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Iroquois Steeplechase


Snap Decision leads the field over the last hurdle before the finish line in the first lap of the course.

Snap Decision leads the field over the last hurdle to claim the win in the Calvin Houghland Iroquois. Jockey Graham Watters looks to see how far back his rival is.

The Parade of Hounds: the Mells Foxhounds with Huntsman Charles Montgomery, MFH.

The Parade of Hounds: the Mells Foxhounds with Huntsman Charles Montgomery, MFH.

The entire McInturff family was at the Iroquois Steeplechase. Dr. Monty McInturff’s Tennessee Equine Hospital is the official veterinarian for the race.

Storm Team (#9) is well in the lead over the last hurdle of the race in the Mason Houghland Memorial Timber Race Six, followed by second place finisher Tomgarrow (#2).

The Mean Queen gets hosed and iced to start cooling her even before jockey Tom Garner dismounts.

Iroquois and Tennessee Equine Hospital staff use multiple water and ice measures to cool down the horses at the finish line.

The Mean Queen clears the last hurdle in the Fifth Race, the Filly and Mare Hurdle on her way to victory.

#1 Keri’s Find, Parker Hendriks aboard, just behind Nice To Meet Ya (#7) who led for a good part of the race, eventually won the Fourth Race the George Sloan and John Sloan Sr. Maiden Hurdle. Second place finisher Plenty In The Tank (#5) is close behind

Princeville (#3 right) and Market Bubble (#1 left) are evenly matched over the last hurdle before the finish in the Third Race, the George Sloan and John Sloan Sr. Maiden Hurdle. As they crossed the finished line, the announcer said, “Too close to call!” Princeville was the eventual winner with Market Bubble in second. Howya Tuppence was third and West Newton was fourth.

Princeville (#3), followed by #1 Market Bubble and #7 Tap Dance Star in the Third Race, the George Sloan and John Sloan Sr. Maiden Hurdle. Princeville and Market Bubble finished first and second, respectively, but Tap Dance Star did not place.

Stick Horse Race (Photos by Tom Brannon)

Stick Horse Race (Photos by Tom Brannon)

Third group in the Stick Horse Race

Second group in the Stick Horse Race

Youngest group in the Stick Horse Race.

After Race 2 a horse gets the “ice shawl” to help cool down.

(#10 center) Chief Justice with Bernard Dalton riding was the winner of Race 2 The Green Pastures.

In the second race The Green Pastures, #2 Kiloranan with Jockey Eddie Keating (Photo by Tom Brannon)

The Mean Queen crosses the finish line to win the Margaret Currey Henley Filly and Mare Stakes. (Photo by Tom Brannon)

Jockey Tom Garner gives a thumbs up after winning the Margaret Currey Henley Filly and Mare Stakes on The Mean Queen. At center is trainer Kari Brion with (left) owner Alice Moorehead of Buttonwood Farms. (Photo by Tom Brannon)
Photos by Nancy and Tommy Brannon

The Iroquois Steeplechase celebrated its 80th anniversary and 78th running at Percy Warner Park in Nashville, Tenn. on Saturday June 26, 2021. The weather was sunny, but hot, at 90° F. It is normally held the second Saturday in May, but was cancelled in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic and was moved to June this year because of COVID-19 limitations.  An estimated 20,000 fans turned out to watch the races, which closed out the National Steeplechase Association’s (NSA) 2021 spring racing season.

Seven races were scheduled for the day and the times of most of the races were slower than usual because of the heat, with some races also being shortened because of the heat. The saving grace of the day was a steady breeze, along with the misting fans provided by Wallace Trailers of Franklin, Tenn.

For the small fry, the Stick Horse Race was held after the second steeplechase race. There were so many entrants that there were three phases, with competitors grouped according to age. The prize for the winner was a $100 gift card to Phillips Toy Mart.

The Parade of the Mells Fox Hounds took the course between the sixth and last race of the day, the Calvin Houghland Iroquois.

The main race of the day was Calvin Houghland Iroquois. The field of six (with one scratch) began the race of two loops around the track with Snap Decision taking the lead early on. But the heat began to take its toll and Snap Decision’s main rival, Irish-bred Footpad, pulled up after the first circuit. By the time the field was over the final hurdle, there were only three in contention for the win: Snap Decision, followed by Amschel and Bedrock. Snap Decision finished three and a half lengths ahead of second-placed Amschel. Bedrock finished third and New Member was fourth.

One of the more competitive races of the day was the fifth race, the Margaret Currey Henley Filly and Mare Hurdle. Even in the paddock before the race, these mares and fillies were excited, already sweating and lathered. The grooms had their hands full trying to control them, with some horses requiring two grooms to hold them. People around the paddock area had to give them room as they gave each other threatening looks and gestures. Trained by Kari Brion, The Mean Queen lived up to her reputation: a chestnut Irish-bred Thoroughbred jockeyed by Tom Garner, another redhead. Everyone said she was the one to beat, but she was determined not to be beaten. Early on, Cainudothetwist took the lead and kept it through the first half of the race, at one time 12 lengths ahead of the rest of the pack. But she faded and was not even able to place. That’s when The Mean Queen made her way to the front and kept the lead over the finish line.

Up and coming Trainer Keri Brion seems to be the one to watch in steeplechasing. She had seven horses in this year’s Nashville roster, with winners in two races and placing in two more. Kari, who has also been in the irons in both flat races as well as steeplechase, grew up in rural Pennsylvania just down the road from a steeplechase farm. This was a perfect environment for a horse crazy girl who landed her first job at age 10 cleaning bridles and scrubbing buckets. This spring she became the first American to train the winner of an Irish Hurdle Race. She has such a keen eye for a good horse that the winner of this year’s George Sloan & John Sloan Sr. Hurdle race was “Kari’s Find.”
The only timber race of the day, the Sixth Race the Mason Houghland Memorial, saw Storm Team take the lead early in the race and keep it all the way to the finish for the win.

The most crowded field of the day was the Second Race, the Green Pastures with 12 entries.

Turf crews had worked on the course, watering it to keep it in good shape for the race, despite the fact that it primarily contains cool-season grasses.

Race results:

Bright Hour Handicap Hurdle: 1. Mighty Mark, 2. Mr. Sarinana, 3. Embrace the Grind, 4. Boss Man 
Green Pastures Novice Hurdles Stakes: 1. Chief Justice, 2. Baltimore Bucko, 3. Master Gunner, 4. Fast Car
George Sloan and John Sloan Sr. Maiden Hurdle: 1. Princeville, 2. Market Bubble, 3. Howya Tuppence, 4. West Newton
George Sloan and John Sloan Sr. Maiden Hurdle (2): 1. Keri's Find, 2. Plenty in the Tank, 3. Queens Empire, 4. Nice To Meet Ya
Margaret Currey Henley Sports of Kings Filly & Mare Hurdle Stakes: 1. The Mean Queen, 2. Down Royal, 3. Bercasa, 4. Speed Alert
Mason Houghland Memorial Allowance Timber: 1. Storm Team, 2. Tomgarrow, 3. Rakhaa, 4. Motivational
Calvin Houghland Iroquois: 1. Snap Decision, 2. Amschel, 3. Bedrock, 4. New Member
Find full results at the NSA website:

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