Bruton Street-US’s Scorpiancer seized the lead from front-running Portrade at the final fence of the $50,000 Temple Gwathmey Handicap (Gr. 3) and prevailed by a neck over the dead-game pacesetter in Saturday’s featured hurdle race at the 97th annual Middleburg Spring Races.
The Fields Stable’s Portrade went to the lead at the start under Gus Dahl and had his early three-length lead shrink to about 1 1/2 lengths in the final trip through the homestretch as Mr. Hot Stuff and Scorpiancer closed the gap.
Ridden by Sean McDermott, Scorpiancer commenced his challenge approaching the final fence and held a narrow lead over that hurdle. But Portrade—like Scorpiancer, a Grade 1 winner last year—refused to throw in the towel and battled stride for stride under Dahl.
McDermott applied vigorous pressure through the stretch, and Scorpiancer responded to sew up the victory in the first graded stakes race of the 2017 National Steeplechase Association season. Mr. Hot Stuff was third, and Swansea Mile finished fourth.
Trained by Jack Fisher, Scorpiancer ran the Temple Gwathmey’s 2 1/2 miles in 5:34.40 on turf rated as good. The eight-year-old Irish-bred collected his first Grade 1 victory in Belmont Park’s Lonesome Glory Handicap last September.
In the afternoon’s featured timber race, the $30,000 Middleburg Hunt Cup, Armata Stables’ Cornhusker moved to the lead two fences from home under Kieran Norris and drew away to a 5 3/4-length victory over Canyon Road. Hot Rize finished third, 1 3/4 lengths farther back.
Two’s Company, the 2016 timber champion who was seeking his second straight Middleburg Hunt Cup win for Bruton Street-US, was making his move under McDermott when he appeared to lose his footing on landing after the last.
Trained by Alicia Murphy, Cornhusker ran the Middleburg Hunt Cup’s 3 1/4 miles in 7:03.40. The 10-year-old English-bred Dynaformer gelding notched his first victory since the 2015 Mason Houghland Memorial at the Iroquois Steeplechase in Nashville.