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May 8, 2011

Decoy Daddy Leads A Merry Chase In Temple Gwathmey

Tod Marks Photo

Irv Naylor’s newest stakes hurdler Decoy Daddy took advantage of his low profile to best the veterans in the $50,000 Temple Gwathmey grade III hurdle handicap stakes at the Middle-burg Spring Races on April 23.
Days of rain prior to the race in Middleburg, Va.,  kept a few of the big guns away, including Kenneth Ramsey’s Slip Away, who won the 2010 Gwathmey and Eclipse Award, and grade I winner Randleston Farm’s Spy In The Sky.

But the 9-year-old Irish-bred maiden still had plenty of class to deal with, including Riverdee Stable’s Dic-tina’s Boy, 2009 Eclipse Award winner William Pape’s Mixed Up and Mary Ann Houghland’s grade I winner Pierrot Lunaire.

Ridden by Darren Nagle, Decoy Daddy took the lead shortly after the first circuit. He was challenged by Dictina’s Boy (Paddy Young), as well as Beverley Steinman’s newest acquisition, Call You In Ten (Jeff Murphy), but Decoy Daddy kept the rest of the field in his shadow well past the wire.

Decoy Daddy has been lightly raced, so he was only carrying 144 pounds com-pared to Mixed Up’s and Pierrot Lunaire’s 150 pounds.

Trained by former jockey Tom Foley, the horse arrived at his barn only a week before the race after previous trainer Des-mond Fogarty and Naylor parted ways.

“I can’t take all the credit,” Foley said. “I only had him for a short time. Darren knows the horse pretty well and rides him every day, so I relied on him for this race.”

He added, “I really like him. He’s a tough little horse and a little high strung. If Slip Away had been in the race, we were going to try to keep up with him, but without him we needed to take the bull by the horns and make the pace.”

Foley has been training for several years since semi-retiring. He has about 23 horses in training for jumping and on the flat at his Parkton, Md., barn that he shares with girlfriend and fellow trainer Krissy Close.
Foley wasn’t too worried about the conditions at Glenwood Park.

“Like most horses that come over here [from Ireland] he doesn’t like soft going,” Foley said. “But I don’t think it bothered him at all. The turf held up well all day.”

The grand training plan is to send Decoy Daddy to the $150,000 Iroquois Stakes (Tenn.), but Foley realizes he’ll be up against Naylor’s other big gun, Tax Ruling, who is now being trained by Brianne Slater.

“Tax Ruling will be tough, and Slip Away will probably be there too, but I have a lot of confidence in my little horse,” he said.

Three Meets, Three Wins

While Maryland trainer Alicia Murphy’s horse was busy winning the feature at the Grand National (Md.) her other horse, Michael Wharton’s Grinding Speed, was the star of the $25,000 maiden hurdle at Middleburg.

Grinding Speed took a bad fall at Shawan Downs (Md.) in September, so he rested during the autumn season.
Jockey Jacob Roberts kept Grinding Speed covered up for most of the running, only letting him loose in the tricky stretch to thread the needle between Hickory Tree Stable’s Gustavian (Young) and Peace Fire (Xavier Aizpuru).

“I haven’t seen the tape,” Murphy said. “But I hear it was a pretty gusty move. Jacob knew he could do it.”
Murphy said she’s always liked this horse, and he just had some bad luck at Shawan.

“The fall didn’t hurt him so much as when he tried to stand up he stood on his hind ankle,” Murphy said. “That required some stall rest. I’m not sure where we’ll go from here.”

Murphy also picked up a third win on Sunday at the Plumsted Farm Races in Unionville, Pa., with Scanden Stable’s Houghton Regrets (Roberts) in the novice timber.

“All in all, it was a pretty good weekend,” she said.

A Bridesmaid No More

Owner David Semmes of Indian Run Farm in Flint Hill, Va., has been part of ‘chasing for more than 50 years.
The former jockey says lately it hasn’t been about winning, but “more supporting the sport and enjoying the

He only has a few horses with his trainer Dorothy Smithwick, but one horse he likes to see go is Swimming River.
The 9-year-old son of The Wicked North has been running in the steeple-thon races, which are made up of both hurdles and timber fences but sadly has come up short the last couple of outings.

But this time Swimming River (Murphy) won the $15,000 Alfred Hunt by 9 lengths over Perry Bolton’s steeple-thon specialist Scuba Steve (Ross Geraghty).

“He’s been second a lot in these races,” Semmes said. “We actually won it by 5 lengths last fall at the Inter-national Gold Cup [Va.], but he was disqualified because his rider was off course. I’m used to second; I think as a jockey I had some odd record of 26 second-place finishes to Randy Rouse.”

Aizpuru Hits Century Mark

If you asked jockey Xavier Aizpuru if he’d rather get a root canal or ride over timber, the dentist would most likely win out every time, but just the same, his victory on Arcadia Stable’s Delta Park in the $20,000 open timber at the Middleburg Spring Races will always mark a special place in his heart.

The Englishman got his 100th win with Delta Park seven years after he moved to the States. A serious milestone for any steeplechase jockey, Aizpuru said he tried not to think about it much during the last couple of races.

“It’s a great achievement for any of us,” said Aizpuru, 36. “It’s not easy to do. I’ve had great support here in America, and I have a huge list of people to thank throughout the year.

“After getting number 99 in Camden, [S.C.], I really started to think about it and just wanted to get it done, but I never imagined number 100 would be a timber race,” he added.

Amateur Fritz Boniface normally rides Delta Park, so Aizpuru, who rides first call for trainer Jack Fisher, wasn’t so pleased about having to come out of “timber retirement.”

“I rode him for all his hurdle races,” Aizuru said. “He’s a nice horse and Fritz’s ride, but [Boniface] was up at the Grand National in Maryland.”

Aizpuru complained quite vocally about having to ride timber before going on to win the race. “My colleagues are giving me a lot of stink about this,” he said with a laugh.

Changing Hands

Matt McCarron is getting close to a milestone too. After his win on Bertram Firestone’s Lake Placid in the $10,000 maiden claiming hurdle, he only has three more to go before hitting the 200 benchmark.

Unfortunately it may not be on Lake Placid. Ricky Hendriks claimed the Neil Morris-trained horse for owner Debra Kachel at Middleburg. The 6-year-old gelding by Giant’s Causeway was bred by the Firestones and was the first claim of the 2011 season.

McCarron was thrilled by the race, which the horse won by 16 lengths.

“We got along great,” McCarron said. “Neil described us as an ‘old married couple.’ He jumped great and kind of ran off with me at he end. I can only hope that I get the call from Ricky to ride him again.”

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