Returning to the scene of previous triumphs, Upland Partners’ Mystic Strike and DASH Stable’s Prayer Hope enjoyed a happy homecoming at Radnor on Saturday by capturing the $20,000 co-features on the six-race program.
Twelve-year-old Mystic Strike, a son of Smart Strike trained by Todd McKenna, was victorious in the Radnor Hunt Cup over timber in a thrilling come-from-behind stretch duel vs. Sheila Williams and Northwoods Stable’s Storm Team. Storm Team, ridden by Graham Watters and trained by Jack Fisher, had scooted off to a substantial lead and maintained it through much of the 3 ¼-mile race. But two fences from home, Mystic Strike revved up his engine under Tom Garner, who prevailed by a neck. Armata Stables’ Goodoldtimes was a close third.
In the National Hunt Cup over hurdles, Fisher and Watters bounced back when Prayer Hope, coming off a solid second to Down Royal in a handicap at the Queens Cup in April, took the lead second-time around the course and drew clear of Holwood Stable’s Decisive Triumph for a 2 3/4-length win. He’ll Do, who was a winner at Willowdale on May 8, rallied to finish third, a neck behind Decisive Triumph.
The lightly raced six-year-old son of Tapit has made only seven career starts, but this was Prayer Hope’s second tally at Radnor, where he broke his maiden in 2019 over a strong field that included Gill Johnston’s Brianbakescookies, recent winner of the Queen’s Cup novice stakes.
Mystic Strike is a veteran timber star and multiple stakes winner of more than a quarter-million dollars. This was his first time back to Radnor since 2018, when he finished second in the Radnor Hunt Cup, a year after he won the event.
In other action, Willow Oaks Stable’s Master Gunner broke his maiden over hurdles by five lengths in the $20,000 Milfern Cup following a rousing battle with South Branch Equine’s Compass Zone. The victory was one of two on the card for jockey Eddie Keating and trainer Elizabeth Voss.
Owner Irv Naylor found the winner’s circle in the second race, a hurdle for apprentice riders, with Sempre Medici. Despite being a multiple graded stakes placed winner of $278,000 in a long and successful career in Europe and the U.S., the 11-year-old hadn’t won since 2016. That changed when the French-bred son of Medicean went wire to wire in the $10,000 Thompson Memorial with Elizabeth Scully aboard for trainer Cyril Murphy. The sanctioned victory was the third of Scully’s career and her first score in her first mount of 2021.
There are races that give you goosebumps, and races that give you goosebumps — especially when you get a heart-pounding finish with two charismatic grey horses giving their all. In the $10,000 James Moran maiden claiming hurdle, Boudinot Farms’ Makkadangdang, with Tom Garner, and Stone Farm’s Telegram, with Eddie Keating, fought it out to the wire, the advantage going to Makkadangdang. But hold all tickets. After reviewing the tapes, the stewards disqualified Makkadangdang and placed him second for veering left in deep stretch.
The winner, Telegram, was bred in Kentucky by Arthur Hancock’s Stone Farm, one of the most venerable names in racing. After only two starts at age three on the flat, the son of Quality Road switched to hurdles for trainer Elizabeth Voss. His win on Saturday came in his fourth try over hurdles.
In the day’s final race, the $10,000 Henry Collins maiden claiming hurdle, two recent newcomers to jump racing slugged it out with Wendy Hendriks’ Embrace the Grind prevailing by a length over South Branch Equine’s Bogey’s Image. The four-year-old son of Blame, trained by Ricky Hendriks, has made only two starts over hurdles following nine races on the flat. He’s made the most of his new career, though, finishing second in his debut, at the Queens Cup Races last month before Saturday’s score. The win was the second of the day for Tom Garner, who was named the meet’s leading rider, determined by wins and other top finishes.
Going into next weekend’s Carolina Cup Races in Camden, S.C., Graham Watters and Eddie Keating sit atop the jockey leaderboard with seven wins apiece, while Jack Fisher and Kathy Neilson are tied at four victories among trainers.
Full results can be found here: nationalsteeplechase.com/results/
The NSA’s recap show, Jump Racing USA, is available on demand for the remainder of the week on the NSA website.