Irvin S. Naylor’s Tax Ruling set almost all the pace in the $150,000 Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1), fended off a challenge by Eclipse Award champion Slip Away, and drew away his second consecutive victory in the richest race on the National Steeplechase Association spring schedule.
Also for the second consecutive year, Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Slip Away checked in second in the three-mile race at Nashville’s Percy Warner Park on Saturday, May 14. Mary Ann Houghland, widow of the legendary Tennessee horseman for whom the race is named, collected third and fourth money with Nationbuilder and 2009 winner Pierrot Lunaire, respectively.
Unlike 2010, when Tax Ruling closed to overtake Slip Away in the late phases of the testing race over National Fences, the eight-year-old Dynaformer gelding was put on the lead by jockey Darren Nagle, who also rode the winner last year.
Slip Away came to Tax Ruling approaching the last fence and put a nose in front, but the eight-year-old Skip Away gelding stumbled at the 18th obstacle and lost ground to Tax Ruling, who pulled away to a five-length score. Nationbuilder finished a length farther back in third. Tax Ruling ran the Calvin Houghland Iroquois’ three miles in 5:46.20 on yielding turf.
Naylor, the 2010 champion owner on the NSA circuit and the current leader, had a big afternoon at the Nashville course. His Decoy Daddy, also ridden by Nagle, scored a victory in the $75,000 Marcellus Frost (Gr. 2). The Fields Stable’s Left Unsaid finished second, a length back. Nagle also rode Naylor’s Chess Board to a quarter-length score over Bruce Miller’s Dynaskill in the $35,000 Bright Hour Hurdle for amateur jockeys.
Brianne Slater trains Tax Ruling, who won for the first time since his 2010 Calvin Houghland Iroquois score. Decoy Daddy and Chess Board are handled by former jockey Tom Foley, who secured his first major victory as a trainer when Decoy Daddy won the Temple Gwathmey (Gr. 3) at the Middleburg Spring Races on April 23.
Mrs. Houghland’s Sweet Shani scored a second consecutive victory in the $50,000 Margaret Currey Henley for fillies and mares. Trained by Racing Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard, Sweet Shani was ridden by Danielle Hodsdon and won by 1 1/4 lengths over Lonesome Nun.
In a significant upset, Michael A. Smith’s Triple Dip notched a two-length win in the $50,000 Mason Houghland Memorial in his first start over timber fences. Trained by Jimmy Day, the Storm Broker gelding had been pulled up in the 2010 Calvin Houghland Iroquois. Champion jockey Paddy Young rode the winner.
Gus Dahl, a 16-year-old apprentice jockey from nearby Franklin, Tenn., collected a flat victory when he drove Virginia Lazenby’s Pleasant Woodman to a 2 3/4-length victory in the Guilford Dudley Jr., Memorial at 1 1/2 miles. Doug Fout trained the winner.
Dahl, a sophomore at Franklin High School, collected his first victory over fences on May 7 when he scored a 5 1/4-length win aboard owner-trainer Karen Gray’s Cuse in a $25,000 starter allowance hurdle at the Virginia Gold Cup in The Plains. He also finished second in the Virginia Gold Cup’s $25,000 Steeplethon aboard Gray’s Meckenburg.
South Monarch rules Willowdale Steeplechase
Morning Star Stables’ South Monarch collected his first 2011 sanctioned victory when he prevailed by 1 1/2 lengths over Jeremy A. Batoff’s Prospectors Strike in the $15,000 Willowbrook Steeplechase at Kennett Square, Pa., on Sunday, May 15. Northwoods Stable’s Bold Quest finished third. Ridden by Chip Miller, South Monarch completed the Willowdale Steeplechase’s 3 1/2 miles in 8:09.40 on turf rated as good.
Trained by Sanna N. Hendriks, who owns Morning Star Stables, South Monarch had finished second a week earlier in the Winterthur Bowl and found his winning stride on Willowdale’s steeplechase course. The nine-year-old Conquistador Cielo gelding previously had finished third in the My Lady’s Manor at Monkton, Md., on April 16.
Morning Star collected a second victory when Paddy Young rode Thermostat to victory in the $10,000 Landhope Cup open timber race for trainer Ricky Hendriks, the owner’s husband.