Kieran Morris and Foyle launch over timber on their way to winning the 79th Pennsylvania Hunt Cup in a race where two-thirds of the competitors either fell, lost a rider, or were pulled.
From a large starting field that was thinned by falls, Kieran Norris piloted Merrifield Farm's Foyle to a win in the 79th running of the $35,000 Pennsylvania Hunt Cup, held Sunday, November 3 in Unionville, PA.
This was the first PA Hunt Cup win for Norris, who took Foyle to the front early and stayed there while the timber fences took their toll on eight entries of the 12 horse field that either fell, lost a rider or were pulled. "I could hear it. I wasn't looking back. I can see who's sinking tomorrow in the papers," Norris said. "It was always in the back of my mind (to go out front). I thought they might go a bit faster, but there was no pace in the race. I decided my jump was so good I would go for it."
Norris finished the four mile course in a time of 8:55 followed by Darren Nagle on Delta Park, Sean Flanagan on Hot Rize, and Mark Beecher on More Fascination. The first time Norris rode Foyle, he took him to a win in the Virginia Gold Cup. "He's a fantastic horse," he said. "He's a brilliant jumper. He could go four and a half and I think he could go shorter too. He's very versatile."
Ledyard Timber Race Split
There were originally just three timber races and a flat race on the day's card, but the Lewis C Ledyard Maiden Timber Race was oversubscribed and ended up being run in two divisions.
The first division was won by Snow Secret Gin, owned by Walden 4 Inc, ridden by Vincent Chenet and trained by Franck Mourier. Chenet was in from France to ride and flew back that evening. He was not as fortunate in the Arthur O. Choate, Jr. Memorial allowance race where he fell with Self Made Man.
The second division of the Maiden Timber was won by Nat Grew, owned by Caves Farm and ridden by Jody Petty. Petty had Nat Grew so far ahead during the race that he looked like he was running alone most of the time, finishing easily in a time of 6:26 with more than 16 lengths to the second place finisher. "We were settled in behind but the guy in front of us was too danged slow for us, not for me, for him (the horse)," Petty said. "At the downhill fence Willie hit the fence...my horse got enough daylight, he was gone."
The win had Petty excited for the owners of the horse. Nat Grew had been run over hurdles a few times, but was such a nice horse that he was sold to Howie Wolfe of Caves Farm in Owings Mills, MD as a show hunter. He proved himself in the show ring with major victories under the name Petty Cash for rider Katie Cooper. "He actually won the Maryland Thoroughbred Classic in September two years ago, then he had a break," Cooper said. "He was too exuberant to be a show horse. We hunted him, and messed around with him for a few hunt trials."
Petty urged Wolfe to give the horse a try over timber. In his first timber race he finished second by a half length. This was his second time over timber. "He's a gritty horse. I'm not surprised my heart’s pounding," Cooper said "Jody does a great job with him. He's a fantastic jumper."
Owner Howie Wolfe was also thrilled by the win. "It's very exciting. It was a great run. If you don't get excited you should crawl in a hole," he said, unsurprised by the ease of the win. "That's the way he runs. The question is, was he going to finish as strong as he started out and the answer is yes."
In other action, winning the Arthur O. Choate, Jr. Memorial Allowance Timber was Worried Man, owned by Harold Via and ridden by Paddy Young. The pair was followed in second place by Armata Stables' Cornhusker, ridden by Mark Beecher, and Irvin S. Naylor's Almarmooq under James Slater in third.
Rounding out the day was a flat race, the Athenian Idol, won by Address Unknown, owned by Irvin S. Naylor and ridden by Carol-Ann Sloan.
The Hunt Cup also has a card of Foxchaser's Races for junior riders. The small and medium ponies raced together. Taylor Leatherman won with medium pony Splash, while this year's winner of the small pony division was the only small entry, Bailey with rider Elizabeth Scully. "He's really fit right now. He was pulling out my arms. We beat some of the mediums too," Scully said.
The large pony winner was Jordan, ridden by 15-year-old Erin Swope of Westminster, MD. "I've been racing since I was nine years old. I like jumping and going fast," she said. Some of the riders had to circle to stay behind the field master before they were released to race to the finish, but Swope waited. "I just kind of held her a little behind everybody in case there was any trouble up front."
The junior horse race gave placings to Thoroughbreds and non-Thoroughbreds although both divisions ran together. Madeline Parisan of Rising Sun, MD, on Lord Snowdon was the Thoroughbred winner. "It was a lot of fun. This was my first time here. It was a really good experience," Parisan said.
The non-Thoroughbred winner was Amanda Howe of Oxford on Something Special. "He's actually a Belgian Saddlebred - he was a rescue," Howe said. "He's been an eventer forever and I decided to race him here last year. Last year we were third, this year we were first."