Winning jockey Jeff Murphy on Canyon Road takes a selfie before dismounting at the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup. Credit Marcella Peyre Ferry.
Irvin S. Naylor made two trips to the winner’s circle as the owner of Pennsylvania Hunt Cup winner Ebanour, and Maiden Timber winner Henry San.
The 82nd running of the PA Hunt Cup was held Sun., Nov. 6 in Unionville, PA. A beautiful, brisk sunny day and good footing made for competitive racing over timber.
The featured $35,000 PA Hunt Cup drew a field of six starters with Ebanour and Super Saturday both running under Naylor’s colors. Super Saturday, trained by Katherine Neilson and ridden by Gerard Galligan, ran with pace setter Grinding Speed for much of the race. Nagel kept Ebanour in striking distance to make his big move as they headed into the final fences.
“It went very slow. I was trying to keep him in behind and keep him settled. I kind of wish there was a bit more pace in the race to get him into a rhythm,” Nagle said. “He was very good, he’s there when you need him. He was very clever at the last, he’s a very good jumper.”
Ebanour, trained by Cyril Murphy, won the Virginia Gold Cup this spring with jockey Gus Dahl, but Dahl was injured in a fall from the horse during the Genesee Hunt Cup on Oct. 8. That put Darren Nagle in the irons for his first race on the horse. “Thanks to Cyril for giving me the opportunity, and I’m very sorry a good friend of mine lost out,” Nagle said. “I feel a bit bad for him. He’s a good young rider – he’ll be back next year.”
The PA Hunt Cup had not been in the original plans for Ebanour. “When he lost Gus, he rapped his stifles pretty hard, he was sore. He didn’t recover sufficiently to go to the Gold Cup (in The Plains, VA in October). When that happened, this became out next port of call,” Murphy said. “Through the spring he looked like he was running at the top of the division and he’s a very close second after today.”
Ebanour seemed to prove that Genesee was just a glitch in the road. “He was very good. He’s there when you need him. He was picking up very well up the straight,” Nagel commented on his way to the trophy presentation. “He’s a very good elegant horse. Cyril had him 100% ready for today. It makes it easy for a jockey when you ride a nice horse that’s well trained, jumps well and does everything right.”
The same owner, trainer, rider combination also produced the winner of the $15,000 Lewis C Ledyard Maiden Timber Race. Henry San won in a time of 6:27:3/5 for the 3-mile course over timber, running on top for almost the entire race.
“I think he’s a nice horse with a lot of ability. It’s where we go with him and where he lets us take him,” Murphy said of Henry San. “He's not natural. When things are good, he looks good. When he gets in tight, he’s a very big horse. Having to make that adjustment is not easy for him.”
The remaining timber race on the card, the $20,000 Arthur O. Choate, Jr. Memorial Allowance Timber Race, was won by Canyon Road, owned by Gordansdale Farm, trained by Christopher Kolb and ridden by Jeff Murphy.
“At the second last I nearly fell actually. Somehow I found my leg and came through to win the race. He’s a stakes horse now for sure,” Murphy said. “Except for nearly missing the second last, everything was good. I was never in trouble. He’s jumping so good, he puts you where you want to be. I got the breather into him. I’m glad I did because he was able to find extra gears.”
Sanctioned racing for the day ended with the Athenean Idol flat race where Lawn Ranger won the 1 3/8 mile turf race with a 6 ˝ length margin, in a time of 2:42:3/5, for owner/trainer Jonathan Sheppard with Keri Brion in the irons.
Side Saddle Race
New to the Hunt Cup card this year was a sidesaddle race. Eight riders (including one man) took on the course of brush boxes used for the junior hunt cup races.
Although Meredith Johnson on Skittles finished the race first with a quarter mile margin, she did not take home the trophy for the win, Instead, she was knocked down for interference, giving the official victory to Mary Musheno of Exton, PA, on Lucky To Have Him. “She bumped me off of the one fence, and I tried to make a circle.” Musheno said.
Lucky To Have Him, a 23-year-old, evented at training level by owner Lara Lamparski, had a long lead over the remainder of the field, which was well strung out over the course by the time she went down the stretch alone.
Musheno hunts aside with Kimberton and rode in the sidesaddle race at Cheshire Point to Point Races in the spring. “Cheshire was bigger fences, but less fences so it was different. Sometimes the fences actually help,” she said, commenting on racing aside. “It’s a good high afterward, but it’s terrifying while you’re doing it.”
Small and medium ponies ran together in a field master’s chase for separate trophies. Among the small ponies the winner was Chewy, owned by Lauren Schock and ridden by Cassidy Wilcox.
“It’s hard to hold him back in the beginning, but once he got the gist of it, it was all good,” said 13-year-old Wilcox, from Unionville, PA. “I fox hunt him and I do races with him and show him, but next year I’ll be racing a different horse.”
Among the medium ponies in the race, the first under the wire was Count Chocula for EHM Stables with rider Theo Sushko, but they were disqualified for passing the field master.
That gave the Medium Pony trophy to Fionna, ridden by 11-year-old Nina McKenna of Unionville, PA. “I hunt her, I show her, I do everything with her,” McKenna said after the race. “She was perfect. I didn’t have any trouble holding her. She sometimes gets a little wound up and tries to bolt off. She was jumping great at great spots. She’s a great pony.”
Sushko rode again in the Large Pony Race. This time on Bailey, he stayed at the front of the pack but was careful not to pass the field master and raced home for the win. “The first time, the reins slipped a little bit out of my hands. This time I made sure none of that happened,” Sushko said. “She’s a really awesome pony. She’s very easy, she does what you ask her, but she’s very fast.”
The Junior Horse Race ran over the same course as the ponies, with awards presented to both the top Thoroughbreds and non-Thoroughbreds.
The winning Thoroughbred was Squeaky Ceci of Mouse House Farm, with 15-year-old Maryland rider Ella Brophy. “It went pretty well. It was my first race with her, so I was pretty pleased with her,” Brophy said. “She’s lovely. I hunt her every Saturday, she was great today too. It was a little wild out there. There were people everywhere so I just tried to stay out of trouble.”
The Non-Thoroughbred Division winner was Work To Ride’s Jeannie, with rider Esteban Penados. Jeannie has run in the Junior hunt cup since 2003 and has won the non-thoroughbred division eleven times. This year, Penados had to work to keep her from passing the field master early in the race.
“In the beginning, she had a lot of energy, but at the end she started to slow down,” said 14-year-old Penados who was racing on this course for the first time. “I like it a lot. It’s a lot of fun.”
Between races, a presentation was made to Sam Slater by the Maryland Hunt Cup Committee. The F. Bryce Wing Award was given to Slater in recognition for his nearly 40 years of work documenting and recording steeplechase racing, including films made by his company, Hunt Cup Productions.
Proceeds from the PA Hunt Cup benefit the Chester County Food Bank, the Land Conservancy of Southern Chester County and S.A.V.E. (Safety, Agriculture, Village and Environment).