Twice, Irv Naylor’s Tax Ruling went to the winner’s circle at the Iroquois Steeplechase after winning its signature race, the Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1). He will attempt to make another trip to the Iroquois winner’s circle when he heads a competitive field for the $50,000 Mason Houghland Memorial on Saturday, May 10.
Tax Ruling has embarked on a new career, racing over timber fences, and he came close to getting that third trip to the Iroquois winner’s circle last year, when he finished second in the three-mile Houghland.
In his only start this year, Tax Ruling finished sixth in the My Lady’s Manor at Monkton, Md., on April 12. James Slater, who was aboard Tax Ruling for the Mason Houghland last year, will again be in the saddle for trainer Billy Meister.
The 11-year-old veteran will be meeting a field with both past and recent accomplishments. Trainer Alicia Murphy entered Armata Stables’ Cornhusker, who won the Middleburg Hunt Cup by 6 1/2 lengths on April 19. Mark Beecher will ride.
Like Tax Ruling, Bill Pape’s Nationbuilder has successfully transitioned to timber after a stakes-winning career over hurdles. Third in the 2011 and 2012 Calvin Houghland Iroquois, Nationbuilder won a timber race at last year’s Carolina Cup meet. Champion jockey Paddy Young will ride for Racing Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard.
Jack Fisher, who shared the overall training title last year with Sheppard and the timber training title with Meister, won last year’s Mason Houghland with Worried Man. This year he will saddle Northwoods Stable’s Peace Fire and Rugged Rascal, owned by his Kingfisher Farm.
Peace Fire opened his 2014 campaign with a fifth-place finish in the Middleburg Hunt Cup. He will be ridden by Connor Hankin. Jeff Murphy will be aboard Rugged Rascal, who is beginning his timber career.
Virginia-based trainer Richard Valentine entered Magalen O. Bryant’s Dakota Slew, who finished third in a Colonial Cup timber allowance last November. Robbie Walsh will ride.
Here is the field for the $50,000 Mason Houghland Memorial.
Peace Fire. 2007 b. g., Peace Rules–Miss Evans, by Nijinsky II. Owner: Northwoods Stable. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Jockey: Connor Hankin. 2014 record: 1-0-0-0, $800. 2013 record: 2-1-1-0, $14,700. 8-1 odds. Began 2014 season with fifth in Middleburg Hunt Cup on April 19. Won Winterthur Bowl last May and finished second to Tax Ruling in Fair Hill’s Murphy Memorial later that month.
Rugged Rascal. 2007 dk. b. or br. g., Closing Argument–Merci, by Williamstown. Owner: Kingfisher Farm. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Jockey: Jeff Murphy. 2013 record: 4-0-0-2, $5,050. 10-1 odds. Transferring to timber division after two third-place finishes in maiden hurdles last year.
Cornhusker (GB). 2007 b. g., Dynaformer–Nebraska Tornado, by Storm Cat. Owner: Armata Stables. Trainer: Alicia Murphy. Jockey: Mark Beecher. 2014 record: 1-1-0-0, $12,000. 2013 record: 5-1-1-0, $15,950. 7-2 odds. Made successful transition to timber racing and won Middleburg Hunt Cup open timber race on April 19. Ended 2013 season with second in Pennsylvania Hunt Cup timber allowance.
Dakota Slew. 2007 dk. b. or br. g., Slew City Slew—Klearlee Kiera, by Allen’s Prospect. Owner: Magalen O. Bryant. Trainer: Richard Valentine. Jockey: Robbie Walsh. 2013 record: 5-0-0-2, $10,500. 2012 record: 5-2-0-2, $18,000. 5-1 odds. Finished third in 2013 Colonial Cup timber race after losing rider in Pennsylvania Hunt Cup. Finished fifth in Genesee Valley Hunt Cup. Finished third in Virginia Gold Cup and then lost rider in Willowdale Steeplechase on May 12. Won timber allowance at 2012 Pennsylvania Hunt Cup.
Nationbuilder. 2004 dk. b. or br. g., Came Home–Seattle Bay, by Opening Verse. Owner: Bill Pape. Trainer: Jonathan Sheppard. Jockey: Paddy Young. 2013 record: 2-1-0-0, $13,000. 4-1 odds. Third-place finisher in 2011 and 2012 Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1) now pursuing career over timber fences and won Carolina Cup timber allowance race in March 2013. Finished fourth in Colonial Cup timber allowance race in only other 2013 start.
Tax Ruling. 2003 dk. b. or br. g., Dynaformer–Fantastic Find, by Mr. Prospector. Owner: Irvin S. Naylor. Trainer: William Meister. Jockey: James Slater. 2014 record: 1-0-0-0, $900. 2013 record: 3-2-1-0, $30,000. 3-1 odds. Two-time Iroquois (Gr. 1) winner finished sixth in My Lady’s Manor on April 12. Made a successful transition to timber in 2013, finishing second in the Mason Houghland Memorial at Iroquois and then winning a Fair Hill timber allowance two weeks later. Started fall campaign with victory in the Legacy Chase timber allowance at Shawan Downs and then was third in the International Gold Cup. Finished fourth in 2012 Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1) while seeking third straight win.