Tax Ruling is no stranger to the Iroquois Steeplechase. He won the prestigious Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1) back-to-back in 2010 and 2011, and he finished fourth last year while shooting for the hat trick.
Irv Naylor’s ten-year-old Dynaformer gelding has been nominated for a return trip to Nashville’s Percy Warner Park, but he will be on a different path this year: the timber course for the $50,000 Mason Houghland Memorial.
Switching from hurdles to timber is not unusual in American Steeplechasing. Horses that show a lot of stamina for longer distances often prosper in timber racing as they grow older, and Tax Ruling has no lack of stamina. He twice has conquered the Calvin Houghland Iroquois’ three miles, and the Mason Houghland also is at three miles.
Tax Ruling returns to owner Naylor’s first love, timber racing. Tax Ruling was the first major hurdles horse that Naylor campaigned after a favorable U.S. Tax Court ruling cautioned that his business plan should emphasize the types of races offering the highest purses. Those are, of course, hurdle races. The Calvin Houghland Iroquois, the richest race on the National Steeplechase Association’s spring calendar, offers a $150,000 purse, with $90,000 to the winner.
Once he turned his emphasis to hurdle races, Naylor came close to being the leading owner in 2009 and then has led the rankings since then. In 2011, he set an earnings record of $719,725.
Brianne Slater trains Tax Ruling, whose most recent victory was in the 2011 Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup (Gr. 1). Also nominated to the Mason Houghland from the Naylor camp were Ebanour and Saluda Sam. Ebanour, an Irish-bred trained by Slater, won a maiden timber race this spring, and veteran Saluda Sam triumphed in the Alfred M. Hunt over a modified steeplechase course in Middleburg, Va., on April 20.
Saluda Sam is trained by Billy Meister, who also trains Black Diamond Stable’s Idol Maker, who came back from a long stretch on the sidelines to finish second in a timber allowance race this spring in Maryland.
Reigning champion trainer Jack Fisher, who trained Lion’s Double to a Mason Houghland victory last year, nominated Woodslane Farm’s Grand Pride and Sonny Via’s Worried Man. Grand Pride began his timber career with a fourth-place finish in the Middleburg Hunt Cup on April 20, and Worried Man finished second in a maiden timber race at the Foxfield Spring Races in Charlottesville, Va., a week later.
Virginia-based trainer Neil Morris nominated Kinross Farm’s duo of Old Timer and Ed’s Big Bet to the Mason Houghland. Old Timer won at the My Lady’s Manor meet in Maryland, and Ed’s Big Bet took the Foxfield race in which Worried Man finished second.
Here are the nominees to the $50,000 Mason Houghland Memorial:
Ebanour (Ire). 2007 ch. g., Indian Ridge (Ire)—Ebadiyla, by Sadler’s Wells. Owner: Irvin S. Naylor. Trainer: Brianne Slater. 2013 record: 1-1-0-0, $6,000. 2012 NSA record: 4-0-1-0, $4,200. Opened 2013 with 6 1/2-length victory in second division of John Rush Streett amateur maiden race at My Lady’s Manor on April 13. Made successful transition to timber late in 2012 season and finished second in a Callaway maiden race.
Ed’s Big Bet. 2007 ch. g., hunder Gulch—Ed’s Holy Cow, by Bet Big. Owner: Kinross Farm. Trainer: Neil Morris. 2013 record: 1-1-0-0, $6,000. 2012 record: 5-1-0-0, $12,400. Started 2013 campaign with a maiden win over timber at the Foxfield Spring Races on April 27. For former owner, won a 2012 Queen’s Cup maiden race over hurdles but was not competitive in allowance hurdle ranks.
Farndale. 2006 dk. b. or br. g., Petionville—Admonish, by Caveat. Owner: Mimi Voss. Trainer: Tom Voss. 2013 record: 2-0-1-1, $5,600. 2012 record: 4-1-0-0, $10,400. Virginia Fall maiden timber winner finished third in Carolina Cup timber allowance and second in Middleburg Hunt Cup on April 20.
Gather No Moss. 2001 gr. or ro. g., Awad–Caro Landing, by Caro (Ire). Owner: Manown Kisor Jr. Trainer: Michael Berryman. 2012 record: 4-0-0-1, $3,000. 2011 record: 4-0-1-1, $9,500. Closed 2012 with a fourth-place finish in the Colonial Cup’s timber allowance in Camden, S.C. Finished second in International Gold Cup’s Steeplethon but disqualified for going off course. Finished well-beaten seventh in Virginia Fall’s National Sporting Library Chronicle Cup. In first 2012 start, finished third for second straight year in C. P. & Edith Wills DeBose Cup at the Carolina Cup Races in Camden.
Grand Pride. 2007 dk. b. or br. g., Grand Reward—Ionian Bride, by Icecapade. Owner: Woodslane Farm. Trainer: Jack Fisher. 2013 record: 1-0-0-0, $1,000. 2012 record: 4-1-0-1, $16,500. 2011 record: 2-0-0-1, $3,250. Began timber career with fourth in the Middleburg Hunt Cup on April 20. Won maiden victory over hurdles at 2012 Fair Hill meet in Maryland but was pulled up in William Entenmann Memorial at Belmont Park and Foxbrook Champion Hurdle at Far Hills, N.J.
Idol Maker. 2006 dk. b. or br. g., Empire Maker—Costume Party, by Storm Cat. Owner: Black Diamond Stable. Trainer: Billy Meister. 2013 record: 1-0-1-0, $1,350. 2012 record: No starts. Finished second, beaten eight lengths, in Grand National timber allowance, his first start since 2009. At two in 2008, finished fourth in the Remsen Stakes (Gr. 2).
Jewel of the West (Ire). 2004 b. g., Desert Prince (Ire)—Tycooness (Ire), by Last Tycoon (Ire). Owner: Rosbrian Farm. Trainer: Tara Elmore. 2013 record: No starts. 2012 record: No NSA starts. Had little success in Irish steeplechases. Most recent win was in October 2009.
Justpourit (Ire). 1999 b. g., Glacial Storm–Gale Choice, by Strong Gale. Owner: Lucy Stable. Trainer: Richard Valentine. 2013 record: 2-0-0-0, $1,575. 2012 record: 1-0-0-0, $2,000. 2011 record: 4-1-3-0, $14,400. Finished fifth in 2013 Grand National after fourth in the John D. Schapiro Memorial at My Lady’s Manor. In only 2012 start, finished fourth in the Radnor Hunt Cup at Malvern, Pa. Won the 2011 John D. Schapiro Memorial before three second-place finishes, including the Radnor Hunt Cup.
Old Timer. 2006 b. g., Orientate—Chatham Hall, by Green Dancer. Owner: Kinross Farm. Trainer: Neil Morris. 2013 record: 1-1-0-0, $6,000. 2012 record: 4-1-0-1, $13,060. Won the first division of the John Rush Streett maiden timber race at My Lady’s Manor by 1 1/4 lengths on April 13. Won maiden hurdle race at 2012 Stoneybrook Steeplechase.
Saluda Sam. 2005 ch. g., Adcat—Super Skirt, by Proud Truth. Owner: Irvin S. Naylor. Trainer: Billy Meister.2013 record: 2-1-1-0, $12,600. 2012 record:4-0-0-1, $2,950. 2011: 10-0-1-0, $11,150. Veteran started 2013 with second in Carolina Cup timber allowance in Camden, S.C., and then won the Alfred M. Hunt at the Middleburg Spring Races on April 20. Finished third in Callaway Gardens maiden timber race.
Tax Ruling. 2003 dk. b. or br. g., Dynaformer–Fantastic Find, by Mr. Prospector. Owner: Irvin S. Naylor. Trainer: Brianne Slater. 2012 record: 3-0-0-0, $7,500. 2011 record: 4-2-0-0, $153,500. Finished fourth in 2012 Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1) while seeking third straight win. Subsequently finished eighth in two Grade 1 races, A. P. Smithwick at Saratoga and Lonesome Glory at Belmont Park. Eclipse finalist in 2011 after victories in Calvin Houghland Iroquois and Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup (Gr. 1).
Worried Man. 2007 b. g., Dynaformer—Mystic Lady, by Thunder Gulch. Owner: Harold A. “Sonny” Via. Trainer: Jack Fisher. 2013 record: 2-0-1-0, $2,200. 2012 record: No starts. Began timber career with fifth in My Lady’s Manor timber maiden and then was second to Ed’s Big Bet in a timber maiden at the Foxfield Spring Races on April 28.