The penultimate race meet of the 2021 National Steeplechase Association spring calendar saw the jumpers return to Western North Carolina for the first time in three years. And in the featured $30,000 Block House Handicap, for horses rated at 125 or less, girl power was on full display.
The Happy Giant, a five-year-old New York-bred son of Frost Giant, came from off the pace in the two-mile hurdle to score by six lengths over KMSN’s Sportswear for owner-trainer Allison Fulmer and jockey Mell Boucher. It was the first victory for both The Happy Giant and Fulmer since the horse broke his maiden over jumps at Colonial Downs last summer, and Boucher’s second career victory.
Fulmer, who maintains a one-horse steeplechase stable along with several flat runners, called the victory a group effort and expressed gratitude to her team:
“There’s no way I could do all this alone. Mell (Boucher) graduates from high school this week. I’m so proud of her for going out there and showing everyone just how brightly she shines! Mell and ‘Happy’ were absolutely flawless. And a very special thanks to Ross Geraghty for laying the foundation for ‘Happy’ to go out there and have the confidence to run and jump like a stakes horse, and also for taking the time to coach Mell for such a well planned ride. Ross didn’t get in the driver’s seat today due to an injury, but we literally couldn’t have accomplished this win without him.”
The five-race card, run under sunny skies and blistering heat in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains, featured two maiden special weight events. Irv Naylor’s Chetzeron, a five year-old French-bred, began his career in 2020 and made two starts, both of which were inauspicious. But on Saturday, with Dan Nevin in the saddle, Chetzeron put it all together and romped by 36 lengths in the Tryon Riding & Hunt Cup hurdle, leading wire to wire for trainer Keri Brion.
Ballybristol Farm’s Silver Crescent showed tenacity in his previous start at the Carolina Cup Races in Camden, S.C., last month, finishing just three-quarters of a length behind Hurricana Farm’s Mini P and 10 lengths ahead of the third-place runnerup. On Saturday in the Carter P. Brown maiden hurdle, the six-year-old son of Champs Elysees rallied over the last to catch Carrington Holdings’ Cainudothetwist, who had maintained a huge lead for much of the two-mile contest, and drew off by six and three-quarter lengths under Gerard Galligan. Fearnought Farm’s Princeville got up for the place spot. Leslie Young trained the winner.
In the Cannon Harmon Memorial maiden claiming hurdle, Flying Elvis Stable’s Vincent Van Gogo, who has split his time running between flat and jump racing for trainer Neil Morris, prevailed by a neck under Graham Watters in a rousing stretch drive. MRQ Racing’s Argentic, also trained by Morris, was second. Taking the Lead Stable’s The Flasche, who was claimed out of the race, finished third.
Carrington Holdings’ Hurtgen Forest, who began his racing career last year at Saratoga and Belmont Park in two maiden special weight races for New York-breds, was a front-running winner of the finale, the Dr. John Bradshaw Memorial training flat race, under Elizabeth Scully for trainer Arch Kingsley.
For the full results, click here: nationalsteeplechase.com/results/
With one race meet to go this spring, the Iroquois Steeplechase in Nashville on June 26, jockey Graham Watters is the leading riding by wins with nine to Tom Garner’s eight. Eddie Keating is one back with seven. Among trainers, Jack Fisher has six wins to Kathy Neilson’s five. Watters and Fisher also lead in purse earnings.
The NSA’s recap show, Jump Racing USA, airs Monday night at 7 p.m., and will be available on demand for the remainder of the week at NationalSteeplechase.com.