Despite the absence of fans and a dramatically truncated racing calendar due to Covid-19, there were noteworthy achievements by both horses and humans on the National Steeplechase Association stage in 2020. But perhaps the biggest success of all was the fact that the show was able to go on — 80 races in all, worth more than $1.6 million in purses — during an unpredictable spring, summer, and fall. As we look toward better times ahead, we look back at the champions of this uniquely challenging season.
Lonesome Glory leading money winner
Champion timber horse
It was serendipity that brought together three friends to form the Bruton Street-US partnership, and it’s a ride that’s taken them to the highest level of the sport. In 2013, Mike Hankin, Charlie Fenwick, and Charlie Noell were attending the races at Royal Ascot in England. At breakfast one morning, Fenwick suggested the trio pool their resources to pick out some horses for Mike’s son, NSA jockey Connor Hankin, to ride. Hankin and Charlie Noell had co-owned Connor’s first mount, Make Your Own, and the partnership began its new adventure with City Press and Drift Society, the latter a solid timber stakes performer who would go on to record two seconds and a third in the prestigious Maryland Hunt Cup. Since then, they’ve never looked back. Bruton Street-US — named after a thoroughfare where Hankin’s firm, Brown Advisory, operates its London office — campaigned 2017 Eclipse-award winning steeplechaser Scorpiancer and 2016 timber champ Two’s Company. They’ve had other good ones, too, such as Lemony Bay, Lord Justice, The Nephew, Ballylifen, and Pravalaguna.
In 2020, the stable made the most of the sport’s limited opportunities and campaigned its three brightest stars (and highest earners): Grade 1 winners Moscato and Rashaan, who defeated his stablemate in the New York Turf Writers Cup at Saratoga, and the electrifying novice sensation Snap Decision, a winner of seven straight races, including the Michael G. Walsh, Jonathan Kiser, and David Semmes Memorial this year. The trio accounted for all six Bruton Street’s victories and $252,000 of its $253,950 in purse earnings.
Bruton Street had 10 horses in training with Jack Fisher this season, as well as two each with Leslie Young (who conditions Rashaan), Todd Wyatt, and Elizabeth Voss Murray. In addition, the partners run horses in the U.S. and in Europe (with Ben Pauling and Willie Mullins), under the monikers Northwoods Stable, Merriebelle Stable, and Bruton Street-UK. Though most of the stable’s acquisitions have been European-breds, notably Irish-breds, Mike Hankin said that the group is trying to produce more U.S.-bred horses for racing over jumps. They’re also working diligently to introduce new owners to the game.
All photos ©Tod Marks