The ageless one, Irv Naylor’s Decoy Daddy, will attempt to score an unprecedented fourth victory in Saturday’s $45,000 Noel Laing Handicap, the featured race of the 80th annual Montpelier Hunt Races. First post time at the historic Virginia property is 12:30 p.m.
Naylor, currently American Steeplechasing’s leading owner by a wide margin, and trainer Cyril Murphy have kept the 12-year-old Irish-bred doubling up on his 2013 victories in the current season. In the spring, Decoy Daddy won the Temple Gwathmey (Gr. 3) for the second consecutive year and then won Radnor Hunt Races’ National Hunt Cup for a second straight time.
Decoy Daddy has a remarkable record over Montpelier’s natural brush fences. He won the 2 1/2-mile Noel Laing for the first time in 2010, repeated in 2011, finished second in 2012, and then won again last year. Carol-Ann Sloan will be in the saddle.
Naylor also will be represented by the veteran Saluda Sam, who won the Virginia Gold Cup’s Steeplethon on May 3 and was pulled up in Shawan Downs’ Legacy Chase on Sept. 27. Jeff Murphy will ride for trainer Billy Meister.
Murphy also will saddle Meritage Racing’s Inti, who finished sixth in the Grand National (Gr. 1) at Far Hills, N.J., on Oct. 18 after attending the early pace. Inti finished second to Decoy Daddy in the National Hunt Cup. Darren Nagle will ride.
Gregg Ryan’s Spy in the Sky will be coming back on a week’s rest from a fourth-place finish in the International Gold Cup’s David L. “Zeke” Ferguson Memorial (Gr. 3). Rejuvenated since being claimed at Saratoga Race Course, he ran a good third in Belmont Park’s Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1) on Sept. 18. Trainer George Weaver named Tom Foley to ride.
Virginia-based trainer Richard Valentine nominated Anne Pape’s Fog Island, who finished third in Far Hills’ Foxbrook Champion Hurdle. Kieran Norris has the mount.
Who do you like in the Noel Laing?
Spy in the Sky. 2004 ch. g., Thunder Gulch—Monaassabaat, by Zilzal. Owner: Gregg Ryan. Trainer: George Weaver. Jockey: Tom Foley. 2014 NSA record: 5-0-0-2, $24,000. 2013 NSA record: 7-0-1-0, $25,100. 4-1 odds. Good effort when third in Belmont Park’s $150,000 Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1) on Sept. 18, then fourth in International Gold Cup’s $50,000 David L. “Zeke” Ferguson Memorial (Gr. 3) on Oct. 25. Claimed for $30,000 from Saratoga optional claimer in which he finished third. Faded to seventh in A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1) on July 31. Drought continued when pulled up in Temple Gwathmey on April 19. Won 2012 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1) at 25-1 and 2009 New York Turf Writers Cup (Gr. 1) at 20-1.
Inti (Uru). 2005 gr. or ro. g., Dubai Dust-Rigolina (Uru), by Ritz (Arg). Owner: Meritage Racing. Trainer: Cyril Murphy. Jockey: Darren Nagle. 2014 record: 3-0-1-0, $19,000. 2013 record: 3-1-0-0, $33,500. 5-1 odds. Finished sixth in Grand National (Gr. 1) on Oct. 18 after second in Radnor Hunt Races’ National Hunt Cup (Gr. 3) on May 17. Began 2014 season with fourth in Middleburg Spring’s Temple Gwathmey (Gr. 3) on April 19. Pulled 23.90-1 upset in Colonial Downs’ David L. “Zeke” Ferguson Memorial (Gr. 3) in June 2013.
Fog Island. 2006 b. g., Rossini—Orchid Island, by Broad Brush. Owner: Anne Pape. Trainer: Richard Valentine. Jockey: Kieran Norris. 2014 record: 4-0-0-1, $16,750. 2013 record: 3-0-1-0, $12,750. 7-2 odds. Finished third in Far Hills’ Foxbrook Champion Hurdle on Oct. 18 after fourth in Saratoga’s Michael G. Walsh Novice Stakes on Aug. 14. Finished fifth in Saratoga’s Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes after being pulled up in the Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1) on May 10. Abbreviated 2013 season began with second in Carolina Cup. Won the 2012 Foxbrook Champion Hurdle.
Decoy Daddy (Ire). 2002 ch. g., Lord of Appeal–Young Bebe, by M. Double M. Owner: Irvin S. Naylor. Trainer: Cyril Murphy. Jockey: Carol-Ann Sloan. 2014 record: 2-2-0-0, $60,000. 2013 record: 7-3-0-1, $89,500. 2-1 odds. Won Radnor’s National Hunt Cup (Gr. 3) for second straight year on May 17 after winning Middleburg Spring’s Temple Gwathmey (Gr. 3) for second straight year on April 19. Collected his third victory in Montpelier’s Noel Laing Handicap last November, then was seventh in the season-ending Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup (Gr. 1).
Saluda Sam. 2005 ch. g., Adcat—Super Skirt, by Proud Truth. Owner: Irvin S. Naylor. Trainer: Billy Meister. Jockey: Jeff Murphy. 2014 record: 3-1-1-0, $17,700. 2013 record: 5-2-2-0, $31,950. 10-1 odds. Veteran started 2014 with second in Middleburg Spring’s Alfred M. Hunt and then won Virginia Gold Cup’s Steeplethon on May 3. Pulled up in Shawan Downs’ Legacy Chase on Sept. 27. Finished second in 2013 Steeplethon at Virginia Gold Cup and awarded win in International Gold Cup’s Steeplethon.