May ’tis the season for triple ’chasing wins, and jockey Richard Bou-cher became the latest lucky winner of a hat trick at the Radnor Hunt Races, including the $50,000 hurdle feature, on May 21 in Malvern, Pa.
Riding Mede Cahaba Stable’s gray Complete Zen, Boucher followed along behind Magalen Bryant’s Triplekin (Brian Crowley) for most of the running. Boucher kept the son of Cozzene out of trouble, but Triplekin wasn’t as lucky.
With only a few fences to go, Crowley’s mount tired in the soft going, leaving Complete Zen to hook up with Andre Brewster’s All Together (Xavier Aizpuru) for a long head-to-head stretch battle to the wire.
The finish was so close that it took officials several minutes of reviewing the tapes before they named Complete Zen the winner by a nose. It was the 5-year-old’s second novice win this season. He beat All Together in another stretch run at the Atlanta Steeplechase in mid-April.
Trained by Boucher’s wife Lilith, Complete Zen has been a nice surprise for the couple, as well as Mede Cahaba Stable’s longtime jumper owner, Mignon Smith.
“Zen is a homebred out of a really nice flat mare, Complete Number,” Lilith said.
“We and Mignon had pretty high hopes for him, and it’s all starting to come about. “The two of them [Complete Zen and All Together] are both so good that you just never know how it will end up,” she added.
“On another day it could have been All Together. As long as they make the conditions for these races, these two are going to be at it for some time, I think.”
The two novice titans have faced each other several times in stakes races, but at Callaway Gardens (Ga.) last November it was All Together who had Complete Zen beat at the wire. “He’s a tough horse,” Richard said of All Together.
“I wasn’t sure I had it, but this is my horse’s kind of course because it’s right-handed.”
Most courses at hunt meets run counterclockwise like major tracks, but Radnor officials switched directions in the late 1990s and have kept their course right-handed ever since.
“Zen likes a wide-open track,” Richard said. “He seems to like that direction. He’ll change leads for me, but he always seems to have his weight on his right front, so he’s always going right-handed. I’m not sure if he’ll like the shorter sharper turns of Saratoga [N.Y.]. We’ll have to see as we go along.”
Richard’s quiet manner as a rider sold trainer Regina Welsh on the idea of putting him up on her timber mare Won Wild Bird. The 9-year-old gray gave the jockey his second win of the day, in the $40,000 timber feature, and simultaneously made a little history of her own.
It was the first time a mare has won the 83-year-old race since 1975, when Charlie Fenwick Jr. rode Col. Paul Wimert’s Chilean-bred Minaccia to the victory. The large cut in handicap weight is one of the major advantages to running a mare in timber races, and Radnor was no different.
In fact, Won Wild Bird only carried 152 pounds, as opposed to most of her male competitors, who had 160 to 165 pounds on their backs. Owned by Pink Ribbon Stable, the sometimes fussy mare by Wild Wonder won the allowance timber race at the Maryland Grand National on April 23 but failed to start in the Steeplethon at Virginia Gold Cup in early May.
Welsh ran her back at the Potomac Hunt Races (Md.) the following weekend, where she won the $7,500 open timber. Since Mother Nature dumped several inches of rain the week before Radnor, it was anyone’s guess as to which horses would like the deep going over 3 miles.
A few true mudders emerged, including the leading timber horse of the year, Merriefield Farm’s Bon Caddo (Blair Wyatt), and the ever-tough Justpourit (Crowley), owned by Lucy Stable. Both have proven themselves several times this season in deep footing. The mud sucked many a shoe off, and by the end of the race, one of Bon Caddo’s was hanging by just a few nails. And with horses tiring left and right, Won Wild Bird had only to follow them along, take a big breath in the stretch and run on into the lead.
“She had them at the road cross- ing in the stretch,” Richard said.
“They were all tired today, so it was about the weight advantage. She did all the jumping for me.”
It’d been awhile since Richard, who works mostly as a hurdle and flat track jockey, sat a timber horse.
“I was supposed to ride [Won Wild Bird] for Regina a few years ago but for some reason never did,” he recalled.
“She’s an amazing horse, and Richard is an amazing rider,” Welsh said. “He told me he hasn’t ridden timber in about five years, but I didn’t have to tell him anything, except just to make sure she starts!”
Richard’s first win of the day came on Mede Cahaba Stable’s Class Indian in the $25,000 maiden hurdle. Also a gray, the gelding jumped to the lead early and held off Sonny Via’s Worried Man (Emily MacMahon) by half a length in a driving stretch run.
Trained by Lilith, the 4-year-old son of Waquoit was making his fifth start over fences.
“He’s pretty immature and a bit of a project,” Richard said.
“His jumping is still very green. He gets so excited to be out in front, forgets everything and is like, ‘Yee haw!’ looking at everything and everyone.”
But the British-born Richard, a steeplechasing veteran, is just the experienced rider a horse like Class Indian needs to mature. Richard has ridden around U.S. courses for 19 years while helping Lilith with her training operation out of Camden, S.C. But it’s only been in the last few years that the couple’s really started to see their hard work start to pay off, especially for steeplechase and flat racing owner Smith.
In 2010, Richard had 10 wins and amassed $168,300 in purses for his owners, but he only started on 36 horses, making his strike rate more than 27 percent. He’s already won seven races in 21 starts this year, raking in $143,750 in purses, including $104,450 for Mede Cahaba.
“This is the first time I’ve ever won three in a sanctioned meet,” the 45-year-old jockey said.
“I’m just awestruck by it all. I really don’t ride that many horses. There’ve been some years where I hardly rode at all. “It seems like everyone’s getting a triple these days—jockeys and trainers, down the line,” Richard added.
“It’s getting passed on to everyone—they’re all getting a piece of the pie this spring.”
Another Hat Trick
Leading National Steeplechase Association jockey Paddy Young got a helping of that pie at Radnor too, winning the other three races on the card for two trainers and solidifying his lead in the standings with 16 wins. Young’s first victory came with Cashel Stables’ Ballet Boy in the $30,000 hurdle for Maryland trainer Tom Voss.
Ballet Boy and Young worked their way from the back of the field to the front and roared into the stretch to catch the front running Michael War-ton’s Grinding Speed (Jacob Roberts) and Augustin Stables’ Port Morsbey (Crowley) before the wire.
“He’s not a bad little horse,” Young said of the 7-year-old gelding by Sadler’s Wells.
“He had a problem with his wind—that’s why he didn’t run for a long time. It was a bit rough out there, but he put his head down and dug in.”
Young went on to win the $25,000 unlimited claiming hurdle with Kenneth Ramsey’s front-runner Mabou, also for Voss, and the $10,000 maiden claiming hurdle with Debra Kachel’s Dance Faster for trainer Ricky Hendriks.