For Doc Cebu, a championship run of stakes victories began in last year’s $35,000 Willowdale Steeplechase. The former flat runner will be looking for a repeat victory to kick-start his 2018 season in the signature race of Sunday’s 26th annual Willowdale Steeplechase.
The seven-race program at Kennett Square in eastern Pennsylvania’s horse country kicks off at 1:30 p.m. on Mother’s Day, and the races will be live-streamed.
Now eight, Doc Cebu was campaigned last year by Charles C. Fenwick Jr., who has drawn friends and racing partners Michael Hankin and Charles Noell into the ownership group.
Doc Cebu won the Genesee Valley Hunt Cup and the International Gold Cup after his Willowdale triumph and was crowned the year’s timber champion. The eight-year-old is trained by Jack Fisher and began the current season with a third-place finish in the Middleburg Hunt Cup.
Hadden Frost, Doc Cebu’s regular partner, has the riding assignment for the 3 1/2-mile Willowdale Steeplechase.
Also coming out of the Middleburg Hunt Cup on April 21 is Armata Stables’ Grand Manan, who set the pace and tired. The confirmed front-runner finished second to Doc Cebu in last year’s Willowdale Steeplechase. Trainer Billy Meister named Chris Gracie to ride.
Leading timber jockey Mark Beecher will be aboard Raven’s Choice for trainer Todd Wyatt. Owned by Ann Jackson, Raven’s Choice won the 2016 Maryland Hunt Cup by disqualification and was second in this year’s Grand National.
Also coming out of the Grand National is third finisher Monstaleur, who will be ridden by trainer Forrest Kelly.
Completing the field are maiden winners Pured It and Daddy in the Dark and second-time starter Romancing. Eddie Keating rides Sycamore Run Farms’ Pured It for trainer Kathy Neilson, and Eric Poretz will be aboard Daddy in the Dark for trainer H. Bruce Fenwick. Anne Finney rides Romancing for trainer Nancy Knox.
Here is the field for the $35,000 Willowdale Steeplechase in post-position order.
Romancing. 2009 b. g., Toccet—Losing Faith, by Broken Vow. Owner: Fancy Hill Farm. Trainer: Nancy G. Knox. Jockey: Anne S. Finney. Breeder: Edmond and Karen Hogan (Ky.). 2018 record: 1-0-0-0, $600. In first career start at age nine, finished sixth in the Grand National’s Benjamin H. Murray Memorial timber allowance.
Grand Manan. 2009 b. g., Giant’s Causeway—Manoa, by Seeking the Gold. Owner: Armata Stables. Trainer: William Meister. Jockey: Chris Gracie. Breeders: Stuart S. Janney III and Phipps Stable (Ky.). 2018: 1-0-0-0, $0. 2017 record: 5-0-3-0, $28,500. 2016 record: 4-3-0-0, $82,950. Pulled up in 2018 Middleburg Hunt Cup. Finished second in 2017 National Sporting Library and Museum Cup and International Gold Cup. Finished fourth in 2017 My Lady’s Manor and was unplaced in Virginia Gold Cup before second in Willowdale Steeplechase after setting most of pace. Closed 2016 season with back-to-back front-running victories in the Genesee Valley Hunt Cup and International Gold Cup.
Daddy in the Dark. 2010 b. g., Bernardini—Appealing Zophie, by Successful Appeal. Owners: Merriefield Farm and H. Bruce Fenwick. Trainer: H. Bruce Fenwick. Jockey: Eric Poretz. Breeder: My Meadowview (Ky.). 2018 record: 2-0-0-0, $4,000. 2017 record: 2-1-0-0, $9,750. Finished fifth in the 2018 Virginia Gold Cup after seventh in Grand National’s Benjamin H. Murray Memorial amateur timber allowance. Won a 2017 Pennsylvania Hunt Cup maiden timber by more than 32 lengths after beginning his career with a fourth over timber at the Virginia Fall Races. Raced on the flat in Maryland and specialized in off tracks.
Monstaleur. 2007 ch. g., Meadow Monster—Taleur, by Stalwars. Owner: Black and Blue Stable. Trainer: Forrest Kelly. Jockey: Forrest Kelly. Breeders: Dr. James E. Bryant and Linda P. Davis (Va.). 2018 record: 1-0-0-1, $5,000. 2017 record: 1-0-0-0, $0. 2016 record: 2-1-0-0, $9,750. Finished third in 2018 Grand National. Pulled up in 2017 Willowdale Steeplechase, his only start that year. Closed ground for dead-heat win in 2016 Willowdale Steeplechase after being pushed off course in Grand National’s Benjamin H. Murray Memorial. Won maiden timber victory at 2015 Steeplechase at Callaway by nine lengths.
Doc Cebu. 2010 b. g., Hard Spun—Berga, by Jade Hunter. Owner: Charles C. Fenwick Jr. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Jockey: Hadden Frost. Breeder: Graceville Breeding (Ky.) 2018 record: 1-0-0-1, $3,000. 2017 record: 5-4-1-0, $96,600. 2016 record: 2-2-0-0, $21,000. Finished third in 2018 Middleburg Hunt Cup. Clinched 2017 timber championship with 11-length victory in International Gold Cup. Won 2017 Genesee Valley Hunt Cup by 11 1/4 lengths and Willowdale Steeplechase by nine lengths. Opened his timber career with a maiden victory at 2017 My Lady’s Manor and was second in Queen’s Cup timber allowance. Won his two starts over hurdles in 2016.
Raven’s Choice. 2007 dk. b. or br. g., Dance With Ravens—Millashand, by Regal Intention. Owner: Ann Jackson. Trainer: Todd Wyatt. Jockey: Mark Beecher. Breeder: Cary W. Jackson (Md.) 2018 record: 1-0-1-0, $9,000. 2017 record: 3-0-0-1, $3,300. 2016 record: 2-1-0-0, $18,000. Finished second in 2018 Grand National. Finished third in 2017 Grand National, then was pulled up in Virginia Gold Cup and Willowdale Steeplechase. Won 2016 Grand National, then fell at 16th fence in Maryland Hunt Cup. Placed first in 2015 Maryland Hunt Cup after finishing close second. Won 2014 Willowdale Steeplechase.
Pured It. 2009 b. g., Purim—Judiths Humor, by Hennessy. Owner: Sycamore Run Farms. Trainer: Kathy Neilson. Jockey: Eddie Keating. Gerard Galligan. Breeder: Ashleigh Stud, Frank Ramos, and Jackie Ramos (Ky.) 2018 record: 1-0-0-0, $750. 2016 record: 2-1-0-0, $10,200. Missed the 2017 season and returned with fourth in John D. Schapiro Memorial amateur apprentice timber allowance at 2018 My Lady’s Manor. In first timber start and first jumps start in almost two years, won High Hope’s 2016 Jay Trump maiden hurdle by 10 1/4 lengths.