Dale Thiel’s Call Me Sonny answered the call in the $40,000 Valentine Memorial when he moved up smartly on Fair Hill Race Course’s final turn and drew away to an 8 1/4-length victory in the starter handicap stakes on Saturday, May 25.
Woodslane Farm’s Brave Prospect finished second, a length ahead of Why Not Racing’s Complete Zen. Owner-trainer Michael Leaf’s Durer finished fourth, and completing the order of finish were Irv Naylor’s duo of Final Straw, who was fifth, and Organisateur. All Together was a race-day scratch. Call Me Sonny ran the Valentine Memorial’s 2 1/4 miles in 4:41.80 on firm turf. The Valentine Memorial honors longtime steeplechase owners and enthusiasts Miles and Joy Valentine.
Trained by Ricky Hendriks and ridden by Paddy Young, Call Me Sonny won for the first time in four 2013 starts. In his previous outing, he had finished third in a Virginia Gold Cup $30,000 starter allowance, which was won by Brave Prospect on May 4.
Hendriks, known for his canny claims, took the Posse gelding from Naylor for $15,000 at the Shawan Downs meet last year. Call Me Sonny subsequently won a $15,000 claimer at the Montpelier Hunt Races in November.
Naylor’s multiple Grade 1 winner Tax Ruling won the program’s nightcap, a $15,000 novice timber race, by four lengths over Peace Fire. James Slater rode the winner for his wife, trainer Brianne Slater. In his debut over timber, Tax Ruling had finished second in the Mason Houghland Memorial at the Iroquois Steeplechase near Nashville on May 11. Tax Ruling ran the novice timber race’s 3 1/8 miles in 6:17.40.
The traditional Memorial Day weekend kickoff in northern Maryland, the 45th annual Fair Hill Spring Races attracted an enthusiastic crowd on a sunny, breezy afternoon.