff, a two-time Grade 1 winner who was Grade 1-placed on the flat, earned the NSA’s Lonesome Glory Award as 2017’s leading earner. The veteran, now 12, is trained by Jack Fisher.
The Tiznow gelding was rated one point ahead of Robert Kinsley’s Modem and Buttonwood Farm’s All the Way Jose, who finished second and third, respectively, in the Grand National. Modem was a nose behind Mr. Hot Stuff, and All the Way Jose was a nose farther back.
Also rated at 145 was Naylor’s Sempre Medici, an import who did not see action in 2016. Then trained by Willie Mullins, the French-bred won two Irish hurdles stakes leading up to the 2016 Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham, where he made a mistake at the second-to-last fence and was pulled up.
Bruton Street-US’s Scorpiancer, the National Steeplechase Association’s only two-time graded stakes winner in 2017, was crowned the year’s Eclipse Award winner as champion steeplechase horse at the annual awards dinner at Gulfstream Park in Florida on Thursday.
Irish-bred Scorpiancer won his only two starts of the season, the $200,000 Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1) by 16 lengths after his victory in the Temple Gwathmey (Gr. 3). Trained by Jack Fisher, he prevailed in the Eclipse Award balloting in a highly competitive season in which five horses won the year’s five Grade 1 races.
Accepting the Eclipse trophy were the three friends who make up Bruton Street-US: Mike Hankin, Charlie Fenwick, and Charlie Noell. Accompanying them were Fisher and the two jockeys who have ridden Scorpiancer in his American career, Connor Hankin and Sean McDermott, who was aboard for the two 2017 wins.
“He’s a really good horse. And we’ve been really really lucky to be part of a fun team watching this horse come over from England and run so well here,” Mike Hankin said in accepting the Eclipse for Bruton Street-US.
“It’s a privilege to be here with all of you. Steeplechase racing has long been thought of as a great afterlife for flat horses. It’s gotten pretty exciting. The last year, the biggest purse of the year was $400,000 and is going up to $500,000 in two years. We’re big on our sport, and we appreciate being recognized as part of Thoroughbred flat racing tonight.”
The Irish-bred, who did not race after his Iroquois victory in Nashville on May 13, topped the NSA’s Theoretical Handicap at 158 pounds.
Other finalists for the Eclipse were Gillian Johnston’s Mr. Hot Stuff, winner of the $400,000 Grand National (Gr. 1) at Far Hills, N.J., on Oct. 21, and Buttonwood Farm’s All the Way Jose, who won Belmont Park’s $150,000 Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1) on Sept. 21. They were rated at 148 pounds in the Theoretical Handicap.
Scorpiancer led the Eclipse balloting with 92 votes, followed by All the Way Jose at 70 and Mr. Hot Stuff at 35. Also receiving votes were Robert Kinsley’s Modem (7), Flying Elvis Stable’s Diplomat (4), and Rosbrian Farm’s Swansea Mile (3).
Fisher also trained Mr. Hot Stuff, and All the Way Jose was trained by Racing Hall of Fame member Jonathan Sheppard.