Michael T. Wharton’s Grinding Speed, the reigning timber-racing champion, will launch his bid for a repeat title when he defends his 2015 win in Saturday’s $30,000 My Lady’s Manor, the kickoff race for the 2016 Maryland timber triple crown.
The historic My Lady’s Manor attracted a strong field of 10 for the three-mile trip over the Monkton course, and the year’s first timber major will anchor a four-race program with full fields. Post time for the My Lady’s Manor is 1:30 p.m.
Trained by Alicia Murphy, Grinding Speed began his 2015 season on a positive note with the My Lady’s Manor win. His jockey, Mark Beecher, then helped the Grindstone gelding to win the Virginia Gold Cup for a second time by setting a very slow pace before turning back all challenges.
Murphy, who is based in Reisterstown, Md., put together a masterful fall program in which Grinding Speed raced into full fitness and won the International Gold Cup for a third time.
Maryland-based trainer Jack Fisher entered Bruton Street-US’s Ballylifen, who won a division of the John Rush Streett Memorial maiden timber race at last year’s My Lady’s Manor and was fourth in the International Gold Cup.
Ballylifen will be ridden by Connor Hankin, a University of Virginia undergraduate who is the son of Bruton Street-US owner Michael Hankin, the president and CEO of Baltimore-based Brown Advisory.
Irv Naylor, who set a record for owner purse earnings last year from his farm base in Butler, Md., also led the 2015 timber standings. For the My Lady’s Manor, he has a formidable duo of Almarmooq and Ebanour. Trained by Kathy Neilson, Almarmooq closed his 2015 season with a victory in the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup. Gerard Galligan has the mount.
Gus Dahl again will ride Naylor’s Ebanour, who won last fall’s New Jersey Hunt Cup for the young jockey. The Irish-bred will be saddled by Naylor’s principal trainer, Cyril Murphy.
Merriefield Farm will be represented by Foyle, the 2013 timber champion who is trained by Bruce Fenwick. Bred in Maryland by Martha Hopkins, Foyle fell late in the 2014 Hunt Cup after a narrow defeat in the Grand National.
Here is the field for the $30,000 My Lady’s Manor. All starters carry 165 pounds.
Ballylifen (Ire). 2007 b. g., Brian Boru—Line Jade, by Luchiroverte. Owner: Bruton Street-US. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Jockey: Connor Hankin. Breeder: J. Mangan (Ire). 2015 record: 5-2-0-1, $35,750. 2014 NSA record: 1-0-1-0, $2,700. Won Steeplechase at Callaway timber allowance race after fourth in International Gold Cup. Finished third in Virginia Fall’s National Sporting Library & Museum Cup. Finished fourth in 2015 Virginia Gold Cup after winning division of John Rush Streett maiden timber race at My Lady’s Manor.
Almarmooq. 2007 dk. b. or br. g., Dynaformer–Tuscoga, by Theatrical (Ire). Owner: Irvin S. Naylor. Trainer: Kathy Neilson. Jockey: Gerard Galligan. Breeder: Stone Farm (Ky.). 2015 record: 4-1-0-0, $23,250. 2014 record: 6-1-3-0, $23,400. Won 2015 Pennsylvania Hunt Cup. Finished sixth in Willowdale Steeplechase after late fall in Maryland Hunt Cup. Finished distant fourth in Grand National. Capped busy 2014 fall season with victory in Pennsylvania Hunt Cup’s Arthur O. Choate Jr. timber allowance.
Aero. 2005 b. g., Northern Spur (Ire)–Best Victory (Fr), by Cadoudal. Owner: Alfred C. Griffin Jr. Trainer: Doug Fout. Jockey: Kieran Norris. Breeder: Eldon Farm Racing Stable (Va.) 2015 record: 2-0-0-1, $6,000. 2014 record: No starts. Finished fourth in 2015 New Jersey Hunt Cup and third in Pennsylvania Hunt Cup in first starts since fifth in 2013 International Gold Cup. Finished second in 2012 International Gold Cup after fourth in National Sporting Library Chronicle Cup. Won 2011 National Sporting Library Chronicle Cup before second in International Gold Cup.
Grand Manan. 2009 b. g., Giant’s Causeway—Manoa, by Seeking the Gold. Owner: Donald Reuwer Jr. Trainer: William Meister. Jockey: Darren Nagle. Breeders: Stuart S. Janney III and Phipps Stable (Ky.). 2015 record: 3-2-0-0, $31,050. 2014 record: No starts. Closed 2015 campaign with runaway victory in Pennsylvania Hunt Cup timber allowance. In first start in more than two years, won Fair Hill’s Valentine Memorial Novice Timber by seven lengths, then was sixth in Virginia Fall’s National Sporting Library & Museum Cup.
Grinding Speed. 2006 gr. or ro. g., Grindstone—Cozelia, by Cozzene. Owner: Michael T. Wharton. Trainer: Alicia Murphy. Jockey: Mark Beecher. Breeders: Alan S., Mark T., Mitchell A., and Madeline R. Kline, et al. (Md.) 2015 record: 5-3-1-0, $124,550. 2014 record: 5-1-1-2, $46,350. Clinched 2015 timber title with stylish victory in International Gold Cup, his third win in richest fall timber race. Won My Lady’s Manor before his second score in Virginia Gold Cup. Finished second in Virginia Fall’s National Sporting Library & Museum Cup after fourth in Shawan’s Legacy Chase.
Foyle. 2005 dk. b. or br. g., Yarrow Brae–Londonderry, by Perfecting. Owner: Merriefield Farm. Trainer: Bruce Fenwick. Jockey: Open. Breeder: Mrs. C. Frank Hopkins (Md.) 2015 record: No starts. 2014 record: 2-0-1-0, $5,400. Fell while leading the 2014 Maryland Hunt Cup, his most recent start. In only other 2014 start, finished second by a nose in the Grand National. Won the 2013 timber championship with late-season victories in the International Gold Cup (as 11.60-1 longshot) and Pennsylvania Hunt Cup.
Ebanour (Ire). 2007 ch. g., Indian Ridge—Ebadilya, by Sadler’s Wells. Owner: Irvin S. Naylor. Trainer: Cyril Murphy. Jockey: Gus Dahl. Breeders: Aga Khan’s Studs (Ire). 2015 record: 2-1-1-0, $31,800. 2014 record: No starts. Won New Jersey Hunt Cup with a powerful late rush. After missing the 2014 season, returned with a good second in John D. Schapiro Memorial amateur apprentice timber at My Lady’s Manor.
Certain Swagger. 2009 b. g., Arch—Comedy, by Theatrical (Ire). Owner: Jeremy Batoff. Trainer: William Dowling. Jockey: Sean McDermott. Breeders: Claiborne Farm and Arlene Dilschneider. (Ky.) 2015 record: 6-1-0-1, $17,000. 2014 record: 5-0-0-2, $27,200. Ended 2015 season with seventh in International Gold Cup after being pulled up a week earlier in New Jersey Hunt Cup. Scored 45-length victory in Queen’s Cup timber allowance. Made successful transition to timber racing in 2014 and won timber allowance at International Gold Cup meet.
Organisateur (Ire). 2005 b. g., Highest Honor (Fr)—Willamina (Ire), by Sadler’s Wells. Owner: Rose Hill. Trainer: Ivan Dowling. Jockey: Jody Petty. Breeder: Wertheimer et Frere (Ire). 2015 record: No starts. 2014 record: 2-1-1-0, $22,500. Making first start since second in 2014 Virginia Gold Cup after impressive win in John Rush Streett division at My Lady’s Manor.
Old Timer. 2006 b. g., Orientate—Chatham Hall, by Green Dancer. Owner: Kinross Farm. Trainer: Christopher Read. Jockey: Diane Gillam. Breeder: Gainesway Thoroughbreds (Ky.) 2015 record: 1-0-0-0, $0. 2014 record: 2-0-1-1, $12,900. Fell in the National Sporting Library and Museum Cup, his only 2015 start. Finished second in 2014 My Lady’s Manor before third in Virginia Gold Cup. Finished second in 2013 National Sporting Library Chronicle Cup.