Irvin L. “Skip” Crawford’s Senior Senator will face a crowded lineup of opponents on Saturday as he attempts to win the $50,000 Grand National for a third straight year and retire the historic race’s Challenge Cup. The 117th running of the 3¼-mile Grand National will launch the three-race program in Butler, Md., with a 3:15
Upland Partners’ Mystic Strike took advantage of a mistake by reigning timber champion Doc Cebu, struck to the front at the final fence of the $50,000 My Lady’s Manor, and held safe a hard-charging Witor to win Saturday’s 109th running of the Maryland timber classic.
Bruton Street-US’s Lemony Bay, owned by the three partners who race Doc Cebu, finished third on a sunny, pleasantly warm afternoon in Monkton in the heart of Maryland’s horse country.
The three-mile My Lady’s Manor is the first jewel of the Maryland Timber Triple Crown, followed by the Grand National next Saturday in Butler and the Maryland Hunt Cup on Saturday, April 27, in Glyndon.
As expected, Armata Stables’ Grand Manan went right to the lead at the start, with Doc Cebu tracking his pace through the first 1 1/2 miles. When Grand Manan began to falter, Doc Cebu went to the lead under Hadden Frost and jumped well through the middle portion of the race.
Leading amateur jockey Mark Beecher placed Mystic Strike close behind the leaders in the early going and kept to the inside to provide his 10-year-old mount with the shortest path around the Monkton course.
Approaching the final fences, Mystic Strike was well inside as Doc Cebu led the way ahead of Witor and Lemony Bay toward the outside of the spacious course. Beecher gave his mount a brief break and sacrificed some headway approaching the last two fences.
Doc Cebu, switched toward the inside, took out the top rail of the next-to-last fence and tossed Frost over his shoulder as he stumbled on landing. Doc Cebu hardly missed a stride and ran with the field to the next fence.
With Doc Cebu out of the chase, Blair Wyatt’s Witor took the lead under Eric Poretz, with Lemony Bay close behind him.
Mystic Strike, taking the inside path, kicked down the top rail of the last fence, never missed a stride, and fought past Witor early in the stretch run. Witor continued to battle to the finish line but could not gain any ground. The German-bred finished second by 1 1/4 lengths, and Lemony Bay was third, 12 1/2 lengths farther back.
An Eclipse Award winner, three other Grade 1 winners, and a novice champion are among the 10 nominees to the $75,000 Temple Gwathmey Handicap (Gr. 2), the featured race of the 99th annual Middleburg Spring Races at Glenwood Park on Saturday, April 20.
Topping the prospective lineup for the 2½-mile race over National Fences are the two champions from Bruton Street-US and trainer Jack Fisher: 2017 Eclipse winner Scorpiancer and 2017 novice champion Moscato. Both would be making their first starts back after missing the 2018 season.
Scorpiancer won his title with victories in the Temple Gwathmey and the Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1). The Irish-bred was assigned the 158-pound highweight in the handicap of Bill Gallo Jr., the National Steeplechase Association’s director of racing, and would be conceding at least 10 pounds to his opponents.
Moscato locked up his title by winning Belmont Park’s William Entenmann Memorial Novice Stakes.
Fisher, off to a fast start for the current National Steeplechase Association season, also nominated Bruton Street-US’s Jaleo, who finished fifth in the 2018 Grand National (Gr. 1) for his former trainer, Ben Pauling.
The three Grade 1 winners made their marks in the last three racing seasons. The Fields Stable’s Portrade won the 2016 New York Turf Writers Cup Handicap (Gr. 1) on the lead. Trained by Elizabeth Voss, the Irish-bred most recently finished fourth in Saratoga Race Course’s 2017 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1).
Buttonwood Farm’s All the Way Jose, trained by Racing Hall of Fame member Jonathan Sheppard, won Belmont Park’s 2017 Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1) and finished third in the Grand National that year and in 2018.
Mark W. Buyck Jr.’s Show Court won last year’s Smithwick Memorial. A member of Arch Kingsley Jr.’s stable, he finished sixth in the Carolina Cup Handicap on March 30.
Irvin L. “Skip” Crawford’s Senior Senator, who soared from a Grand National victory last year to win his second Maryland Hunt Cup, heads 15 nominees to the 117th running of the $50,000 Grand National on Saturday, April 20. The Grand National is the middle jewel of the Maryland Timber Triple Crown, between the My Lady’s
Two’s Company, the 2016 timber champion for owner Bruton Street-US, is among nine nominees to the $30,000 Middleburg Hunt Cup, the post-and-rail feature of the 99th annual Middleburg Spring Races at Glenwood Park on Saturday, April 20. The talent-laden list of nominees also includes last year’s Middleburg Hunt Cup winner, Super Saturday, and National Sporting
Doc Cebu begins his pursuit of a third consecutive National Steeplechase Association timber championship on Saturday when he heads a field of seven for the 109th sanctioned running of the My Lady’s Manor, the first jewel in the Maryland timber triple crown.My Lady’s Manor will have three important changes for this year. The purse for the meet’s signature race has been increased by two-thirds, to $50,000, and all four My Lady’s Manor races will be limited to amateur jockeys. In addition, the second division of the maiden timber race has been named in memory of Racing Hall of Fame trainer Tom Voss.First post time will be 1:30 p.m. at the Monkton course.Owned by Charles Fenwick Jr., Michael Hankin, and Charles Noell, Doc Cebu locked up his second title with his second straight win in the International Gold Cup in October. After a third-place finish in the 2018 Middleburg Hunt Cup, he reeled off four consecutive wins, all by open lengths.Fenwick and trainer Jack Fisher first tested Doc Cebu over timber in a division of the John Rush Streett Memorial maiden race at the My Lady’s Manor in 2017, and he won by 4½ lengths.In his timber career, the nine-year-old Hard Spun gelding has eight wins, a second, and a third in 10 starts. Hadden Frost, who has ridden Doc Cebu in all but one of his timber starts, will be in the saddle.While Doc Cebu will be a prohibitive favorite to claim the $30,000 first-place purse in the three-mile My Lady’s Manor, he will have worthy challengers. Fisher also will saddle Bruton Street-US’s Lemony Bay, winner of the 2017 My Lady’s Manor and second in that year’s Virginia Gold Cup. He is returning after missing the 2018 season and will be ridden by Brett Owings.Also in the field is Gerry L. Brewster’s Derwins Prospector, a supplemental entry who won the 2017 Maryland Hunt Cup. He fell in last year’s running of the Hunt Cup, which completes the Maryland Timber Triple Crown series. He is trained by Joseph Davies and will be ridden by Annie Yeager.