When the starter raised his flag for the $75,000 Livingsocial Virginia Gold Cup, May 7, six horses were nervously approaching the line. But by the time they’d set off and reached the second of 23 fences, the race was down to just three—and still dwindling.
As they approached the second, last year’s International Gold Cup winner He’s A Conniver chipped in hard, catapulting Jody Petty over his head and pulling his bridle off.
As More Fascination landed, he saw He’s A Conniver rolling around on the other side of the fence and shot to his left, unseating Paddy Young.
Next Delta Park shied to the right of the fallen horse, dropping Xavier Aiz-puru on the turf. The three grass-stained jockeys could only watch as their mounts galloped off without them.
Uppercut (Darren Nagle) inherited the lead with Bon Caddo (Blair Water-man Wyatt) and Radio Flyer (Robert Walsh) in full pursuit until the horses turned for home. Soon after the second to last, Nagle pulled up Uppercut with a suspected leg injury.
Bon Caddo passed Uppercut and jumped the last boldly. With no pressure, he sprinted ahead to win by 13 lengths over Radio Flyer for owner Merriefield Farm.
Wyatt is only the third female jockey to win the coveted race in its 86 editions. Sanna Neilson Hendriks won in 1991 with Oliver Keelan’s Joe’s OK, and Blythe Miller Davies won with Irv Naylor’s Make Me A Champ in 2002.
“After the fall, Robby and I just kind of looked over at each other,” Wyatt said.
“We were like, ‘What the heck just happened?’ We could not believe it.”
After winning at My Lady’s Manor (Md.) on April 16, trainer Dawn Williams planned to run Bon Caddo at the Mary-land Hunt Cup, but Wyatt took a tumble while schooling right after the Manor and broke her collarbone. Uninterested in finding another jockey, Williams decided to point the horse to the other four-mile timber race, the Virginia Gold Cup.
Wyatt doesn’t ride this race often, electing instead for the amateur-only big timber in Maryland.
“I’d been pushing for Hunt Cup because I really wanted to ride there,” she said.
“And then I did something stupid to my collarbone, and here we are.”
Wyatt taped up her shoulder for the race and said she didn’t feel any discomfort.
“I didn’t notice a thing,” she said. “He doesn’t pull. If I questioned my ability I wouldn’t have come out here today. It wouldn’t be fair to the horse or his owner.”
Bon Caddo, who is now temporarily leading the National Steeplechase Asso-ciation’s standings for money earned ($66,000), almost hurdles the timber, taking the huge fences in stride.
“He’s really quick and efficient,” Wyatt said.
“He accelerates over a fence, and we just hit the ground running.”
The three loose horses were caught without incident. Delta Park and More Fascination took a gallop through the woods. More Fascination incurred the only injury with a large scrape on his hip that most likely was sustained from close contact with a tree.
Uppercut is likely done for the spring season with a leg injury.
Young had better luck with Debra Kachel’s Lake Placid in the $30,000 optional allowance/claiming hurdle for trainer Ricky Hendriks.
This marked the 100th American jump win for the NSA 2009 and 2010 leading jockey. But the milestone came and went without any fanfare. No one mentioned it or seemed to know he had achieved the century mark.
Never one to toot his own horn, Young didn’t say a word. But the next day at the Winterthur Races (Del.), when Young won his 101st on Anthony Mala-tino’s Belarion for his wife, trainer Leslie Falini Young, the happy secret escaped.
The 35-year-old, now a father of three, arrived in the United States from Ireland in the fall of 2003. His first win came that year in a hurdle stakes race on Indispensable at Shawan Downs (Md.).
Living in Unionville, Pa., and riding predominately for Maryland trainer Tom Voss, Young helped pilot Kenneth Ramsey’s big gray Slip Away to his Horse of the Year title and Eclipse Award last year with several second-placed finishes and his $100,000 win at Colonial Cup (S.C.). He also helped Arcadia Stable’s Bubble Economy achieve his third NSA Timber Horse of the Year title in 2010.
“It will be a long way to 200 if it takes this long again,” Young said.
“But it felt nice. The first U.S. win on Indispensable meant a lot, and Bubbles has been a large part of my career. And winning on Slip Away meant so much at Colonial Cup because he deserved to win big and he did.”
Young added about former trainer Paul Rowland who was struck with cancer last year, “It meant a lot to ride winners for Paul too.”
Gustav Dahl got all the hoopla that comes from winning his first sanctioned race after wiring the $25,000 starter allowance on owner-trainer Karen Gray’s Cuse.
The 16-year-old has been riding under rules since last fall. After the race, his fellow jockeys dosed him with a muck basket full of ice and water from the second tier of the steward’s stand. They were nice enough to remove the sodas first.
Dahl took it all in stride. Rubbing his head and laughing, he said,
“It was great to finally get my first win, but the boys could have left the ice out.”
He added about his short career, “I started foxhunting with Ms. Gray, and she asked me if I wanted to try steeplechasing, and it progressed from there. I really like it.”
Swimming River finally got his win in Great Meadows’ steeplethon. He’s placed second and had actually crossed the wire first last fall but was disqualified after rider Bernie Dalton went off course.
Ridden by Jeff Murphy, Swimming River galloped along with Northwoods Stable’s Battle Op (Chris Read) for most of the race, which includes timber, hurdles, a stonewall and water, before pulling away to win by more than 2 lengths for trainer Dorothy Smithwick.
“I love that horse,” Murphy said. “He’s brilliant. I was just hanging on. He won that race last fall, but this time he did it proper.”