Two winners at the spring’s major timber racing meets, City Press and Raven’s Choice, head a competitive field for the $25,000 Willowdale Steeplechase, the featured race of the 22nd annual Willowdale meet in Kennett Square, Pa., on Sunday, May 11. First post time is 1:30 p.m. for the six-race Mother’s Day card.
City Press, owned by Bruton Street-US, is a veteran of racing over steeplechase fences in England and scored four wins there last year. He made his first U.S. start in the second division of the John Rush Streett Memorial maiden timber race at My Lady’s Manor on April 12 and won by 2 3/4 lengths. Trainer Jack Fisher named Connor Hankin for a return trip on the eight-year-old Irish-bred.
Raven’s Choice, owned by Mrs. Cary W. Jackson, ran into a talented timber convert, Organisateur, in the Streett’s first division and finished a distant second. A week later, Raven’s Choice won the Benjamin H. Murray Memorial amateur timber allowance race at the Grand National meet in Butler, Md. Mark Beecher gets a return call aboard Raven’s Choice for trainer Todd Wyatt.
Current leading owner Irv Naylor will be represented by Alamarmooq and Prince Ludovic. Almarmooq was second to Raven’s Choice in the Murray but then was unplaced in the Winterthur Bowl on May 4. Prince Ludovic finished second in the Steeplethon at the Virginia Gold Cup on May 3. Kathy Neilson, who trained Embarrassed to a victory in last year’s Willowdale Steeplechase, will saddle both Naylor starters.
Who do you like in the Willowdale Steeplechase?
Raven’s Choice. 2007 dk. b. or br. g., Dance With Ravens—Millashand, by Regal Intention. Owner: Mrs. Cary W. Jackson. Trainer: Todd Wyatt. Jockey: Mark Beecher. 2014 record: 2-1-1-0, $14,700. 2013 record: 2-0-1-0, $2,300. 7-2 odds. Finished second to rising timber star in the first division of the John Rush Streett maiden timber race at My Lady’s Manor on April 12 and then won Benjamin H. Murray Memorial amateur timber race at the Grand National meet a week later.
Derwins Prospector. 2008 ch. g., Van Nistelrooy—Stringtown Sally, by Crafty Prospector. Owner: Gerry L. Brewster. Trainer: Blythe Miller Davies. Jockey: Eric Poretz. 2014 record: 2-0-0-0, $1,200. 2013 record: 1-0-0-0, $0. 10-1 odds. Fifth in first division of John Rush Streett at My Lady’s Manor on April 12 and sixth in Benjamin H. Murray amateur allowance timber race a week later at Grand National meet in Butler, Md.
Bug Eyed Willy. 2003 dk. b. or br. g., Lion Hearted—Bug Eyed Betty, by Pilot Ship. Owner: NoGo Stable. Trainer: William Meister. Jockey: K. Fritz Boniface. 2014 record: 2-0-0-0, $0. 2013 record: 4-0-0-0, $900. 15-1 odds. Finished 10th in Benjamin H. Murray Memorial at Grand National on April 19 and then fell early in Maryland Hunt Cup. Lost rider at 16th fence of the 2013 Maryland Hunt Cup after placed fourth in the Murray Memorial. Finished respectable fourth in 2012 Pennsylvania Hunt Cup.
Almarmooq. 2007 dk. b. or br. g., Dynaformer–Tuscoga, by Theatrical (Ire). Owner: Irvin S. Naylor. Trainer: Kathy Neilson. Jockey: James Slater. 2014 record: 2-0-1-0, $4,200. 2013 record: 9-1-1-3, $14,300. 8-1 odds. Finished second, beaten three-quarters of a length, in Benjamin H. Murray amateur timber allowance race at Grand National on April 19, then was last of six in Winterthur Bowl on May 4. Won maiden over timber at 2013 Genesee Valley Hunt Races.
City Press (Ire). 2006 b. g., Presenting—Phargara, by Phardante. Owner: Bruton Street-US. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Jockey: Connor Hankin. 2014 record: 1-1-0-0, $9,000. 2013 NSA record: No starts. 5-2 odds. Won second division of John Rush Streett maiden timber race at My Lady’s Manor on April 12. Veteran over steeplechase fences in England, where he won four races last year.
Prince Ludovic (Ire). 2007 b. g., Luso (GB)–Beaver Run (Ire), by Be My Native. Owner: Irvin S. Naylor. Trainer: Kathy Neilson. Jockey: James Slater. 2014 record: 2-0-1-0, $4,500. 2013 record: No starts. 6-1 odds. Finished second in Steeplethon at Virginia Gold Cup on May 3. Went off course in Grand National’s Western Run Plate timber allowance race. Missed the 2013 season after being pulled up in his U.S. debut, Far Hills’ Foxbrook Champion Hurdle.
Major Malibu. 2004 b. g., Malibu Moon–Major Barbara, by Salutely. Owner: Jeremy Batoff. Trainer: William Dowling. Jockey: Justin Batoff. 2014 record: 1-0-1-0, $1,800. 2013 record: 1-0-0-0, $750. 2012 record: 3-0-0-1, $2,500. 10-1 odds. Finished distant second in Western Run Plate at Grand National on April 19. In only 2013 start, finished fourth in the Alfred M. Hunt timber race at the Middleburg Spring Races. Finished third in the 2012 Steeplethon at the Virginia Gold Cup.