Irv Naylor’s Rawnaq marked himself as a leading contender for the spring’s top races when he dominated Saturday’s $50,000 Temple Gwathmey Handicap (Gr. 3), the first graded stakes race on the 2016 National Steeplechase Association schedule.
Trained by Cyril Murphy, Rawnaq was never far back in the 2 1/2-mile Temple Gwathmey, the featured hurdle race of the Middleburg Spring Steeplechase. The Temple Gwathmey’s 158-pound highweight, he made an overpowering move to the final fences and drew clear to a 15 1/4-length victory under Jack Doyle.
Bruton Street-US’s Scorpiancer closed ground to finish second, a length ahead of Armata Stables’ Rudyard K. Rawnaq ran the Temple Gwathmey distance in 5:34.80 on a Glenwood Park course rated as good.
The Temple Gwathmey was the first U.S. victory for Rawnaq, a nine-year-old Azamour gelding who twice finished behind his stablemate Dawalan in Grade 1 races last fall, with a third in the Grand National (Gr. 1) and a second in the Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup.
With his impressive Temple Gwathmey win, Rawnaq takes on the mantle of Dawalan, who is out for the season after bowing a tendon in a point-to-point flat race earlier in April. Both horses are trained by Murphy at Naylor’s Butler, Md., farm.
Doyle, last year’s champion jockey by purse earnings, placed Rawnaq immediately behind pacesetter Manacor and took charge two fences from home. He was all alone at the last and drew away steadily to the finish line in a dominating performance.
In Middleburg Spring’s featured timber race, the $30,000 Middleburg Hunt Cup, Bruton Street-US’s Two’s Company won by three lengths over his stablemate Straight to It. Both are trained by reigning champion Jack Fisher. Finishing third was Naylor’s Personal Brew, who set the early pace.
Ridden by Sean McDermott, Two’s Company ran the Middleburg Hunt Cup’s 3 1/4 miles in 6:52.60.