Irv Naylor’s reigning Eclipse Award winner Rawnaq will miss his engagement in Cheltenham’s Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle because of an injury sustained in a training incident at Naylor’s Butler, Md., farm on Friday.
Rawnaq, crowned as the Eclipse champion the following day, was pursuing a $500,000 bonus for the winner of the Iroquois Steeplechase’s Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1) and the Stayers’ Hurdle within a 12-month period. Rawnaq courageously turned back two Irish invaders to win the Iroquois and subsequently won Far Hills’ Grand National (Gr. 1) to lock up his Eclipse Award.
“Needless to say, Diane and I are devastated,” Naylor said. “We were so looking forward to traveling to England to compete in the Stayers’ Hurdle in March. We are disappointed not only for ourselves and Rawnaq but also for our lead trainer, Cyril Murphy, and the staff members who care for Rawnaq every day and love him as much as we do.”
Murphy said Rawnaq sustained a soft-tissue injury that will keep him out of action this year. “Our only priority now is making sure he’s comfortable,” Murphy said.
National Steeplechase Association President Guy J. Torsilieri sent the sport’s heartfelt best wishes to the Naylors and members of the Rawnaq team.
“We are disappointed for Irv, Diane, and Team Rawnaq,” he said. “Irv has done so much in such a short period of time to raise the profile of American Steeplechasing. He has raced horses who blossomed into champions, and he has helped to increase awareness of American jump racing internationally.”
With Rawnaq’s $387,000 in 2016 purses leading the way, Naylor established a record for owner earnings at $997,600. He shattered the record he had set only a year earlier. In addition to Rawnaq, he has raced Eclipse winners Dawalan (2015) and Black Jack Blues (2011).