Raven’s Choice, fresh from a Grand National victory, will attempt a second consecutive trip to the winner’s circle in Saturday’s 120th edition of the Maryland Hunt Cup, the storied conclusion to the Maryland timber triple crown.
The grueling Hunt Cup carries a $100,000 purse, the first time that an American timber race ever has been run for six figures. Post time for the only race on the program is 4 p.m.
Ann Jackson’s nine-year-old Raven’s Choice finished a close second in last year’s Hunt Cup in Glyndon and was moved into the top spot when Imperial Way lost saddle weights over a fence late on the testing course and was disqualified.
Trained by Todd Wyatt, Raven’s Choice made a strong move under Mark Beecher last Saturday to win the Grand National, the second jewel of the Maryland timber triple, and won by three lengths. Beecher, looking for his third Hunt Cup win in four years, will again be in the saddle.
Merriefield Farm’s Imperial Way returns to the Hunt Cup in pursuit of a change of fortune. In addition to last year’s disqualification, Imperial Way finished second by a nose in the 2014 Hunt Cup.
Elizabeth Voss-trained Imperial Way tuned for the Hunt Cup with a seventh-place finish in the Grand National. Diana Gillam will ride the 11-year-old.
Merriefield’s Foyle, tantalizingly close to victory before falling at the last fence of the Hunt Cup in 2014, will be ridden by James Slater. Trainer Bruce Fenwick sent out the 2013 timber champion for an unplaced start in the My Lady’s Manor, the first leg of the timber triple, on April 16.
Stewart Strawbridge’s Guts For Garters, the 2014 Hunt Cup winner, returns for a shot at a second helping in the four-mile timber classic. Trained by Sanna Neilson, the Irish-bred was placed second last year. Jody Petty will ride.
Leading owner Irv Naylor will be represented by Almarmooq, winner of the 2015 Pennsylvania Hunt Cup and seventh in the My Lady’s Manor. Trainer Kathy Neilson named Forrest Kelly to ride. Neilson also will saddle Armata Stables’ Joshua G., who will be ridden by Sarah Shaffer.
Connor Hankin, last year’s champion apprentice jockey, will ride Drift Society for his family’s Bruton Street-US. Winner of the John D. Schapiro Memorial amateur apprentice timber at My Lady’s Manor, the Irish-bred is trained Jack Fisher.
Trainer Joe Davies will launch a three-pronged attack on the Hunt Cup. Irvin L. Crawford II’s Senior Senator came home first by more than 10 lengths in the Grand National’s Benjamin H. Murray Memorial amateur timber allowance last Saturday but was disqualified for interference. Eric Poretz has the mount.
Davies also will saddle Derwins Prospector and Catch the Echo, both owned by Gerry Brewster. Derwins Prospector, sixth in the Grand National, will be ridden by Erica Taylor, and McLane Hendriks rides Catch the Echo.
Welcome Here Farm’s Serene Harbor, winner of last year’s Grand National and third this year, will make his first attempt over the Hunt Cup’s tall timber fences. Annie Yeager rides for trainer Todd McKenna.
Trainer Billy Meister will saddle Mrs. William D. Class Jr.’s And the Eagle Flys and Straylight Racing’s Any Key. Fritz Boniface rides And the Eagle Flys, who finished second in the Grand National, and Alexander Leventhal will be aboard Any Key.
Here is the field for the 120th Maryland Hunt Cup.
Imperial Way. 2005 ch. g., Point Given–Lasha, by Rahy. Owner: Merriefield Farm. Trainer: Elizabeth Voss. Jockey: Diana Gillam. Breeders: McMahon of Saratoga Thoroughbreds, Craig and Cathy Beam, et al. 2016 record: 1-0-0-0, $0. 2015 record: 2-0-0-0, $0. 2014 record: 2-0-1-0, $14,300. Finished seventh in 2016 Grand National. Disqualified from win in 2015 Maryland Hunt Cup after losing saddle weights late in race. Just missed by a nose in thrilling 2014 Maryland Hunt Cup finish.
And the Eagle Flys. 2002 ch. g., Double Honor–Slick Mountain, by Peaks and Valleys. Owner: Mrs. William D. Class Jr. Trainer: William Meister. Jockey: Fritz Boniface. Breeders: Philip and Karen Matthews (Fla.). 2016 record: 1-0-1-0, $5,400. 2015 record: No starts. 2014 record: 2-0-0-0, $0. Finished second in 2016 Grand National. Pulled up in the 2014 Grand National and Maryland Hunt Cup. Pulled up in the 2013 Grand National, his only start of the year. Won the 2012 Grand National but fell at the 17th fence of the Maryland Hunt Cup. Finished second in the 2011 Maryland Hunt Cup.
Almarmooq. 2007 dk. b. or br. g., Dynaformer–Tuscoga, by Theatrical (Ire). Owner: Irvin S. Naylor. Trainer: Kathy Neilson. Jockey: Forrest Kelly. Breeder: Stone Farm (Ky.). 2016 record: 1-0-0-0, $0. 2015 record: 4-1-0-0, $23,250. 2014 record: 6-1-3-0, $23,400. Finished seventh in 2016 My Lady’s Manor. 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.
Raven’s Choice. 2007 dk. b. or br. g., Dance With Ravens—Millashand, by Regal Intention. Owner: Ann Jackson. Trainer: Todd Wyatt. Jockey: Mark Beecher. Breeder: Cary W. Jackson. 2016 record: 1-1-0-0, $18,000. 2015 record: 2-1-0-1, $48,000. 2014 record: 3-2-1-0, $29,700. Won 2016 Grand National. Placed first in 2015 Maryland Hunt Cup after finishing close second. Began season with third in Grand National. Won 2014 Willowdale Steeplechase.
Catch the Echo. 2004 dk. b. or br. g., Eastern Echo—Catch the Varmint, by Spicy Story. Owner: Gerry L. Brewster. Trainer: Joseph Davies. Jockey: McLane Hendriks. Breeder: Jack A. Coram (W.Va.) 2015 record: 2-0-0-0, $3,600. 2014 record: 2-0-0-0, $0. Began 2016 with fifth in John Rush Streett maiden timber division at My Lady’s Manor. Finished sixth and placed fifth in 2015 Maryland Hunt Cup after fifth in division of John Rush Streett maiden timber race at My Lady’s Manor. Lost rider in 2014 Maryland Hunt Cup after seventh in Benjamin H. Murray amateur allowance timber race at Grand National. Lost rider at the 13th fence of the 2013 Maryland Hunt Cup after being placed third in the Murray.
Joshua G. 2006 ch. g., Run Softly—Search for Reality, by Regal Search. Owner: Armata Stables. Trainer: Kathy Neilson. Jockey: Sarah Shaffer. Breeder: Jason L. Cole (Pa.) 2016 record: 1-0-0-0, $1,500. 2015 record: 4-0-0-0, $5,750. 2014 record: 3-1-0-0, $10,400. Finished fourth in 2016 Grand National. Finished fourth in 2015 Pennsylvania Hunt Cup timber allowance race after fall in Genesee Valley Hunt Cup. Finished fifth and placed fourth in Maryland Hunt Cup.
Drift Society (Ire). 2008 b. g., Jackson’s Drift—Tansey Yearwood (Ire), by Moscow Society. Owner: Bruton Street-US. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Jockey: Connor Hankin. Breeder: Eleanor Bennett (Ire). 2016 record: 1-1-0-0, $9,000. 2015 record: No starts. 2014 record: 5-1-1-0, $14,000. Won 2016 John D. Schapiro amateur apprentice allowance at My Lady’s Manor. Finished second in 2014 Colonial Cup timber allowance race. Broke into the ranks of winners with a 1 1/2-length score in a Fair Hill novice timber race that year.
Foyle. 2005 dk. b. or br. g., Yarrow Brae–Londonderry, by Perfecting. Owner: Merriefield Farm. Trainer: Bruce Fenwick. Jockey: James Slater. Breeder: Martha Hopkins (Md.) 2016 record: 1-0-0-0, $0. 2014 record: 2-0-1-0, $5,400. Finished 10th in 2016 My Lady’s Manor. Fell while leading the 2014 Maryland Hunt Cup. 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.
Senior Senator. 2010 b. g., Domestic Dispute—Queen Kennelot, by Awesome Again. Owner: Irvin L. Crawford II. Trainer: Joseph Davies. Jockey: Eric Poretz. Breeder: Charles C. D. McGill (Pa.) 2016 record: 1-0-0-0, $0. 2015 record: 2-0-2-0, $10,800. 2014 record: 3-1-1-0, $12,000. Finished first in 2016 Benjamin H. Murray Memorial amateur allowance timber at Grand National but was disqualified to last for interference. Had second-place finishes in 2015 My Lady’s Manor and Grand National.
Derwins Prospector. 2008 ch. g., Van Nistelrooy—Stringtown Sally, by Crafty Prospector. Owner: Gerry L. Brewster. Trainer: Joseph Davies. Jockey: Erica Taylor. Breeders: Patricia Lagden and Devi Hall (Ky.). 2016 record: 1-0-0-0, $900. 2015 record: No starts. 2014 record: 3-0-0-0, $2,200. Finished sixth in 2016 Grand National. Finished fifth in 2014 timber allowance race at Willowdale after sixth at Grand National.
Any Key. 2003 b. g., Polish Numbers–Acapella Chick, by Capote. Owner: Straylight Racing. Trainer: William Meister. Jockey: Alexander Leventhal. Breeders: A. Francis and Barbara Vanlangendonck (Fla.) 2015 record: No starts. 2014 record: No starts. In only 2012 start, finished seventh in the Marshall Jenney Memorial maiden timber race at the Willowdale Steeplechase.
Guts For Garters (Ire). 2003 br. g., Presenting—Askynn, by Beau Sher. Owner: Stewart Strawbridge. Trainer: Sanna Neilson. Jockey: Jody Petty. Breeder: Keith Douglas (Ire). 2015 record: 2-0-2-0, $17,100. 2014 record: 2-1-0-0, $45,000. Finished third and placed second in 2015 Maryland Hunt Cup after second in Grand National’s Benjamin H. Murray Memorial timber amateur allowance race. Won the 2014 Maryland Hunt Cup by a nose with a determined late drive.
Serene Harbor. 2003 b. g., Valley Crossing—We Wak Harbor, by Waquoit. Owner: Welcome Here Farm. Trainer: Todd McKenna. Breeder: Nina Gardner (Pa.). 2016 record: 1-0-0-1, $3,000. 2015 record: 1-1-0-0, $18,000. 2014 record: 3-2-0-0, $21,000. Finished third in 2016 Grand National. Won Grand National in only 2015 start. Closed 2014 season with a runaway victory in Genesee Valley Hunt Cup. Returned to the races after a nearly two-year break and won a Winterthur timber allowance race that year.