In the brief span of 18 months, Pleasant Woodman blossomed from a maiden winner over fences into a graded stakes winner, and his brilliance ultimately carried him to becoming Grade 1-placed at the highest level of American Steeplechase racing.
Owned by Nashville-area resident Virginia Lazenby and the Louisiana-based Farm d’Allie Racing Stables of her sister-in-law Allison Banks, Pleasant Woodman was a son of Louisiana and ranks among the very best—if not the best—steeplechase horse to come out of that state’s proud breeding industry. Bred by the Boorhem family’s Foxwood Plantation Ltd., he was a son of Irish champion and leading Kentucky sire Woodman, and his dam was the winner Pleasant Sands, by Sandpit (Brz). Trainer David Banks–Allison Banks’ husband and Gigi Lazenby’s brother–selected the youngster at a Foxwood Plantation sale and prepared him for the racetrack.
Pleasant Woodman showed early in his career that he preferred racing over the countryside. After three starts at Louisiana tracks, he secured his maiden victory at Nashville’s storied Iroquois Steeplechase in 2011. Placed in the hands of leading Virginia steeplechase trainer Doug Fout, three-year-old Pleasant Woodman took on older competitors in the $10,000 Guilford Dudley Jr. Memorial allowance race on the flat. He advanced on the pacesetters in the early going of the 1 1/2-mile race, took the lead at the head of the stretch, and won by 2 3/4 lengths.
His development over fences proceeded through 2012, and Pleasant Woodman earned a purse check in every start that year. Once Fout decided that Pleasant Woodman wanted to be on the lead from the start, good things began to happen.
Throughout his career, Pleasant Woodman had an affinity for Ford Conger Field in Aiken, S.C., and never was beaten there. At the Aiken Spring Steeplechase in 2013, Pleasant Woodman went to the lead at the start of the $15,000 James W. Maloney maiden hurdle and never looked back. Ridden by Jeff Murphy, the then five-year-old gelding opened an early lead of 25 lengths and pranced home with a 22 3/4-length victory.
His development continued through the year, and Pleasant Woodman returned to Aiken that October for the featured $25,000 Budweiser Holiday Cup, an optional allowance hurdle. He was facing a higher level of competition, including reigning female champion Cat Feathers, but his brilliance carried the day. With co-owner Lazenby watching from trackside, Pleasant Woodman opened a daylight lead early, jumped well over the Ford Conger course, and pulled away in the stretch to a five-length victory.
Despite a harsh winter that set back the preparations of many horses, Pleasant Woodman returned to Aiken in top form for his stakes debut, in Aiken Spring’s $50,000 Budweiser Imperial Cup, a Grade 3 race. On familiar ground, Pleasant Woodman would prove his mettle. As he had in past races, Pleasant Woodman set the early pace, but coming to the last fence he encountered a serious challenge from Street Fight, a promising maiden winner. Street Fight gained a narrow lead over the last fence, but Pleasant Woodman fought back and pulled clear again to win by 1 1/2 lengths. One year after his maiden victory over fences, Pleasant Woodman had become a graded stakes winner.
He met more experienced competitors in his next start, the $50,000 Temple Gwathmey (Gr. 3) at the Middleburg Spring Races in Virginia, and finished third after leading over the last fence. His next stop was co-owner Lazenby’s home course, Percy Warner Park outside Nashville for the Iroquois Steeplechase. One of the Iroquois’ leading stakes races is the $75,000 Marcellus Frost Stakes for American Steeplechasing’s rising stars. Among Pleasant Woodman’s opponents was Schoodic, the previous year’s three-year-old champion who had never been defeated over fences.
As everyone expected, Pleasant Woodman went to the lead immediately under Fout’s stable jockey, Gerard Galligan, and again he proved his courage in the late going. Challenged in deep stretch by Rudyard K, Pleasant Woodman fought back gamely and prevailed by a neck at the finish line to win the Marcellus Frost and secure the richest victory of his career.
Pleasant Woodman next set his sights on Saratoga Race Course and the highest level of National Steeplechase Association racing. His first stop was the $100,000 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1) in late July. As was his custom, he set the early pace before being overtaken by winner Makari and Demonstrative, who would become the year’s earnings champion in subsequent starts. Still, Pleasant Woodman continued valiantly to finish third and thus become Grade 1-placed.
He finished fifth in his next two starts, the $150,000 New York Turf Writers Cup (Gr. 1) at Saratoga and the $50,000 David L. “Zeke” Ferguson Memorial (Gr. 3) at the International Gold Cup in Virginia in late October. Sadly, he sustained an injury in the latter race that proved fatal.
In 19 starts under National Steeplechase Association rules, Pleasant Woodman won four times and earned $146,600, with $98,000 earnings in the 2014 season. His courage and jumping ability never were in doubt. He never fell in 18 starts over fences, and he missed a purse check only once while racing under National Steeplechase Association rules.
“Pleasant Woodman was a marvelous horse, just a joy to be around,” said trainer Fout. “He had a tremendous personality and was a lot of fun in the mornings. But in the afternoon, when it was time to race, he was all business.”