Armata Stables’ Cornhusker loves Percy Warner Park, home of the Iroquois Steeplechase. The British-bred gelding, now 11, has won the Mason Houghland Memorial three times, most recently last year.
Trainer Alicia Murphy has entered him for a shot at a fourth win on Saturday in the Iroquois Steeplechase’s featured $50,000 timber stakes. First post time is 1 p.m. CDT, and the afternoon’s seven races—concluding with the $200,000 Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1)–will be live-streamed.
A former hurdler by the top jump-racing sire Dynaformer, Cornhusker also won in 2014 and 2015. He began his season with two fourth-place finishes, in Middleburg Hunt Cup on April 21 and the Winterthur Bowl last Sunday. He finished second in the Winterthur Bowl last year before his 2 1/2-length victory at Percy Warner Park. Mark Beecher will ride.
Jack Fisher, the National Steeplechase Association’s champion trainer for the last six years, entered 2016 timber champion Two’s Company and supplemental entry Dye Fore for the three-mile Mason Houghland. Both raced on April 21 at the Middleburg Spring Races, where Dye Fore finished fourth in the steeplethon over mixed obstacles and Two’s Company was pulled up in the Middleburg Hunt Cup. Dye Fore also was fourth in the Virginia Gold Cup’s Steeplethon last Saturday.
Sean McDermott will ride Two’s Company, who is owned by Bruton Street-US, and Willie McCarthy will be aboard Gillian Johnston’s Dye Fore.
Irv Naylor, last year’s champion timber owner, will be represented by Shinobi and El Jefe Grande. Trained by Kathy Neilson, Shinobi was a maiden winner at My Lady’s Manor on April 14, and El Jefe Grande is looking to break into the win column over timber for trainer Cyril Murphy.
Darren Nagle, last year’s champion jockey, rides El Jefe Grande, and Gerard Galligan will be aboard German-bred Shinobi.
Completing the field are Magalen O. Bryant’s Plated, who is making the change from hurdles to timber fences for trainer Jimmy Day, and Caves Farm’s Western Exchange, a timber maiden trained by Willie Dowling.
Jack Doyle, who currently leads the jockey standings, will be astride Plated, and top amateur jockey Eric Poretz rides Western Exchange.
Here is the field for the $50,000 Mason Houghland Memorial. Post positions will be drawn on Thursday.
Cornhusker (GB). 2007 b. g., Dynaformer–Nebraska Tornado, by Storm Cat. Owner: Armata Stables. Trainer: Alicia Murphy. Jockey: Mark Beecher. Breeder: Juddmonte Farms (GB). 2018 record: 2-0-0-0, $3,500. 2017 record: 6-2-2-0, $60,350. 2016 record: 2-0-0-0, $4,500. Finished fourth in 2018 Middleburg Hunt Cup after winning in 2017, then was fourth in Winterthur Bowl. After second in Winterthur Bowl won 2017 Mason Houghland Memorial, his third victory in the Iroquois timber stakes, after 2014 and 2015. Finished second in Shawan’s 2017 Legacy Chase, then fifth in National Sporting Library and Museum Cup and fourth in Pennsylvania Hunt Cup.
Plated. 2009 b. g., Tiznow—Imaginary Gold, by Mr. Prospector. Owner: Magalen O. Bryant. Trainer: Jimmy Day. Jockey: Jack Doyle. Breeder: Overbrook Farm (Ky.) 2017 NSA record: 4-1-0-0, $24,600. 2016 record: No starts. 2015 record: 7-1-1-3, $58,600. Making transition to timber racing. In second start after long layoff, won 2017 Iroquois handicap hurdle. Finished sixth in Far Hills’ Appleton ratings handicap. Won 2015 Saratoga allowance hurdle and then finished third in Far Hills ratings handicap and fourth in Montpelier’s Noel Laing. (117)
Shinobi (Ger). 2012 b. g., Lord Shanakill—Singuna, by Black Sam Bellamy. Owner: Irvin S. Naylor. Trainer: Kathy Neilson. Jockey: Gerard Galligan. Breeder: Stifung Gestut Fahrhof (Ger). 2018 record: 1-1-0-0, $9,000. 2017 record: 3-0-1-0, $4,800. Won a division of the John Rush Streett Memorial maiden timber race at the 2018 My Lady’s Manor meet. Finished second over hurdles in a 2017 Willowdale claiming hurdle, his first start over fences.
Two’s Company (Ire). 2009 b. g., Soviet Star—Gaye Lady, by Pistolet Bleu (Ire). Owner: Bruton Street-U.S. Trainer Jack Fisher. Jockey: Sean McDermott. Breeders: M. W. and Mrs. M. Doran (Ire). 2018 record: 1-0-0-0, $0. 2017 record: 2-0-0-0, $0. 2016 record: 6-4-2-0, $103,200. Timber champion 2016. Pulled up in 2018 Middleburg Hunt Cup. Fell in late stages of 2017 Middleburg Hunt Cup, then was pulled up in Mason Houghland Memorial at Iroquois Steeplechase. Opened 2016 with victories in Middleburg Hunt Cup and Carolina Cup’s C. P. and Edith Wills DuBose Cup, then closed for second in Virginia Gold Cup. Won 2016 Legacy Chase at Shawan Downs and Virginia Fall’s National Sporting Library & Museum Cup before second in International Gold Cup.
Western Exchange. 2011 gr. or ro. g., Exchange Rate—Western Vision, by Gone West. Owner: Caves Farm. Trainer: Willie Dowling. Jockey: Eric Poretz. Breeder: Ceka Ireland Ltd. (Ky.) 2018 record: 1-0-1-0, $2,700. 2017 NSA record: No starts. In debut over timber, finished second in 2018 Queen’s Cup maiden timber race. Maiden winner over hurdles in 2015 missed the 2016 season and had two flat starts in 2017.
Dye Fore. 2011 dk. b. or br. g., Giant’s Causeway—Homebound, by Dixie Union. Owner: Gillian Johnston. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Jockey: Willie McCarthy. Breeder: Joseph Allen (Ky.). 2018 record; 1-0-0-0, $1,000. 2017 record: 6-1-3-2, $30,600. Finished fourth in Middleburg Spring’s 2018 Alfred M. Hunt steeplethon. Broke through for maiden timber victory in 2017 Steeplechase at Callaway allowance. Had second-place finishes at High Hope and Virginia Fall sandwiched around third at Shawan Downs.
El Jefe Grande. 2010 dk. b. or br. g., Silver Train—Mighty Clever, by Clever Trick. Owner: Irvin S. Naylor. Trainer: Cyril Murphy. Jockey: Darren Nagle. Breeder: Richard O’Neil Trust (Ky.) 2018 record: No starts. 2017 record: 6-0-0-1, $5,950. Finished third in 2017 Virginia Fall maiden timber and then lost his rider in similar race at the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup.