The Lonesome Glory Champions Award was decided on the last day of the 2011 racing season in the $100,000 Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup (Gr. 1), and the Eclipse Award voting also is shaping up as a tussle among five contenders, including three owned by Irvin S. Naylor.
A likely favorite for the national title will be Naylor’s Tax Ruling because of his two Grade 1 victories, a repeat win in the $150,000 Calvin Houghland Iroquois on May 14 at Nashville’s Percy Warner Park and a thrilling score in the Colonial Cup on Nov. 19 in Camden, S.C.
The Dynaformer gelding also finished fourth in the $50,000 Carolina Cup (Gr. 3) on April 2 on the Springdale Course in Camden, and he was pulled up in the $250,000 Grand National (Gr. 1) at Far Hills, N.J. on Oct. 21. He had prepared for his fall campaign over fences with a victory in a training flat race at Shawan Downs in Maryland on Sept. 24. His 2011 earnings totaled $153,500, the second-highest on the National Steeplechase Association circuit.
Another contender is Naylor’s Black Jack Blues, an Irish-bred import who easily won his two NSA starts, in the $35,000 Dorothy Fred Smithwick Stakes at the Virginia Fall Races on Oct. 1 and in the Grand National at Far Hills. Those two victories earned him $171,000, and as the earnings leader he received the Lonesome Glory Champions Award.
Naylor’s third Eclipse contender is Decoy Daddy, who won three stakes races, two of them graded. In the spring, he won the $50,000 Temple Gwathmey (Gr. 3) at the Middleburg Spring Races in Virginia on April 23 and came back to win the $75,000 Marcellus Frost (Gr. 2) at the Iroquois races on May 14. He also won the $40,000 Noel Laing for the second straight year at the Montpelier Hunt Races in Virginia on Nov. 5. He closed out the season with an unplaced finish in the Colonial Cup. His 2011 earnings totaled $124,100, third on the year-end list.
One of the season’s most interesting stories was Mabou, who went from claimer to Grade 1 winner in the span of two races. Under the ownership of Sarah and Ken Ramsey, Mabou won the $25,000 James M. Moran Jr., a Sport of Kings claiming hurdle, by 82 lengths at the Radnor Hunt Races in Malvern, Pa., on May 21.
The Ramseys, who campaigned 2010 Eclipse winner Slip Away, put the Dynaformer gelding into the Steeplechase Owners and Trainers Association Firestone Tire Hurdle, an option allowance at Saratoga Race Course on Aug. 8 for a $30,000 claiming price. He went off as the 1.70-1 favorite and set the early pace, but he faded to finish fifth. New York trainer David Jacobson, impressed with the Radnor victory, claimed him for Drawing Away Stable and himself.
Jacobson decided to switch tactics and have Mabou make a late run in the $100,000 New York Turf Writers Cup Handicap (Gr. 1) at Saratoga three weeks later. Mabou ran powerfully through the stretch to win by 5 3/4 lengths at 16.60-1. He did not handle the yielding ground in the Grand National and was pulled up. From four 2011 starts, he earned $77,120.
Bill Pape’s Divine Fortune again showed some of the brilliance that had made him one of the sport’s leading active earners. On the same Saratoga card from which Mabou was claimed, Divine Fortune powered to his second straight victory in the $75,000 A. P. Smithwick. Divine Fortune, making his first 2011 start, won the Smithwick by two lengths over Decoy Daddy. In next start, the New York Turf Writers, he interfered with Decoy Daddy and was disqualified from fourth to sixth place.
The Royal Academy gelding lost his jockey in the Grand National and then closed out the season with a good second in the Colonial Cup, beaten 1 1/4 lengths by Tax Ruling. His 2011 earnings, $64,000, raised his career total to $331,890.