Northwoods Stable’s Battle Op, a courageous second in the Maryland Hunt Cup, leads a battle-hardened field of timber veterans for the $15,000 Willowdale Steeplechase, the featured race of the 20th annual Willowdale meet at Kennett Square, Pa., on Sunday, May 13. First post time is 1:30 p.m. for the seven-race program.
Trained by Lilli Kurtinecz, Battle Op had the lead of the last fence of the historic Maryland Hunt Cup on April 28, was overtaken by winner Twill Do, but then battled back at the finish line to finish only three-quarters of a length back.
Connor Hankin, who rode the 12-year-old Ops Smile gelding in the Hunt Cup, returns to ride in the 3 1/2-mile Willowdale Steeplechase.
Trainer Blythe Miller Davies will send out Gerry L. Brewster’s Brands Hatch, who won the Western Run Plate against an accomplished field at the Grand National meet in Butler, Md., on April 21 after finishing third in the John D. Shapiro Memorial amateur apprentice timber race at My Lady’s Manor a week earlier. Jackson Roberts again will be in the saddle.
Richard Valentine, 2011’s champion timber trainer, will saddle Lucy Stable’s Justpourit and Augustin Stables’ Radio Flyer for their first 2012 starts. Irish-bred Justpourit won the 2011 John D. Schapiro Memorial before three second-place finishes, including the Radnor Hunt Cup at the Malvern, Pa., meet. Lucy Stable co-owner George Hundt Jr. will ride.
Darren Nagle has the mount on Radio Flyer, who won an allowance timber race at the Virginia Fall Races after taking second in the Virginia Gold Cup.