Trainer of Rawnaq, Cryil Murphy, is interviewed after Rawnaq won the Iroquois. (Nancy Brannon photo)
Jockey Jack Doyle is interviewed after the Iroquois about his horse’s performance in winning the race. (Nancy Brannon photo)
Owner of Rawnaq Irvin S. Naylor in the winner’s circle with the Iroquois trophy. (Nancy Brannon photo)
Seventh Race, the Calvin Houghland Iroquois. Over the last fence before the finish, it’s a 3-way battle among (left to right) #1 Nichols Canyon, #5 Shaneshill, and #3 Rawnaq. This is the same order in which they finish: 3,5,1. (Nancy Brannon photo)
Seventh Race, the Calvin Houghland Iroquois. The first time over the last hurdle, #1 Nichols Canyon (left) and #3 Rawnaq (right) lead the pack early in the race. (Nancy Brannon photo)
Susan Walker, MFH (center) parades the Longreen foxhounds with Whipper-In Midge Ellison (left). (Nancy Brannon photo)
The Nephew heads for the finish, and the win, in the sixth race, the Mason Houghland Memorial timber stakes. (Nancy Brannon photo)
In the sixth race, the Mason Houghland Memorial timber stakes, coming over the final hurdle before the finish, The Nephew (IRE) leads with #4 Le Chevalier (grey) trailing second. (Nancy Brannon photo)
#3 Tax Ruling held the lead during the first of 3 laps of the sixth race, the Mason Houghland Memorial timber stakes. On his left is #2 The Nephew, the eventual winner. Gray on the right is Class Indian (#1). (Nancy Brannon photo)
#4 Bishop’s Castle caught his left foreleg on the fence and took a nose-dive, with #8 Help From Heaven jumping right after him. Jockey Ross Geraghty tried to stay on his feet. Help From Heaven jumped well, but can’t avoid the “accident.” (Nancy Brannon photo)
#4 Willow U and #2 One Lucky Lady lead during the first leg of the fourth race, the Margaret Currey Henley filly and mare stakes. One Lucky Lady was the winner. (Nancy Brannon photo)
The horses in the Second Race: The Bright Hour stakes. Grey on the left, Lune De Caro, ridden by Keri Brion, is the eventual winner. (Nancy Brannon photo)
The Nephew with jockey Connor Hankin, winner of the sixth race the Mason Houghland Memorial timber stakes. (Brenda Black photo)
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The 75th anniversary Iroquois Steeplechase on May 14, 2016 had absolutely perfect weather for racing, with cool temperatures (60s), a good breeze, and sunny skies. The second Saturday in May at Percy Warner Park in Nashville, Tennessee is known for its Derby-like atmosphere – with stylishly dressed women wearing the most elaborate hats, nattily dressed men, plenty of picnicking and partying in the infield, and, of course, beautiful horses competing in an exciting day of steeplechase racing. The race is run by the nonprofit 501c3 organization, The Volunteer State Horsemen's Foundation, to benefit the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. Hundreds of volunteers work hard to make the race day go smoothly.
Christine A. Moore Millinery was the official sponsor of this year’s hat contest, which attracted a lot of creative hat designs. Elizabeth Holtz won best overall in the hat contest. Carolyn and Thaddeus Bryan won the prize for the most outrageous hat for their Prince tribute.
The tradition before the fourth race is to bring the children onto the race course to compete in the Michael Stanley Stick Horse Race. This year’s winners received a $100 gift card to Phillips Toy Mart.
The pageantry of the Parade of the Longreen foxhounds always precedes the seventh race of the day – the Calvin Houghland Iroquois.
This year two world-class Irish horses were imported to challenge the locals in the Iroquois. The National Steeplechase Association’s (NSA) Go Jump Racing! described this year’s race as: “a race for the ages, an international classic in an American spring classic.”
“The Irish challenge in the Iroquois was certainly world-class. Trainer W. P. Mullins arrived with Nichols Canyon, third in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham in March, and multiple winner, Shaneshill. Both owned by English tech entrepreneur Graham Wylie and his wife, Andrea, they were regarded as the race favorites, with Rawnaq the third choice,” wrote Don Clippinger in NSA, Go Jump Racing!
But it was Irvin S. Naylor’s Irish-bred Rawnaq who won the day. The Wylies’ Nichols Canyon (GB) and his stable mate Shaneshill (IRE) were among the top three horses through most of the race. Coming to the finish, it was Rawnaq winning by only a neck over Shaneshill, with Nichols Canyon three lengths behind. The victory qualified Rawnaq for the $500,000 Brown Advisory Cheltenham-Iroquois Challenge. The Iroquois Steeplechase has partnered with the world famous Cheltenham Racecourse in England to offer a $500,000 bonus challenge to any horse that wins both the Ryanair Group 1 World Hurdle at Cheltenham in March AND the 75th Anniversary Grade 1 Calvin Houghland Iroquois Hurdle Stakes in May.
Murphy said Rawnaq probably will have the summer off before tackling the championship races in the fall, including the Grand National (Gr. 1), in which he finished third last year. “We’d have three months in the winter to prepare for Cheltenham,” he said, in the NSA report.
Earlier in the day, the second race, The Bright Hour Stakes, was a benchmark for jockey Keri Brion. Keri won on Lune De Caro, a Jonathan Sheppard trained horse, owned by Tamara McSorley. This was Keri’s first steeplechase win! Keri received the traditional ice-water dousing from her fellow riders after her win in the 3-mile race over National Fences.
Keri was the only lady jockey at the 75th annual Iroquois Steeplechase. In an interview with EQI-TV after the race she told about her career becoming a steeplechase rider. “I started riding when I was 5 years old and a horse-crazy little girl. When I was 10, I went to work for Ronnie and Betsy Houghton of Sylmar Farm in Kirkwood, PA. They taught me how to gallop when I was 13, so I started with the race horses.” When she was 18, “one of my best friends worked for Jonathan Sheppard, and said why don’t you come ride out? So, this was seven years ago, I went and rode out for a week, and [decided] this is what I want to do. Shortly after I came back, I was there full time. Two years later I became an assistant and I started schooling hurdles. And I knew I wanted to ride jump races. I rode a lot of the point to point races. And I won a bunch there, but nothing compares to this, and I’ve been knocking on the door. I was third on this same horse at Middleburg four weeks ago. I was second on a horse of Jimmy Day’s by a neck two weeks ago. It’s been right there! It’s really special to do it here today! Representing the females – like Bethany Baumgardner, who was second here last year. She and I are two of the more up-and-coming female riders. It’s really special to do it here for Jonathan, and the owners are just amazing people. I’m so appreciative because he’s a really nice horse!”
In the third race, the Marcellus Frost, Robert A. Kinsley’s Tempt Me Alex, trained by Elizabeth Voss, claimed a 1 ½ length victory over Ice It, who barely held off late-charging African Oil by a nose for second. Hardrock Eleven closed from the back of the field for fourth.
In the fourth race, the Margaret Currey Henley stakes for fillies and mares, the lucky lady of the day was One Lucky Lady. Irvin S. Naylor’s mare, under jockey Ross Geraghty, held off a late challenge from The Grange to win by half a length. Michael Moran’s Ivy Mills, under jockey Sean McDermott, finished third, and Beverly Steinman’s Secret Reward was ridden by Kieran Norris to fourth.
The fifth race, the George Sloan & John Sloan Sr. Sport of Kings Maiden Hurdle was the only race with a fall. Coming to the last hurdle, #4 Bishop’s Castle caught his left foreleg on the fence and took a nose-dive then a somersault. Help From Heaven jumped right after him and jumped well, but couldn’t avoid the accident. Bishop’s Castle jockey Ross Geraghty landed well away from the horses, but was down for a short period of time. He soon was up on his own, to applause from the crowd, and medical personnel took him off course in a golf cart. The horses were shaken, but not injured.
In the one timber race, the Mason Houghland Memorial, Jack Fisher-trained The Nephew was the clear winner by 5 ¾ lengths. Although Irv Naylor’s Tax Ruling took the initial lead in the three-mile race, The Nephew matched strides with him and took over the lead in the first mile. Maintaining a clear lead, he was challenged by Le Chevalier approaching the last of 20 fences. But The Nephew maintained his lead, leaving Le Chevalier in second. Magalen O. Bryant’s Gustavian finished third, 18 1/4 lengths farther back. Holston Hall’s Hot Rize, the 2014 timber champion, finished fourth.
Read more about the Iroquois Steeplechase full event at: http://www.iroquoissteeplechase.org/
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