Michael A. Smith’s Cul Baire, making only his second jumps start in more than a year, powered to the front two fences from home in Saturday’s Montpelier Hunt Races’ $35,000 Noel Laing Handicap and drew clear to a four-length victory under Paddy Young.
Parker’s Project, owned by Hudson River Farms, finished second, a length ahead of Bill Pape’s Martini Brother. Both trained by Jonathan Sheppard, they were making only their second starts after extended periods on the sidelines.
Trained by Jimmy Day, Cul Baire ran the Noel Laing’s 2 1/2 miles over natural brush fences in 5:13 on firm turf.
With only a maiden victory at the 2015 Fair Hill Races on his National Steeplechase Association record, Irish-bred Cul Baire carried 140 pounds, an assignment he shared with three other starters. Parker’s Project and Martini Brother were the highweights at 156 and 154 pounds, respectively.
Cul Baire had two starts on the flat following a 2015 Saratoga Race Course steeplechase in which he fell. Two weeks before the Noel Laing, he finished fifth in an International Gold Cup allowance hurdle.
The Noel Laing was one of Young’s four wins on the Montpelier program, and he moved into the second spot in the jockey standings with 12 wins, one behind Kieran Norris.