Doc Cebu took command on the final turn of the $35,000 Willowdale Steeplechase on Sunday, and the reigning timber champion scored his second straight victory in the signature race of the 26th annual race meet in Kennett Square, Pa.
Under leaden skies in Pennsylvania’s horse country, Jack Fisher-trained Doc Cebu always was in striking position, went to the lead when he wished under Hadden Frost, and won by 2 1/2 lengths. Sycamore Run Farms’ Pured It closed well from the back of the field to take second money, 14 lengths clear of Monstaleur, who led into the latter stages of the race. Daddy in the Dark finished fourth.
Now owned by Charles Fenwick Jr., Michael Hankin, and Charles Noell, Doc Cebu secured his first win of the year after a third in the Middleburg Hunt Cup on April 21. Frost said Doc Cebu ran the type of race that won him last year’s timber title with consecutive victories in the Willowdale Steeplechase over mixed obstacles and the Genesee Valley Hunt Cup and International Gold Cup over timber.
“He was the top horse in the race,” the amateur jockey said. “He was setting up for the fences real nice.” The eight-year-old Hard Spun gelding ran the Willowdale Steeplechase’s 3 1/2 miles in 8:05.40 on soft turf.
At the start, Doc Cebu and Frost took second position behind Armata Stables’ Grand Manan, who sets the pace in all his races. He opened a gaping early lead but stumbled on landing near the race’s midpoint and lost jockey Chris Gracie. Black and Blue Stable’s Monstaleur, ridden by trainer Forrest Kelly, assumed the lead and held it until Doc Cebu determined it was time to go.
Pured It, under Eddie Keating, drew into a challenging position after the last fence, Frost kept Doc Cebu moving forward for the former flat claimer’s fifth victory over timber fences.