In a victory for family connections, The Fields Stable’s lightly regarded Dawn Wall charged through the homestretch on Saturday to claim a half-length victory in the $50,000 Iris Ann Coggins Memorial Stakes, the featured race of the 84th annual Fair Hill Races.
Check Mark Stables’ Willow U appeared to be in a winning position after the final fence, but jockey Jack Doyle pointed Dawn Wall toward the finish line from the outside and gained the advantage inside the sixteenth pole.
Owner-trainer Paddy Young’s For Goodness Sake, bidding for a second straight win in the Coggins Memorial, finished third with a late move, three-quarters of a length behind Willow U. Dawn Wall ran the 2 1/4-distance in 4:25.20 on turf rated as good.
Dawn Wall’s families are notable. She is owned by The Fields Stable of Laddie Merck. She is trained by Elizabeth Voss, whose mother, Mimi, bred Dawn Wall.
Dawn Wall’s dam is Guelph, who was raced by The Fields Stable—Laddie Merck and his late mother, Betty—and was the National Steeplechase Association’s novice and female champion in 2005 at age four and the female champion again in 2008. Guelph was trained by Elizabeth Voss’ father, the late Hall of Fame member Tom Voss.
The race she won, the Iris Ann Coggins Memorial, was created last year in memory of a longtime Fair Hill supporter and volunteer, and the race is generously supported by her family.
Dawn Wall, named for an extremely challenging climbing precipice at Yosemite National Park, faced a steep challenge in the Coggins Memorial against a tough and seasoned field. Willow U had beaten males at the Virginia Gold Cup, and For Goodness Sake had been a good third in the Iroquois Steeplechase’s Margaret Currey Henley Stakes two weeks earlier.
Lightly raced Dawn Wall, a five-year-old Not For Love mare making only her fifth career start and her third over fences, was at long odds in the program betting line–and appeared to deserve those odds. In her most recent start three weeks earlier, she was well beaten in a Virginia Gold Cup maiden race.
Despite the competition, Merck said Elizabeth Voss was not intimidated. “She said Dawn Wall was training very well. I was a bit surprised,” he said.
On a sultry, summery afternoon, the race featured multiple lead changes. In the first quarter-mile, Marilyn Ketts’ Lady Yeats set the pace, but she was succeeded by owner-trainer Jonathan Sheppard’s Life’s Illusion Stakes winner Pram on the first run down the backstretch.
Pram led past the wire the second time, but Beverly Steinman’s Bullet Star surged to the lead on the second run down the backstretch and opened a multiple-length lead inside the half-mile pole. But the speed began to come back, and Willow U gunned to the lead at the last fence under Shane Crimin.
But Doyle, the current leading jockey, made a perfectly timed move and had the last word with Dawn Wall as they glided to the front in the final several strides.
Mutasaawy takes Valentine Memorial
In Fair Hill’s supporting feature, the $40,000 Valentine Memorial, Gillian Johnston’s Mutasaawy broke out of a prolonged slump with a half-length victory over Robert A. Kinsley’s No Wunder. Rosbrian Farm’s Officer Sydney finished third, 1 3/4 lengths farther back.
Trained by Neil Morris and ridden by Michael Mitchell, Mutasaawy ran the 2 1/4 miles of the ratings handicap in 4:12.40. Mutasaawy had last won at Saratoga last August.
The Valentine Memorial was owner Johnston’s second win of the day, following a maiden score with Set to Music.
Set to Music’s trainer, Kathy Neilson, also won the novice timber race with It’s Nothing, owned by Move-Up Stable and Sally Reed.