The Iroquois Steeplechase
Mr. Hot Stuff Mr. Hot Stuff (left, orange w/ J) takes a lead over the last fence with Demonstrative (right) less than a length in second.
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Weather for the 74th running of the Iroquois Steeplechase on the second Saturday in May (9th) at Percy Warner Park in Nashville, TN was what many would consider an ideal spring day: sunny to partly cloudy, a slight breeze, and high temperatures in the mid-80s. The National Steeplechase Association calls it “the highlight of the spring steeplechase season.” The stands and infield were packed with race enthusiasts, picnickers, and Nashvillians out to enjoy the spring social event. The annual race is a fundraiser for Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.
The Iroquois is the seventh/last race of the day and the highlight of the afternoon’s activities. The race attracts seasoned steeplechase horses and often includes past winners. The 2014 winner Divine Fortune and 2013 winner Demonstrative were in the line-up. Tax Ruling, the 2010 and 2011 Iroquois winner, ran in the Mason Houghland Memorial Timber Stakes (6th race), where he finished second. Pierrot Lunaire, 2009 winner, was among the five veteran horses vying for the Iroquois title.
For most of the race it looked like Divine Fortune would repeat last year’s win, as he led the 5-horse field for the first two laps of the 3-mile race. Then, at the third to last fence, a newcomer on the scene, Mr. Hot Stuff (who is truly hot stuff!) made his move to take the lead. Mr. Hot Stuff was slightly ahead of Demonstrative at the last hurdle. In an epic duel, Jacqueline Ohrstrom's Demonstrative gave Mr. Hot Stuff a neck-and-neck race to the finish line.
Demonstrative demonstrated he could win the Iroquois, beating Paddy Young on Mr. Hot Stuff by a neck and leaving Darren Nagle on Divine Fortune lagging in fourth place. Jack Doyle had the winning ride, replacing Robbie Walsh, who was supposed to ride Demonstrative, but was injured in the third race and carried to the hospital with a broken collar bone. Willie McCarthy, riding Jonathan Sheppard-trained Barnstorming, was third. Pierrot Lunaire was fifth.
Mr. Hot Stuff is trained by the National Steeplechase Association’s leading trainer Jack Fisher for owner Gillian Johnston of Ooltewah, Tenn. The 8-year-old dark bay/black gelding was third in the 2009 Santa Anita Derby and 15th in the 2009 Kentucky Derby. “He’s a beautiful horse; he’s well put together; he’s an athlete,” said Fisher, based in Maryland. “And he showed he had talent on the flat.”
First Race. The day’s races began with the traditional Guilford Dudley, Jr. Memorial Flat Race. Top trainer Jonathan Sheppard started the afternoon with a win, as Willie McCarthy piloted Magalen O. Bryant’s King’s Giant across the finish in first.
Second race. In the Bright Hour Stakes females ruled, as the first through third place finishers were all ridden by female jockeys. The winner Charminster, owned by Irvin S. Naylor, was ridden by Carol-Ann Sloan. Sloan was Champion apprentice and amateur jockey in 2014, with a 37% win rate. Bethany Baumgardner piloted Robert A. Kinsley’s Tempt Me Alex to second; the horse is trained by Elizabeth Voss. In third, Keri Brion rode Johathan Sheppard’s One Giant Step.
Third race. In The Marcellus Frost: jockey Jack Doyle had another win – on Syros, owned by Mrs. S. K. Johnston, Jr. In this race, two jockeys parted company with their horses and Robbie Walsh suffered a broken collar bone.
After the third race, the children took over the course for the stick horse races. With Champ, the mascot of the Monroe Carell, Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt at the finish, these tough competitors had a blast racing across the turf.
As is customary at the Kentucky Derby, ladies hats are an important part of the “dress code” at the Iroquois. Nashville’s nFocus magazine sponsors a hat contest every year, where hauté haberdashery is celebrated “nStyle.”
Fourth race. The females were back again in the Margaret Currey Henley Filly and Mare Hurdle Stakes. Clarks Ohrstrom’s Kisser N Run, with jockey Robert Walsh, outran the 8-horse field for the win. This was another tough race, as three strong contenders jumped the last hurdle in unison: Secret Reward, Bau Bai Gold, and Kisser N Run. It was down to the wire to determine the winner, with Bau Bai Gold, Mark Watts up, finishing second and Secret Reward, Gerard Galligan riding, finishing third. Unfortunately, just after Fall Colors and American Ladie cleared the last fence, Carol-Ann Sloan parted company with American Ladie before they could reach the finish (DSC_0347). Sloan was OK after the fall.
Fifth race. In the George Sloan and John Sloan Sr. Sport of Kings Maiden Hurdle: African Oil was the winner, ridden by Bernard Dalton and owned by Gary Barber. African Oil was several lengths in the lead over the last hurdle, but it was another close one for the other finishers. Just trailing Yellow Mountain, who finished second with Willie McCarthy up, Cul Baire, Hardrock Eleven, and Miguel Grau jumped the last hurdle together. But Hardrock Eleven’s landing was troublesome and he fell, tossing jockey Gerard Galligan. When his horse did not immediately get back up, he crawled over to attend to his horse. Race personnel immediately rush over with ice and water to cool down the horse. Still down, the equine ambulance was brought over, but after multiple applications of ice and cold water, Hardrock Eleven stood on his own as the crowd gave a loud cheer. His grooms and veterinarians from Tennessee Equine Hospital gave him additional cooling and kept a close watch on him. He was led back to the barn, with a stop along the way at the misting fans for another hosing and checking by TN Equine Hospital veterinarians Dr. Monty McInturff and Dr. Matthew DeLisle. Meanwhile, emergency personnel transport Gerard Galligan away on a stretcher, but he raised his arm to indicate he would be OK.
Sixth race, The only timber race of the day, the Mason Houghland Memorial Timber Stakes, saw last year’s winner Cornhusker in a repeat performance. Trained by Alicia Murphy and ridden by Mark Beecher, the horse came from behind to take a clear lead over the last fence and lead all the way to the finish. For most of the race, Tax Ruling held the lead from the first lap. Over the last fence of the first lap, Class Indian nearly took down the last panel of the fence, nearly unseating Martin Rohan and losing his hold in the tack. Rohan made an amazing recovery and finished the race, although his horse was not in the top four placings. After the finish, Tax Ruling’s jockey filed a foul against Cornhusker for interference at the last fence, but the stewards did not find a reason for disqualification. Mark Beecher, Cornhusker’s jockey, also won the VA Gold Cup May 2, 2015.
The parade of the Longreen Hounds, led by Huntswoman Susan Walker, MFH signaled the prelude to the last race, the Iroquois. The Penn-Marydel hounds and the riders in their Pinque (scarlet) coats contribute to the atmosphere of tradition and formality.
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