The first two finishers in the 2015 Maryland Hunt Cup and the 2014 winner are among a record 30 early nominees to this year’s Hunt Cup. America’s best-known timber classic, the Hunt Cup will offer a record $100,000 purse on Saturday, April 30, at Worthington Farms in Glyndon.
Merriefield Farm’s Imperial Way finished a half-length ahead of Raven’s Choice last year in yet another exciting finish in the testing four-mile race over post-and-rail fences. Imperial Way had lost some saddle weights over a fence in the race’s late stages, however, and was disqualified to last.
As a result, owner Ann Jackson, trainer Todd Wyatt, and jockey Mark Beecher went to the winner’s stand for Raven’s Choice, who was bred in Maryland by the late Cary W. Jackson.
A year earlier, Elizabeth Voss-trained Imperial Way was denied victory in a photo finish by Stewart Strawbridge’s Guts For Garters, who also is nominated to the 120th Maryland Hunt Cup. Trained by Sanna Neilson, Irish-bred Guts For Garters finished third and was placed second in last year’s Hunt Cup.
Merriefield also was represented in the nominations by Foyle, the 2013 timber champion who is trained by Bruce Fenwick. Bred in Maryland by Martha Hopkins, Foyle fell late in the 2014 Hunt Cup.
Irv Naylor, who set a record for earnings by a National Steeplechase Association owner last year, nominated Almarmooq, winner of the 2015 Pennsylvania Hunt Cup for trainer Kathy Neilson.
Maryland-based trainer Jack Fisher, who crossed the million-dollar earnings mark for the second time last season, nominated the Bruton Street-US duo of Ballylifen and Drift Society. Ballylifen closed out his 2015 season with a timber victory at the Steeplechase at Callaway. Drift Society is coming back after missing last season.
Here are the nominees to the 120th edition of the $100,000 Maryland Hunt Cup.
Almarmooq. 2007 dk. b. or br. g., Dynaformer–Tuscoga, by Theatrical (Ire). Owner: Irvin S. Naylor. Trainer: Kathy Neilson. Breeder: Stone Farm (Ky.). 2015 record: 4-1-0-0, $23,250. 2014 record: 6-1-3-0, $23,400. Won 2015 Pennsylvania Hunt Cup. Finished sixth in Willowdale Steeplechase after late fall in Maryland Hunt Cup. Finished distant fourth in Grand National. Capped busy 2014 fall season with victory in Pennsylvania Hunt Cup’s Arthur O. Choate Jr. timber allowance.
And the Eagle Flys. 2002 ch. g., Double Honor–Slick Mountain, by Peaks and Valleys. Owner: Mrs. William D. Class Jr. Trainer: William Meister. Breeders: Philip and Karen Matthews (Fla.). 2015 record: No starts. 2014 record: 2-0-0-0, $0. Pulled up in the 2014 Grand National and Maryland Hunt Cup. Pulled up in the 2013 Grand National, his only start of the year. Won the 2012 Grand National but fell at the 17th fence of the Maryland Hunt Cup. Finished second in the 2011 Maryland Hunt Cup.
Any Key. 2003 b. g., Polish Numbers–Acapella Chick, by Capote. Owner: Happenstance. Trainer: William Meister. Breeders: A. Francis and Barbara Vanlangendonck (Fla.) 2015 record: No starts. 2014 record: No starts. In only 2012 start, finished seventh in the Marshall Jenney Memorial maiden timber race at the Willowdale Steeplechase.
Ballylifen (Ire). 2007 b. g., Brian Boru—Line Jade, by Luchiroverte. Owner: Bruton Street-US. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Breeder: J. Mangan (Ire). 2015 record: 5-2-0-1, $35,750. 2014 NSA record: 1-0-1-0, $2,700. Won Steeplechase at Callaway timber allowance race after fourth in International Gold Cup. Finished third in Virginia Fall’s National Sporting Library & Museum Cup. Finished fourth in 2015 Virginia Gold Cup after winning division of John Rush Streett maiden timber race at My Lady’s Manor.
Carrickboy (Ire). 2004 b. g., Silver Patriarch—Alaskan Princess, by Prince Rupert. Owner: Morning Star Farm. Trainer: Ricky Hendriks. Breeder: B. and I. McClelland (Ire). 2015 record: No starts. 2014 NSA record: No starts. Making his first start since fourth in an Aintree steeplechase allowance in late 2014. Won at 2013 Cheltenham Festival.
Catch the Echo. 2004 dk. b. or br. g., Eastern Echo—Catch the Varmint, by Spicy Story. Owner: Gerry L. Brewster. Trainer: Joseph Davies. 2015 record: 2-0-0-0, $3,600. 2014 record: 2-0-0-0, $0. Finished sixth and placed fifth in 2015 Maryland Hunt Cup after fifth in division of John Rush Streett maiden timber race at My Lady’s Manor. Lost rider in 2014 Maryland Hunt Cup after seventh in Benjamin H. Murray amateur allowance timber race at Grand National. Lost rider at the 13th fence of the 2013 Maryland Hunt Cup after being placed third in the Murray.
Class Brahms. 2008 b. g., Brahms–Class Babe, by Class Secret. Owner: Rosbrian Farm. Trainer: Tara Elmore. Breeder: Mede Cahaba Stable and Stud (Va.). 2015 record: 3-0-0-2, $4,000. 2014 record: 2-0-0-1, $1,500. Finished third in Fair Hill’s 2015 Valentine Memorial novice timber race after fifth in Iroquois Steeplechase’s Mason Houghland Memorial and third in Grand National’s Benjamin H. Murray Memorial timber amateur allowance race.
Derwins Prospector. 2008 ch. g., Van Nistelrooy—Stringtown Sally, by Crafty Prospector. Owner: Gerry L. Brewster. Trainer: Joseph Davies. Breeders: Patricia Lagden and Devi Hall (Ky.). 2015 record: No starts. 2014 record: 3-0-0-0, $2,200. Finished fifth in 2014 timber allowance race at Willowdale after sixth at Grand National.
Dont Tell Sailor (Ire). 2006 b. g., Saddlers’ Hall (Ire)—Pharlen’s Dream, by Phardante (Fr). Owner: Rosbrian Farm. Trainer: Paddy Neilson. Breeder: Edmond Coleman (Ire). 2015 record: 2-0-0-0, $2,400. 2014 record: 3-1-0-1, $12,500. Finished fifth in 2015 Grand National and then was fifth in Radnor Hunt Cup. Won a maiden timber race at Willowdale last May, finished fourth in the International Gold Cup’s timber allowance race, and was third in the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup’s timber allowance.
Drift Society (Ire). 2008 b. g., Jackson’s Drift—Tansey Yearwood (Ire), by Moscow Society. Owner: Bruton Street-US. Trainer: Jack Fisher. 2015 record: No starts. 2014 record: 5-1-1-0, $14,000. Making first start since second in 2014 Colonial Cup timber allowance race. Broke into the ranks of winners with a 1 1/2-length score in a Fair Hill novice timber race that year.
Foyle. 2005 dk. b. or br. g., Yarrow Brae–Londonderry, by Perfecting. Owner: Merriefield Farm. Trainer: Bruce Fenwick. Breeder: Mrs. C. Frank Hopkins (Md.) 2015 record: No starts. 2014 record: 2-0-1-0, $5,400. Fell while leading the 2014 Maryland Hunt Cup, his most recent start. In only other 2014 start, finished second by a nose in the Grand National. Won the 2013 timber championship with late-season victories in the International Gold Cup (as 11.60-1 longshot) and Pennsylvania Hunt Cup.
Guts For Garters (Ire). 2003 br. g., Presenting—Askynn, by Beau Sher. Owner: Stewart Strawbridge. Trainer: Sanna Neilson. 2015 record: 2-0-2-0, $17,100. 2014 record: 2-1-0-0, $45,000. Finished third and placed second in 2015 Maryland Hunt Cup after second in Grand National’s Benjamin H. Murray Memorial timber amateur allowance race. Won the 2014 Maryland Hunt Cup by a nose with a determined late drive.
Hunt Ball (Ire). 2005 b. g., Winged Love—La Fandango, by Taufan. Owner: Atlantic Equine. Trainer: Elizabeth Voss. Breeder: Michael Slevin (Ire). 2015 NSA record: 1-0-0-0, $0. Moving into timber racing after eighth-place finish in 2015 Grand National (Gr. 1) at Far Hills, N.J. Reeled off three consecutive allowance hurdle victories in England after fourth in Aintree’s Crabbies Topham Steeplechase. Finished ninth in 2013 Grand National (Gr. 1).
Illustration. 2007 ch. g., Pleasant Tap–Sabratical, by Wavering Monarch. Owner-Trainer: Conrad Somers. Breeder: Jim Plemmons (Ky.) 2015 record: 1-0-1-0, $1,800. 2014 record: 3-0-1-0, $2,800. In only 2015 start, finished second in Willowdale timber allowance race. Finished ninth in 2014 Virginia Gold Cup after second in John D. Schapiro Memorial amateur apprentice timber race at My Lady’s Manor.
Imperial Way. 2005 ch. g., Point Given–Lasha, by Rahy. Owner: Merriefield Farm. Trainer: Elizabeth Voss. Breeders: McMahon of Saratoga Thoroughbreds, Craig and Cathy Beam, et al. 2015 record: 2-0-0-0, $0. 2014 record: 2-0-1-0, $14,300. Disqualified from win in 2015 Maryland Hunt Cup after losing saddle weights late in race. Just missed by a nose in thrilling 2014 Maryland Hunt Cup finish.
Joshua G. 2006 ch. g., Run Softly—Search for Reality, by Regal Search. Owner: Armata Stables. Trainer: Kathy Neilson. Breeder: Jason L. Cole (Pa.) 2015 record: 4-0-0-0, $5,750. 2014 record: 3-1-0-0, $10,400. Finished fourth in 2015 Pennsylvania Hunt Cup timber allowance race after fall in Genesee Valley Hunt Cup. Finished fifth and placed fourth in Maryland Hunt Cup. Homebred won 2014 Martha S. Wadsworth Memorial maiden timber race at the Genesee Valley Hunt Races in New York, then was fifth in the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup.
Just Barely. 2008 dk. b. or br. m., Coastal Storm—Salem Jewel, by Sword Dance (Ire). Owner-trainer: William Meister. Breeder: Billy Meister (Md.). 2015 record: No starts. 2014 record: No starts. Making debut over fences after modest success on the flat.
Mecklenburg. 2004 b. g., Mecke—Northwest Key, by Northrop. Owner: Rosbrian Farm. Trainer: Tara Elmore. 2012 record: 2-1-1-0, $18,000. Won 2012 Genesee Valley Hunt Cup after good second in Mason Houghland Memorial Timber Stakes at Nashville’s Iroquois Steeplechase. Collected first career victory in Benjamin H. Murray Memorial allowance timber race at Grand National in Butler, Md., that year.
Mr Tack. 2002 dk. B. or br. g., Mr. Greeley—Always Red, by Eastern Echo. Owner: Stayright Racing. Trainer: Billy Santoro. Breeder: Lucky Shamrock (Ky.). 2015 record: 2-0-0-0, $1,200. 2014 record: No starts. Finished fifth in Grand National’s Benjamin H. Murray Memorial timber amateur allowance race after distant fifth in John D. Schapiro amateur apprentice timber race at My Lady’s Manor. Won Willowdale timber allowance in 2013.
Old Timer. 2006 b. g., Orientate—Chatham Hall, by Green Dancer. Owner: Kinross Farm. Trainer: Christopher Read. Breeder: Gainesway Thoroughbreds (Ky.) 2015 record: 1-0-0-0, $0. 2014 record: 2-0-1-1, $12,900. Fell in the National Sporting Library and Museum Cup, his only 2015 start. Finished second in 2014 My Lady’s Manor before third in Virginia Gold Cup. Finished second in 2013 National Sporting Library Chronicle Cup.
Raven’s Choice. 2007 dk. b. or br. g., Dance With Ravens—Millashand, by Regal Intention. Owner: Mrs. Cary W. Jackson. Trainer: Todd Wyatt. Breeder: Cary W. Jackson (Md.). 2015 record: 2-1-0-1, $48,000. 2014 record: 3-2-1-0, $29,700. Placed first in 2015 Maryland Hunt Cup after finishing close second. Began season with third in Grand National. Won 2014 Willowdale Steeplechase.
Saint Dynaformer. 2007 b. g., Dynaformer—Saintly Action, by Saint Ballado. Owner: Kinross Farm. Trainer: Christopher Read. Breeder: Carlwood Farms (Ky.). 2015 record: 5-0-0-1, $4,100. Finished sixth in 2015 Virginia Fall maiden timber race after fourth in similar race at Shawan Downs. Finished sixth in Fair Hill’s Valentine Memorial timber novice race after third in Willowdale maiden and John D. Schapiro amateur allowance timber at My Lady’s Manor in his debut over timber.
Schoolhouse Woods. 2007 b. g., Sky Classic—Mabelino, by Trempolino. Owner: Kinross Farm. Trainer: Christopher Read. Breeder: Kinross Corp. (Ky.). 2015 record: 6-2-1-1, $46,700. 2014 record: 4-2-0-0, $21,000. Finished good third in 2015 New Jersey Hunt Cup, a week after refusing at start of Virginia Fall’s National Sporting Library & Museum Cup. After refused in Pennsylvania Hunt Cup. Won Willowdale Steeplechase, eight days after victory in Virginia Gold Cup’s Steeplethon. Also second in Middleburg Spring’s Alfred M. Hunt steeplechase.
Senior Senator. 2010 b. g., Domestic Dispute—Queen Kennelot, by Awesome Again. Owner: Irvin L. Crawford II. Trainer: Joseph Davies. Breeder: Charles C. D. McGill (Pa.) 2015 record: 2-0-2-0, $10,800. 2014 record: 3-1-1-0, $12,000. Had second-place finishes in 2015 My Lady’s Manor and Grand National. Won maiden victory at 2014 Pennsylvania Hunt Cup after second in Martha S. Wadsworth at Genesee Valley meet in New York.
Serene Harbor. 2003 b. g., Valley Crossing—We Wak Harbor, by Waquoit. Owner: Welcome Here Farm. Trainer: Todd McKenna. Breeder: Nina Gardner (Pa.). 2015 record: 1-1-0-0, $18,000. 2014 record: 3-2-0-0, $21,000. Won Grand National in only 2015 start. Closed 2014 season with a runaway victory in Genesee Valley Hunt Cup. Returned to the races after a nearly two-year break and won a Winterthur timber allowance race that year.
Sky Count. 2006 ch. g., Sky Classic—Dreams Count, by Unaccounted For. Owner: Holwood Stable. Trainer: Mark Beecher. Breeder: Ruth Fitzgerald (Ky.) 2015 record: 1-0-0-0, $0. 2014 record: No starts. Pulled up in his only 2015 jumps start, in Genesee Valley Hunt Cup. Fell in previous jump start at 2013 Grand National.
Sovereign Fund. 2006 dk. b. or br. g., Giant’s Causeway—Colonial Play, by Pleasant Colony. Owner: Upland Partners. Trainer: Todd McKenna. Breeder: Robert S. Evans (Ky.) 2015 record: 4-1-1-0, $18,250. 2014 record: 5-0-0-1, $5,000. Finished fourth in 2015 Pennsylvania Hunt Cup for second straight year. Finished second in Willowdale Steeplechase after losing rider in Maryland Hunt Cup. Opened 2015 season with win in Grand National’s Benjamin H. Murray Memorial timber allowance race.
Spencer Road. 2006 b. h., Slew City Slew—Snars Good Fortune, by Snars. Owners: Gerry Brewster, Eleanor T. Russell, and Joseph Tydings. Trainer: Joseph Davies. 2015 record: 2-0-0-1, $8,500. 2014 record: 2-1-0-0, $18,000. Finished fourth and placed third in 2015 Maryland Hunt Cup after fourth in Grand National’s Benjamin H. Murray Memorial timber amateur allowance race. Won 2014 Grand National before eighth in Virginia Gold Cup.
Terko Service. 2007 b. g., Service Stripe—Terko Bates, by Bates Motel. Owner: Frank A. Bonsal Jr. Trainer: Ann D. Stewart. Breeder: Campbell Stable (Mich.) 2015 record: 2-0-0-1, $1,000. 2014 record: 1-0-0-0, $500. Finished third in 2015 Winterthur timber allowance race after seventh in Grand National’s Benjamin H. Murray Memorial. Finished fourth in 2014 John D. Schapiro Memorial at My Lady’s Manor.
Wildcatter. 2008 dk. b. or br. g., Tale of the Cat—Cita My Dear, by Kris S. Owner: Armata Stables. Trainer: Elizabeth Voss. Breeder: Ramona S. Bass (Ky.) 2015 record: 3-1-0-0, $18,000. 2014 record: 3-1-0-1, $12,000. Finished eighth in 2015 International Gold Cup. Finished second and placed first in Radnor Hunt Cup on May 16. Pulled up in 2015 Queen’s Cup timber allowance. Won maiden timber victory at 2014 Foxfield Spring.