Cormac Farrell won the Willowdale Steeplechase on Armata Stables' Embarrassed.
Mother’s Day at the Willowdale Steeplechases was a memorable occasion for at least two jockeys who found themselves drenched in water after marking their first wins in NSA sanctioned races.
Eric Poretz earned his first NSA win in the Foxhunter’s Chase, an amateur highweight timber race, on Mr. Tack, owned by Scanden Stable and trained by Patrick Worrall. “All the other jockeys, great guys, decided to take me around the side and give me a big old splash,” Poretz said as he returned for the trophy presentation in soggy colors.
Most of the race had been led by Martin Rohan on Voler Bar Nuit, with Poretz running in the small pack. “We’ve got a big course - it’s a 3 mile course. He settled in real nice,” Poretz recapped the race. “First place started to come back for me, and I started moving with the first and second horse. We had one jump left. Me and the Irish jockey come head to head. I hit it, he hit a little bit of a sticky spot, and Mr. Tack took me all the way home.”
This was not Poretz’s first time on this horse. “I’ve ridden him two other races. He’s a great jumper, very nice and clean, never really hitting,” he said. “It was a very nice surprise for him to turn on the jets like that.”
There were six starters in that race, but Dax with Cormac Farrell fell near the end of the first lap. The tumble did not bother Farrell, who was back to win the next race, The $15,000 Willowdale Steeplechase, on Embarassed.
Farrell also got soaked for his first NSA win, and was concerned because the Armata Stables red and gold colors were real silk.
There were six starters in the race, but only three crossed the finish line in contention. Dakota Slew was pulled up early on, and Idol Maker refused one of the fences later on in the course and was pulled up. Bad luck got in the way for Connor Hankin on Eye Said Scat Cat as well. “Poor Connor’s saddle slipped up the horse’s neck and he was out of it. That left myself and George (Hundt riding Justpourit). George didn’t want to go out so I just went down,” Farrell explained with praise for his horse. “He was so confident and so brave that he was perfectly fine there.”
Although it was a bright and brisk day, rains earlier in the week had left the course soft, which turned out to be good for Jeremy Gillam’s Spinnaker, who won the Landhope Cup Maiden Claiming Hurdle race under Diane Gillam. “She loved the soft ground, she just relished it,” Gillam said after her ride. “We had a nice little lead over the last, I was confident she would go to the line and she sure did.”
Most of the race Spinnaker was in the middle of the pack but the mare did lead briefly near the midpoint of the race. “I inherited it. Two horses jumped really badly in front of me and so we jumped our way to the lead. I just sat still and waited for someone to come and make the pace,” Gillam said. “I was just giving mine a breather. I would have gone wherever. I just wanted it to be a fair gallop. Those horses that could handle that ground either handled it or they didn’t.”
Rose Tree Cup
Gillam also rode Happy Digger in the Rose Tree Cup, claiming hurdle race, but she was passed for the win there by Ross Garaghty on Irvin S. Naylor’s Dilizan. An Irish import, this was Dilizan’s first start in this country and only his second start over hurdles. Garaghty waited for an opening on the last lap, following Gillam to the top and then passing her in the stretch run. “I picked him up on the far side and started chopping away. Diana Gillam, she’s a good rider, we snuck in after her.”
In the first race of the day, the $10,000 Marshall W. Jenney Memorial Maiden Timber race, the official results were delayed while the officials considered a claim of foul against winner Schoolhouse Woods, owned by Kinross Farm and ridden by Jacob Roberts.
The claim was denied, and Schoolhouse Woods remained the official winner. “I couldn’t figure out why they claimed foul, nothing really eventful happened,” Roberts said. “The second rider wanted to shift over, it was basically straight forward race riding.”
Roberts never set the pace during the race, but saved enough horse to dominate the stretch run. “I had a pretty bad last (fence) but he still came back to start up again. I was kind of curious to see if he would do that, but thankfully he did,” Roberts said. “We had enough horse going down the hill so it was actually pretty easy for him.”