Upland Partners’ Mystic Strike began the year with a major victory, and he closed out the 2019 season with a win in the year’s final timber classic, Sunday’s $40,000 Pennsylvania Hunt Cup.
Jockey Mark Beecher placed Mystic Strike behind the pace of Armata Stables’ Grand Manan, and the 10-year-old Smart Strike gelding closed powerfully approaching the last fence to win by 2¼ lengths over the pacesetter.
Irv Naylor’s Super Saturday, who finished third in the International Gold Cup eight days earlier, picked up another third-place check, 4¼ lengths behind Grand Manan. Blair Wyatt’s Witor finished fourth, a neck farther back in a field of six, and It’s Nothing finished fifth for Move Up Stables and Sally Reed.
Trained by Todd McKenna, Mystic Strike completed the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup’s four miles in 9:07 3/5 and raised his 2019 earnings to $57,000 with the Unionville classic’s $24,000 first-place purse.
Winner of the My Lady’s Manor in his first start this year, Mystic Strike came into the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup with a big question mark after being pulled up in the Genesee Valley Hunt Cup on Oct. 12.
Beecher, who had ridden Mystic Strike in the My Lady’s Manor, placed him in second position as perennial front-runner Grand Manan laid down a steady pace while leading by as many as eight lengths in the race’s closing stages.
Grand Manan and jockey Archie Macauley reached the last fence with a four-length advantage, but Mystic Strike quickly closed the gap and drew clear nearing the finish line.
Frank A. Bonsal Jr.’s Stand Down, the 2018 Pennsylvania Hunt Cup winner, was prominent in the early going before falling at the seventh fence.