In the National Hunt Cup Rudyard K and jockey Ross Geraghty fell the second time down the stretch but Schoodic (wearing number 5) and Paddy Young were able to avoid the wreck and go on to the win. Credit Marcella Peyre-Ferry.
Trainer Jack Fisher saddled the winners in the two top races on the card at the 86th running of the Radnor Hunt Races, Saturday, May 21.
Fisher trained Straight To It to the win in the $30,000 Radnor Hunt Cup Timber Race for owner Sheila Williams. The only timber race on the card, the Radnor Hunt Cup, was run in memory of George Strawbridge, Sr.
After the first of three times around the course, Personal Brew under Willie McCarthy was well ahead of Gustav Dahl on Top Man Michael, with several lengths more to the rest of the field. Those two were still on top as they went through the stretch again, but now the pack was closing in on them. The group remained that way for yet another time down the stretch before the pace setters started to lose their hold on the lead. Strongest of the challengers was Straight To It, who took control late on the back side of the course and drew away from there. He finished the race in a time of 6:40:2/5, winning by over nine lengths.
“It was a quality race on paper and I was surprised how easily he was winning. I gave him a few smacks to keep him interested, to give him a little bit of encouragement,” jockey Sean McDermott said.
Straight To It had been first under the wire in the same race last year, but was set down to second after an inquiry. “He really improved greatly at home. He likes the track and with two front runners, it fit him very well, He likes this track,” McDermott said. “He’s not the quickest, but he has a lot of stamina and jumps quite well. If he has a front runner to help him with the pace, he generally runs very well.”
National Hunt Cup
Fisher also prepared Schoodic, winner of the National Hunt Cup, owned by Edith Dixon and ridden by Paddy Young. The Grade III race, run in memory of Mrs. William Coxe Wright, had a field of six going to the start for a $50,000 purse.
“He’s always been kind of the unlucky horse. He’s been second a lot, but I’ve always thought he’s a better horse than what he showed,” Fisher said after the race. “Coming up here today, I thought we might be in trouble with soft ground. Charminster (the second place finisher) loves soft ground. The ground’s great today.”
The two and three eights mile hurdle race looked competitive all the way, with all six starters staying well bunched early. Armata Stable’s Rudyard K fell with Ross Geraghty on the second time down the stretch, but the jockey jumped clear and the horses in back, including Schoodic, were able to avoid the horse while it regained its feet.
Jockey Paddy Young had been Schoodic’s regular rider in 2014 and 15, but had not ridden the horse in his two races this year. “He jumped great. There was no real problem - ride the race as it was set up,” Young said. “He jumped fantastic and had every chance going to the last. He pinged the last and he quickened up really well. He’s a nice horse.”
Young returned for a win the next race, with those two victories earning him the $1,500 leading trainer award. He was first in the $25,000 James M. Moran, Jr., Handicap Hurdle Race on Jamarjo for owner Irvin S. Naylor and trainer Leslie Young. Again Young ran his horse comfortably in the pack saving enough for a winning run at the end.
“It was a competitive little race on paper. He was obviously top today,” Young said. “We just took our time. If he was good enough at the end, he was good enough, and thank God he was. He’s a neat little horse. It’s nice to win here close to home.”
Milfern Maiden Hurdle
The day opened with the $30,000 Milfern Cup Maiden Hurdle Race, won by Lyonell, a German- bred owned by Robert Kinsley and trained by Elizabeth Voss. Lyonell ran the early stages of the race near the back of the pack with Jockey Jack Doyle before winning with an impressive stretch run past the pace setters.
The $35,000 Thompson Memorial Allowance Hurdle was won by Curve of Stone, owned by S. Rebecca Sheperd and trained by David Bourk. “The race went very well. An uncomplicated gallop all the way,” Jockey Barry Foley said. “My horse was just a little bit green today. Battling up the hill, he jumped the last well, and did well after that. I knew we were going plenty fast enough. I left him as long as I could, and thankfully he got to the line.”
The day of racing finished with the $15,000 Henry Collins Maiden Claiming Hurdle just as the serious rain was starting. Under the wire first, with a ten length lead was Dr. Keogh with Jockey Willie McCarthy aboard for owner/trainer William Meister.
“We planned to stay at the back and try to pick up the pace at the tail, the horse won with a lot in hand,” McCarthy said. “He’s more of a stayer really, and this course, when they go a strong pace early it suits a stayer, because they have to claim that hill at the finish. It really suited my guy.”
Several horses and riders fell during the course of the race day. In the Rose Tree Hunt Cup, Brother Sy, with Amelia McGuirk up for Amarta Stables, suffered a fatal fall at the third fence, flipping head first into the ground. McGuirk was not seriously injured in the fall.
The Radnor Hunt Racecourse spreads over preserved land in Chester County, PA. The slogan for the event is Racing for Open Space with proceeds going to the Brandywine Conservancy.
George “Frolic” Weymouth, founder of the Conservancy, passed away shortly before this year’s event. He usually led a parade of carriages down the stretch in his elegantly turned out four-in-hand, to the delight of spectators. This year, with rain and a soft course, there was no carriage drive, but a tribute to Weymouth and his contributions to the equestrian community was played on the jumbo video screens between races.