Four year old Be Certain, trained by Tom Voss, outran his heavily favored stablemate, Planets Aligned, to win the National Hunt Cup, the third leg of steeplechasing's Triple Crown, at the Radnor Hunt Races May 17. Planets Aligned had won the second leg April 19. Augustin Stable's eight year old mare, Imagina, who had won the first leg, fell more than halfway through the 2 3/8 mile race.
by Marcella Peyre-Ferry
A different horse won each race of steeplechasing's Triple Crown this year, with stablemates racing head to head to the wire for the final leg during the 78th running of the Radnor Hunt Races.
The Radnor Hunt Races, held May 17, included the National Hunt Cup on its six race card. That featured 2 3/8-mile steeplechase drew nine starters including Imagina, winner of the Carolina Cup, and Temple Gwathney winner Planets Aligned.
Trainer Tom Voss had started the day with a win in the Milfern Cup with Dynaski, owned by Armata Stable, and ridden by Chip Miller, and now had two running in the National Hunt Cup – Planets Aligned and Be Certain.
Planets Aligned under Chip Miller looked like he might win a second of the three triple crown races for Fox Ridge Farm, but stablemate Be Certain, owned by Alnoff Stable under Matthew McCarron, ran right with him. As they headed into the straight for the final time, Be Certain moved to the lead and the win, edging the more accomplished Planets Aligned by a head.
"Going into the second lap I thought Chip had us," McCarron said after the race. "Chip kind of got away from me but he picked up and got back in it."
Be Certain, a four year old recently crowned New York-bred steeplechaser of 2007, didn't begin jumping until last fall, and this was his first trip with McCarron. "He never missed a fence. He was as genuine as could be," McCarron said. "Going into the second lap he dug in real hard. I'm just happy to be riding a very nice horse."
Augustin Stable's 8 year old mare Imagina, winner of the first Triple Crown leg, ran right with the pack throughout the race, but went down hard over a fence the second time through the back stretch, injuring jockey Jody Petty's wrist. Another faller in the race was Run the Light, with jockey Christopher Read – though shaken up, both horse and rider walked off the track.
While the Hunt Cup was an unfortunate one for George Strawbridge and Augustin Stables, they fared better in other races that day. Augustin Stable's Rainiero won the $30,000 Morris Dixon Steeplechase with a strong stretch run after hanging second through most of the 2 3/8 mile race behind Look at Him (owned by William Page and ridden by Danielle Hodsdon). Look at Him led for the bulk of the race, until he and Rainiero jumped the final fence side by side, and Jody Petty found more speed to move Rainiero to the top at the wire.
Xavier Aizpuru was the leading rider of the day, winning the James M Moran, Jr. Steeplechase on Mrs. Henry F. Stern's Irish bred, Duke of Earl, trained by Jack Fisher.
Aizpuru was also the winning jockey in the $40,000 Radnor Hunt Cup timber race on Arthur Arundel's Monte Bianco. "He's such a quality animal. He really turned it around today," Aizpuru said following the race.
Monte Bianco ran second or third through most of the course behind Sportsman Hall's Private Attack. Private Attack, under William Santoro looked like he could go wire to wire, until the third time around when he gave up the lead to Monte Bianco, then fell at a jump in the backstretch.
One of the most dramatic moments of the day came at the close of the final race – the $30,000 Henry Collins Steeplechase. The horses ran as a tight pack through the course, with Dale Thiel's Zozimus having the lead most of race. Zozimus was challenged in the final going by Happy Seamus under Robert Walsh and Closertoyourheart with Jeff Murphy. With two jumps to go, the three jumped side by side as a trio, but Happy Seamus unseated Walsh on the landing. Walsh rolled over the horse's shoulder and got back to his feet in time to see Closetoyourheart win for owner Richard Stokes.