Rainbows For Luck (left) jumps beside Music To My Ears (right) to finish first and second respectively in the Landhope Cup Timber race at the Willowdale Steeplechase.
Tailgating and chasing go well together. Add a beautiful day in the country and it has become a Mother’s Day tradition in Chester County to spend the day with Mom at the Willowdale Steeplechases. From the horseman’s view, the May 13 races were a great venue for the talent based around the Unionville, PA area.
The featured race was the Willowdale Steeplechase, a 3-½ mile timber race for amateur riders with a purse of $15,000. Winning the race was Augustin Stables’ Radio Flyer, and Irish bred gelding trained by Richard Valentine and ridden by Darren Nagle.
Conrad Hankin on Battle Op set the pace for most of the race, while Nagle kept Radio Flyer running second by one to five lengths until they made the long turn into the final stretch. By the time they took the last of 22 jumps Radio Flyer had closed the gap and taken the lead away from Battle Op, going on to win, followed by Jackson Roberts on Brands Hatch while Battle Op hung on for third.
Hankin had better luck in the $7,500 Amateur Apprentice Timber Foxhunter’s Chase. Again riding for his family’s Northwoods Stable, Hankin on Eye Said Scat Cat waited with the pack through the bulk of the three mile race until taking the lead on the final time through the back of the course.
Mrs. Hankin was among those in the winner’s circle for the trophy presentation, and proud of her son’s riding. “There’s lots of panic in the watching but he made it through. You want them to have success and it’s always nice to see it,” she said.
Eye Said Scat Cat is trained by Lilli Kurtinecz, who was also a winning owner in the $10,000 Rose Tree Cup hurdle race. Her horse Call Me Sonny, ridden by Jacob Roberts won in a close driving finish over Russell Cline’s Better than Ever (ridden by Carl Rafter). “He’s my baby. He’s my spoiled rotten child,” Kurtinecz said about her horse.
A very local winner was Parade Lap, owned by Elizabeth Barr and stabled within a few miles of the course in Marshalton. “We’re thrilled. He’s been jumping for all of two months,” Barr said after the race. “I bred him. He’s the first foal by a stallion named Leading The Parade that I own a part of in the syndicate. He broke his maiden as a 2-year-old on the racetrack, then he grew. He’s 17 hands so he just was too kind of big and lumbering so we sent him down to Fenneka (Bentley). He ran at Middleburg and was third there. They thought he might need some more ground so we came here, and we’re thrilled.”
The biggest field of the day with 11 horses went to the line in the Marshall W. Jenney Memorial maiden timber race for a $10,000 purse. After a competitive race, the winner was Armata Stables’ Embarrassed, trained by Katherine Neilson and ridden by Willie McCarthy.
“Obviously it was a big ask for him, this is his second run over timber,” McCarthy said after his ride. “He took to the course beautifully, he was very confident, he never backed off any of the jumps. He was always wanting to go to the front for me, but I managed to hold him. We jumped the last and he galloped his way to the line and fought all the way to the line. We obviously found the key to him today which is timber and a long distance, which he loves.”
Landhope Timber Race
An emotional win went to Rainbows for Luck in the Landhope Cup timber race. The eleven-year-old gelding is owned by Gregory Bentley, trained by Edward Graham and ridden by Jody Petty. For the presentation in the winner’s circle, former trainer Paul Rowland joined the group. Rowland has been battling lung cancer which has forced him to give up the horses he had been training. While he is no longer involved in working with Bentley's horse, he still follows his progress.
“We’re glad to have this chance to run here in a timber race without the apprentice jockeys because we haven’t done well with amateur jockeys before,” Bentley said. “The real honor for the race goes to Rainbow’s For Luck’s original trainer Paul Alland who is here with his mother today. Rainbow ran for him.”
Rowland was pleased with the way the horse ran. “I want him to do well. When I passed him on to Eddie (Graham) I knew he’d carry on doing well with the horse,” he said. “I wanted to see the horse do well for the Bentleys because they’ve persevered with him so long. Early on in his career he had issues and colic surgery.”