Irish import Decoy Daddy won the $50,000 National Hunt Cup at the Radnor Hunt Races for owner Irvin Naylor of York, PA.
The 83rd running of the Radnor Hunt Races on Saturday, May 17 was one of the last major events of the spring steeplechase season. Owners and trainers took full advantage of the event, filling the six race card with good fields of competitive entries.
Irvin S. Naylor had a horse in each of the day’s races, and two in the featured National Hunt Cup. The strategy paid off with a win in the $50,000 Grade III hurdle stake by his Irish import Decoy Daddy.
“I thought Decoy Daddy might be lucky enough to win. He’s a very solid horse, he’s won a lot of races,” Naylor said after the race. “It’s the end of this part of the season. We dumped a lot of horses in here today that were probably being hurried along, but they’ll all have some time off after this. They can rest the next few weeks, but they’re going to have to earn their oats today.”
Naylor was pleased with the ride Decoy Daddy got from jockey Carol Ann Sloan. “I was not surprised that he won, but I was delighted because the girl got a terrible bump over the last fence. Another horse interfered and came over hard on her. Fortunately she had a good tight seat and stayed on. Most other riders would have had an excuse to depart but she didn’t, she stayed on,” Naylor praised Sloan. “She’s ridden maybe two or three times under rules and half a dozen point to points. She’s obviously a good little rider, she rides almost every morning.”
Fortune smiled on William Pape, owner of two winners at Radnor. His gelding Martini Brother won the Thompson Memorial Steeplechase, coming from behind out of a competitive field of ten starters to win for jockey Darren Nagle. Nagle also came from behind to win with Pape’s entry Dugan in the $25,000 James M. Moran Jr. Steeplechase.
With two victories Nagel earned enough points to tie with Jody Petty for the Leading Rider award of the day. Petty won the day’s only timber race – the $40,000 Radnor Hunt Cup -- with Gregory S. Bentley’s Rainbows for Luck. This was the closest race finish of the day with Rainbows for Luck managing the win by just a nose over Jeff Murphy on Hot Rize. He was also in the winner’s circle with Clorevia Farm’s Dr. Skip in the $25,0000 Milfern Cup.
Both of the horses Nagel rode to wins were trained by Edward Graham. “We’ve been excited about the trainer Ed Graham,” said Charlie Strittmatter, owner of Dr. Skip. “Ed was extremely excited about this horse when he found him. He thought he was going to be a good steeplechase prospect and he’s turned out that way.”
This was the first start in a NSA sanctioned race for Dr. Skip, who ran once on the flat and once over fences at point-to-point meets and won each time out. “They all have a chance going out at the beginning, you just never know,” said Susan Strittmatter.
On the 2 3/8 mile hurdle course at Radnor, Dr. Skip stayed with the pack while Foolish Surprise and Network News went away by as much as 15 lengths in the first half of the race. On the final time around the pack closed up the distance to the leaders who could not sustain the pace, with Dr. Skip taking the lead on the second to last and staying on top under the wire.
Henry Collins Steeplechase
The final race of the day was a surprising win for Black Pond, owned by Michael Leaf and ridden by Kieran Norris. Dubai Echo, under Paddy Young for Hickory Tree Stables LLC looked like he was going to go wire to wire in the $10,000 Henry Collins Steeplechase. He showed no signs of giving up the lead but at the last fence tumbled over the hurdle in a rolling fall that left Black Pond to win by eight lengths.
The finale was the race with the smallest field of the day, drawing just four starters, while most of the other races had ten to twelve entries. The skies were overcast all day, and light rain fell at times, but there was not enough to spoil the footing.
One oddity of the day was the disqualification of fourth place finisher All Together in the James M. Moran Jr. Steeplechase when jockey Xavier Aizpiru failed to weigh in at the conclusion of the race.
Tailgates and Hats
There is always more to the Radnor Hunt Races than just the action on the steeplechase course. A parade of antique carriages took place between the second and third race, plus there was plenty of entertaining action among the spectators, with a tailgate competition and hat contest bringing out gourmet meals, elaborate decoration and outrageous chapeaux.
While some people think of Radnor as a social event, others along the rail have close equestrian ties to the historic steeplechase. Megan Moran-Kraut from Malvern is at the races with family and friends each year to watch the action, cheering for two horses entered by her uncle Michael Moran, and to present one of the trophies, named in honor of her father, James M. Moran, Jr. “It’s a great day. There’s a little bit of everything – eating, having cocktails, and meeting friends,” said Moran-Kraut.
Proceeds from the Radnor Hunt Races go to the Brandywine Conservancy with the mission of preserving open space. Over the years, the event has raised over $4 million to support Conservancy programs. The racecourse property itself is among the many acres preserved in perpetuity with the help of the Brandywine Conservancy.