Wendy Hendriks’ Surprising Soul, allowed to rate comfortably a few lengths off the pace, surged to the lead on the final turn of Saturday’s $50,000 National Hunt Cup (Gr. 3) and drew away easily through the stretch to a 10 3/4-length victory in the 88th Radnor Hunt Races’ featured hurdle race.
Irv Naylor’s Bobabout, the pacesetter under Darren Nagle, finished second, 8 3/4 lengths clear of Mercoeur, who had followed the leader’s pace in second before Surprising Soul made his winning move. Swansea Mile, never comfortable on turf softened by days of rain, finished fourth.
On an afternoon in eastern Pennsylvania that resembled a morning on the misty gallops at Newmarket, Surprising Soul ran the National Hunt Cup’s 2 3/8 miles in 5:14.40 on wet, soft turf.
The victory was by no means a surprise to trainer Ricky Hendriks, who saddled Surprising Soul and Swansea Mile. “The horse has been training terrific,” said the Pennsylvania-based trainer. “We knew he had a lot of talent.”
Surprising Soul, last spring’s leading novice, scored a major victory in the Iroquois Steeplechase’s Marcellus Frost Champion Hurdle in May, but occasional illnesses compromised the rest of his season. He came back with an unsanctioned flat win this spring that set him up for the National Hunt Cup, his first venture outside the novice ranks.
Hendriks’ knew his mother’s Ontario-bred was fresh from the long layoff and the flat start, so he had a very specific instruction for jockey Ross Geraghty. “I was adamant not to put the horse on the lead,” he said. “The instructions were pretty general, but I was emphatic about that.”
A seasoned professional who rides often for Hendriks (they won the following race with Rosbrian Farm’s Cheers for Us), Geraghty placed Surprising Soul on the outside about four lengths off Bobabout, making his first start since last August and only his second U.S. start.
Nagle did he best to nurse Bobabout’s speed over the wet ground and was in command till the climb to the last fence on the right-handed Radnor course. When Geraghty asked Surprising Soul, the six-year-old kicked to the front, jumped the last fence full of run, and had no competition to the finish line.
The National Hunt Cup was the second graded-stakes victory in eight days for Hendriks and Geraghty, who combined forces a week earlier to win the $200,000 Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1) with Zanjabeel, who is owned by Rosbrian and Wendy and Ben Griswold.
Top Man Michael tops in the Radnor Hunt Cup
Irv Naylor’s Top Man Michael, always in a striking position under Nagle, put away pacesetter Grand Manan in the final half-mile of the $30,000 Radnor Hunt Cup over timber fences and won by four lengths over Mystic Strike, last year’s winner by disqualification.
Sycamore Run Farm’s Pured It, second six days earlier in the Willowdale Steeplechase, made another late run to take third money, five lengths behind Upland Partners’ Mystic Strike. Trained by Cyril Murphy, Top Man Michael ran the Radnor Hunt Cup’s 3 1/4 miles in 7:51.80 on the soft ground.
Armata Stables’ Grand Manan, coming back after losing his jockey in the Willowdale Steeplechase, excels on firm going, and he set a soft pace under Willie McCarthy, with Top Man Michael and Nagle right behind them and Mystic Strike gliding along the rail with trainer-jockey Mark Beecher.
As the heavy ground slowed Grand Manan, Top Man Michael surged to the lead on Radnor’s backstretch and never was seriously threatened to the wire.