Zanjabeel, always where jockey Ross Geraghty wanted him to be, took the lead in the $200,000 Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1) after the last fence on Saturday and drew clear to a five-length victory over several of jump-racing’s leading performers.
Robert Kinsley’s Modem again finished second, his fifth straight runner-up result in a Grade 1 race, in his 10 months in the United States. Irv Naylor’s Jamarjo finished third, 1 1/4 lengths behind Modem, and Mr. Hot Stuff finished fourth.
The Iroquois, the richest race on the National Steeplechase Association’s spring schedule, pitted the first three finishers from last fall’s $400,000 Grand National (Gr. 1), and Modem repeated his second-place finish. Jamarjo had finished fourth, and Mr. Hot Stuff had won by a nose over Modem.
Zanjabeel had run on the Grand National program at the Far Hills Races, easily winning the Foxbrook Champion Hurdle for Irish trainer Gordon Elliott before his sale to Rosbrian Farm and Wendy and Ben Griswold. Transferred to trainer Ricky Hendriks, he won another stakes race for novices—newcomers to jump racing two weeks later.
Hendriks sent Zanjabeel, now five, against more seasoned competitors twice this year, and came away with second-place finishes in the Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup (Gr. 1) on March 31 and the Temple Gwathmey (Gr. 2) on April 21.
The ownership group did not hesitate to try him in the Iroquois, at three miles the longest hurdle stakes in North America. “You never know until you try that distance,” said Rosbrian owner George Mahoney Jr. Hendriks and assistant Eve Ledyard, who rides Zanjabeel each day, agreed that the British-bred came into the race in top form.
At the start, Mr. Hot Stuff broke sharply but surrendered the lead to handicap winner Kremlin for the first mile. After passing under the finish line for the next-to-last time, Buttonwood Farm’s All the Way Jose took the lead under Darren Nagle. But the Grand National third finisher jumped awkwardly entering the final run down the backstretch and fell early on the backstretch run.
The incident dropped Modem on the lead, and it appeared for a while that he might break into the winner’s circle under Jack Doyle. Geraghty positioned Zanjabeel for a charge at the leader and made his move approaching the next-to-last fence.
Both jumped it and the last fence well, but Zanjabeel clearly had more gas left in the tank. Second by a half-length over the last, he rolled past Modem in early stretch and steadily drew clear to the finish line. He ran the three miles in 5:36.40 on firm turf.
Iranistan draws away in Marcellus Frost
Hudson River Farms’ Iranistan, always in contention, went to the lead as the field passed the finish line the first time in the $100,000 Marcellus Frost Champion Stakes, shrugged off a challenge from Gilbralfaro approaching the lead, and drew away after the last fence to a six-length victory under Darren Nagle.
Riverdee Stable’s Gilbralfaro finished second, three-quarters of a length ahead of Lachares in third. Ice It closed ground late to finish third in a field of eight novices, or horses in their first seasons of racing over fences.
Iranistan, a four-year-old by grass specialist Einstein, collected his third straight victory after a modest career on the flat. He finished his flat career as a maiden running for a $35,000 claiming price at Gulfstream Park.
No one has gotten close to him over fences. Racing Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard skipped the maiden ranks with him, and Iranistan wired an allowance hurdle field by 11 1/2 lengths at the Carolina Cup on March 31. Three weeks later, he won another $30,000 allowance hurdle by 10 lengths on the lead at every point of call.
Jacqueline Ohrstrom’s Lachares went to the lead at the start of the Marcellus Frost, with Iranistan close behind him. As the field approached the wire the first time, Iranistan indicated he wanted to be on the front, and Nagle allowed him to go to the lead.
Gilbralfaro, never far back, made a move toward Iranistan approaching the final turn, but the leader would have nothing of it. He jumped the final fences with a clear lead and extended his lead to the wire.
Iranistan ran the Marcellus Frost’s 2 1/4 miles in 4:13.40.
Sarah Joyce fights back to win her second Margaret Currey Henley
The Fields Stable’s Sarah Joyce, headed after jumping the last fence in the $50,000 Margaret Currey Henley, fought back courageously under Jack Doyle to win the stakes race for fillies and mares by a half-length.
KMSN Stable’s Inverness closed ground on the outside to collect second money, a half-length ahead of Paddy Young’s For Goodness Sake.
Trained by Elizabeth Voss, Irish-bred Sarah Joyce collected her first victory since last year’s Margaret Currey Henley, and she had to work for every inch of it. Doyle, currently the National Steeplechase Association’s leading jockey, moved the Irish-bred mare to the lead leaving the final turn.
Approaching the last fence, Willie McCarthy had a strong move aboard For Goodness Sake on the inside, and Inverness made her bid on the outside to be within a quarter-length of the leader. For Goodness Sake appeared to grab the lead within three strides after the final jump, but Sarah Joyce found another gear and relentlessly closed to retake the lead and the victory.
Inverness and jockey Michael Mitchell closed well on the outside to grab the second spot.
Sarah Joyce, who had begun the year with a third in the Carolina Cup’s Life’s Illusion Stakes for females, ran the 2 1/4-mile distance in 4:15.40.
Plated wins Mason Houghland Memorial
Making his first sanctioned start over timber fences, Magalen O. Bryant’s Plated broke away from his opponents at the next to last fence of the Mason Houghland Memorial and drew clear to a 5 1/4-length victory in the Iroquois Steeplechase’s featured timber race.
Doyle extended his lead in the rider standings with his second win of the afternoon.
Irv Naylor’s Shinobi made a late move to be second, and Two’s Company finished third. Armata Stables’ Cornhusker, bidding for his fourth victory in the Mason Houghland and his second in a row, finished a non-threatening fourth.
“In the back of our minds, we thought he would make a timber horse,” said Emily Day, wife of trainer Jimmy Day. After a couple starts in unsanctioned point-to-points, the nine-year-old Plated was ready for prime time.
Dye Fore set the early pace before Plated took over after approximately a mile of the three-mile race. Two’s Company, the 2016 turf champion, and El Jefe Grande came to him in the final mile and briefly took the lead.
When Doyle asked Plated for a response, he charged to the lead with a big jump two fences out and rapidly drew clear. In deep stretch, Doyle checked on his opposition and hand-rode Plated to the wire.
Lord Justice rules in Green Pastures
Bruton Street US’s Lord Justice, always in a menacing position behind stablemate Whitman’s Poetry, swept to the lead on the final turn of the $50,000 Green Pastures allowance hurdle and drew away to a seven-length victory under Sean McDermott.
Whitman’s Poetry, owned by DASH Stable and ridden by Willie McCarthy, finished second, 2 ½ lengths clear of Riverdee Stable’s Down Royal in third. Both Lord Justice and Whitman’s Poetry are trained by Jack Fisher.
McCarthy sent Whitman’s Poetry to the lead at the start and opened an uncontested lead as Lord Justice and Down Royal kept the leader in their sights. Whitman’s Poetry stumbled on landing at a fence on the second run down Percy Warner Park’s backstretch, but McCarthy quickly recovered and maintained the lead.
McDermott moved Lord Justice forward approaching the final turn, and they eased to the lead on the bend. Lord Justice quickly opened daylight and was under little pressure after the last fence. Lord Justice, second in his three prior U.S. starts, ran the Green Pastures’ 2 1/4 miles in 4:20.60 on firm turf.
Fisher collected his second win of the afternoon when Gillian Johnston’s Cite moved to the lead in the stretch of the $40,000 George Sloan and John Sloan Jr. maiden hurdle and won by a half-length over Belisaurius. McCarthy rode the winner.