The jumpers head to Georgia and Virginia on Saturday, and Pennsylvania on Sunday for the penultimate weekend of racing on the 2021 National Steeplechase Association calendar.
At the 86th running of the Montpelier Hunt Races, 52 horses are entered for seven races, which will take place on the front lawn of President James Madison’s home in Montpelier Station, Va. The meet was founded by racing pillar Marion duPont Scott, when she owned the estate. The feature, the $40,000 Noel Laing Stakes at 2 ½ miles over Montpelier’s signature natural brush fences, has drawn a field of six accomplished hurdlers including Sharon Sheppard’s Redicean, who was second best to Irv Naylor’s Bedrock in the G2 “Zeke” Ferguson Stakes at the International Gold Cup Races in Virginia two weeks ago. In fact, the third, fourth, and fifth-place finishers in the Ferguson – Gill Johnston’s Brianbakescookies, Hudson River Farm’s Iranistan, and Armata Stable’s Chosen Mate – are being wheeled right back in the Laing for one final try at earning black type this season.
Also in the field are Naylor’s Amschel, who gets a break after chasing superstars The Mean Queen and Snap Decision all season long, and Bruton Street-US’ Presence of Mind, coming off of a powerful victory in the $50,000 Appleton hurdle stakes at Far Hills in October.
The remainder of the card consists of a $20,000 handicap for horses rated at 110 or less; a $25,000 maiden hurdle for three-year-olds and up and another $25,000 hurdle restricted to three-year-olds; a $25,000 allowance hurdle; and a $15,000 maiden claiming hurdle. There’s also a training flat race to start the day. First-race post time is 12:30 p.m. Click here for the full entries.
Sharing the date on the calendar with Montpelier is the Steeplechase at Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Ga., where six races worth $170,000 get underway at 12:40 p.m. The feature is the AFLAC Supreme novice hurdle stakes, where a field of seven will battle it out for 2 ⅜ miles for the $75,000 purse. Leading the way is Riverdee Stable’s City Dreamer, the runaway winner of the Foxbrook Supreme novice stakes at Far Hills last month, who faces several competitors also coming off of recent scores. Atlantic Friends Racing’s Historic Heart was a three-quarter-length winner of the Harry Harris Stakes for four-year-olds at Far Hills. William Russell’s Animal Kingston steps up to stakes competition after two straight handicap triumphs. Holwood Stable’s Decisive Triumph also takes a major jump in class following a non-winners-two victory at the International Gold Cup Races. Allison Fulmer’s The Happy Giant won a handicap at the Block House Tryon Races in June and returns to hurdle racing following a third and second on the flat in maiden special weight events at Laurel Park and Colonial Downs. Tom Rice and Van Cushny’s Booby Trap boasts a third and a second in his last two starts in novice stakes. After two straight wins in the summer of 2020, a maiden at Colonial Downs and allowance at Saratoga, Irv Naylor’s French Light is looking for his first victory in 10 subsequent starts. Click here for all of the Callaway entries.
On Sunday, the day we turn back the clocks an hour, timber specialists head to Unionville for the 87th Pennsylvania Hunt Cup Races. The traditional four-race card includes a pair of three-mile events, $15,000 maiden, and $20,000 allowance contest for non-winners of two, and the grueling four-mile $30,000 Pennsylvania Hunt Cup Stakes over 22 fences of rolling countryside. There’s also a training flat race over the turf at 1 ⅜ miles limited to apprentice riders. First-race post time is 1:30 p.m.
Upland Partners’ remarkable 12-year-old Mystic Strike, the only timber horse in the top 10 with three victories this year, heads the field of five. Mystic Strike, trained by Todd McKenna, won a thrilling photo finish with rival Schoodic in the recent Genesee Valley Hunt Cup Stakes in upstate New York. His competition includes Kiplin Hall’s Renegade River, a stakes winner this spring who returns to the types of fences that might be more to his liking. Ballybristol Farm’s Rakhaa, a two-time winner this season coming off a blowout allowance score at Genesee, will face a supreme test in the Hunt Cup against proven stakes competitors. Armata Stable’s Goodoldtimes hasn’t won a race in two years, but has been third in four successive starts, mostly in allowance races. Rounding out the field is Frank Bonsal’s veteran Stand Down, who won the Hunt Cup in 2018 and finished third in 2020. He was a distant second in the recent Virginia Hunt Cup to Tomgarrow, a race in which two of the four horses went off course. Click here for the complete entries.
You can watch via live stream from the NSA website. The live stream is sponsored by Brown Advisory, the Temple Gwathmey Steeplechase Foundation, Charleston’s Post & Courier, and the Virginia Equine Alliance.