Always well placed, Irvin Naylor’s Tax Ruling challenged front-running Slip Away before the next to last fence of the $150,000 Calvin Houghland Iroquois Steeplechase on Saturday, May 8, took the lead before the last, and drew clear to a 4 3/4-length victory in the 69th running of the Grade 1 race at Percy Warner Park in Nashville, Tenn.
Ridden by Darren Nagle, Tax Ruling refused to allow Slip Away pull away to a commanding advantage, as Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s gelding had in winning the Temple Gwathmey (Gr. 3) at Middleburg, Va., on April 17.
While Slip Away and jockey Paddy Young enjoyed a daylight lead for most of the Calvin Houghland Iroquois’ three miles over 18 National Fences, Tax Ruling and Nagle tracked them from the second position in a field of eight.
Nagle asked Tax Ruling to pick up the pace on the final turn, and they went after the leader in the stretch. Slip Away fought back after he was headed before the last fence, but Tax Ruling overpowered him in the race to the finish line as Nagle pressed the seven-year-old Dynaformer gelding to victory.
Slip Away held second, and Hudson River Farms’ Arcadius came on to take the third spot. Trained by Desmond Fogarty, Tax Ruling ran the three miles in a course-record 5:37 1/5 on firm turf.
In other major races of the rich Iroquois meet, Gregg Ryan’s Dynantonia set the early pace in the $50,000 Marcellus Frost (Gr. 3), gave the advantage to Birthday Beau in the first mile, and jumped to the lead with two fences remaining.
Under vigorous urging by jockey Carl Rafter, Dynantonia turned back a challenge on the outside by Dictina’s Boy and won by 2 3/4 lengths. Bill Pape’s Divine Fortune challenged on the inside but leveled off to finish third. Dyantonia, an eight-year-old by Dynaformer trained by Julie Gomena, ran the Marcellus Frost’s two miles over 15 National Fences in 3:53 on firm turf.
Arcadia Stable’s Bubble Economy exploded away from front-running Radio Flyer after the last fence and drew off to an authoritative 5 3/4-victory in the $75,000 Mason Houghland Memorial over 19 timber fences.
It was the second major timber victory in a week for Jack Fisher-trained Bubble Economy, who had scored a half-length victory in the $75,000 Virginia Gold Cup at The Plains, Va., on May 1. Ridden by Paddy Young, Bubble Economy rated in third position as Radio Flyer opened a big early lead.
The field closed the margin on Radio Flyer in the final mile, but the Augustin Stables runner tenaciously held onto his lead over the next to last fence. But Bubble Economy soared over the final fence and quickly opened daylight on the field.
Incomplete finished third, and Woodmont was fourth. Bubble Economy ran the Mason Houghland’s three miles in 6:24 2/5.
Mrs. Calvin Houghland’s Sweet Shani powered to the lead at the final fence of the $50,000 Margaret Currey Henley Sport of Kings Filly and Mare Hurdle and drew clear to a 3 1/4-length victory over second-place finisher Diva Maria. Finishing third was Confined. Trained by Jonathan Sheppard and ridden by Danielle Hodsdon, Sweet Shani ran the Henley’s 2 1/4 miles in 4:15 2/5.
Triplekin takes Tanglewood Cup
Magalen O. Bryant’s Triplekin drew clear to a five-length victory in the $25,000 Tanglewood Cup, the featured race of the 45th annual Tanglewood Cup Steeplechase on Saturday, May 8, at Tanglewood Park in Clemmons, N.C. Easy Red finished second, and Farah T. Salute was third.
Trained by Racing Hall of Fame member Jonathan Sheppard and ridden by Richard Boucher, Triplekin ran the Tanglewood Cup’s 2 1/8 miles over National Fences in 4:21 on firm turf. Boucher also was in the saddle when the five-year-old Makin gelding won his maiden victory by 2 1/4 lengths at the Block House Races in Tryon, N.C., on April 17.
Scuba Steve on top in Willowdale Steeplechase
Perry J. Bolton’s Scuba Steve, left on the lead when Prospectors Strike lost his rider at the last fence, won the $15,000 Willowdale Steeplechase by a yawning 52 lengths on Sunday, May 9 in Kennett Square, Pa. Arcadia Stable’s Delta Park finished second in the featured race of the 18th Willowdale Steeplechase, and 2009 winner Vinnie Boy took third.
Ridden by Irish-born jockey Mark Beecher, Scuba Steve and Jeremy A. Batoff’s Prospectors Strike set the pace in the 3 1/2-mile race over 22 timber fences, and they pulled away from the remainder of the six-horse field on the final circuit of the lush Willowdale course. They appeared to be poised for a battle to the finish line as they approached the final post-and-rail fence, but Prospectors Strike crashed through the wing of an adjoining fence and dumped jockey Justin Batoff.
Beecher looked back after the final fence and, seeing no competition, allowed the ten-year-old Distorted Humor gelding to gallop to the finish. Trained by Katherine N. McKenna, Scuba Steve ran the 3 1/2 miles in 7:57 3/5. McKenna also trained Irvin S. Naylor’s Fieldview to a victory in the previous race, the Marshall W. Jenney Memorial, with Carl Rafter in the saddle.
–Written by Don Clippinger