Seemingly beaten in deep stretch, Irv Naylor’s Decoy Daddy made a thrilling late move that carried him to a head victory over Gustavian in the $50,000 National Hunt Cup (Gr. 3), the featured hurdle race of the 83rd annual Radnor Hunt Races in Malvern, Pa., on Saturday, May 18. One race earlier, Rainbows for Luck came back from a nearly seven-month absence to win the $40,000 Radnor Hunt Cup over timber fences by a nose.
National Hunt Cup
Trained by Brianne Slater, multiple stakes winner Decoy Daddy took the lead after the first two fences in the 2 3/8-mile National Hunt Cup and was jumping well for regular jockey Carol-Ann Sloan, who ridden him to victory in the Temple Gwathmey (Gr. 3) four weeks earlier at the Middleburg Spring Races in Virginia.
But the 11-year-old Irish-bred met the second to last fence awkwardly and landed nearly sideways as Hickory Tree Stables’ Gustavian made his move from right behind the leader. Gustavian and jockey Paddy Young jumped to the lead over the last fence and looked to be unbeatable as Young pressed him to the finish line.
Sloan applied a steady hand ride to Decoy Daddy, and he surged to the front in the final strides. Owner Naylor said he had confidence that Decoy Daddy had regained the lead in a tight finish. “There was never a doubt,” he said.
Sloan did a superb job of slowing the pace—the National Hunt Cup was the second-slowest of five races at the 2 3/8-mile distance—and saving some of Decoy Daddy’s energy for the finish. But she gave the credit to Decoy Daddy, whose career earnings now exceed $378,000. “He knows more than I do,” she said.
Gustavian finished second for the second straight year, after being beaten a neck when the National Hunt Cup was limited to novices, or horses in their first seasons of competition over fences. Country Cousin finished third. Decoy Daddy ran the National Hunt Cup’s distance in 4:35.20 on firm turf.
Radnor Hunt Cup
Sometimes, the veteran timber horses just know where the finish line is. Off since last October, Gregory Bentley’s Rainbows for Luck made a furious charge over the final fence and nailed Hot Rize on the money for a nose victory in the $40,000 Radnor Hunt Cup, the afternoon’s timber feature.
Holston Hall’s Hot Rize finished 1 3/4 lengths clear of third finisher Straight to It, the 2012 New Jersey Hunt Cup winner. Under regular jockey Jody Petty, Rainbows for Luck, 12, ran the Radnor Hunt Cup’s 3 1/4 miles in 6:58.40 on firm turf.
Rainbows for Luck, a seasoned timber veteran, was making his first start since finishing third to Straight to It in the New Jersey Hunt Cup. He was facing an accomplished field, including 2013 Virginia Gold Cup winner Grinding Speed.
Irv Naylor’s Herons Well and Rosbrian Farm’s Garryowen Star set the early pace, and Petty was wondering whether Rainbows for Luck had his head in the game. He still was wondering at the next to last fence, where Hot Rize surged to the lead under Jeff Murphy. “At the second to last, I didn’t think I had a chance,” Petty said. He urged Rainbows for Luck into the last, a short distance from the finish line, and the veteran took off and caught Hot Rize at the finish line.
The Radnor Hunt Cup was the second win of the afternoon for Petty, in his first year as an amateur jockey, and trainer Edward Graham. They had won the day’s first race, the $25,000 Milfern Cup Sport of Kings maiden hurdle, with Clorevia Farm’s Dr. Skip, who was making his first start over fences after a career on the flat.
The Radnor Hunt Cup victory raised Elkton, Md., native Petty’s strike rate to 50% for the year, and he is enjoying his amateur status after a successful career as a professional jockey. “I’m loving it,” he said.
Also collecting two victories were owner Bill Pape, Racing Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard, and jockey Darren Nagle. They scored first in the Thompson Memorial allowance hurdle with Martini Brother and came back to prevail in the James M. Moran Jr. with Dugan.