Trainer Doug Fout finally sees his work pay off.
Paddy Young and Magalen Bryant’s Erin Go Bragh had their work cut out for them in the $35,000 National Sporting Library Chronicle Cup timber stakes at the Virginia Fall Races.
They were up against the National Steeplechase Association’s leading timber horse, Irv Naylor’s Patriot’s Path (Xavier Aizpuru), and timber champion Seeyouattheevent (William Dowling) in Middleburg, Va., Oct. 3-4. But the firm going left more questions than answers for the entire field.
Calvin Houghland’s He’s A Conniver (Robert Walsh) and Gum Tree Stable’s Uppercut (James Slater) led the way for most of the 31⁄4 miles, until Erin Go Bragh made his move a few fences from home with a driving Seeyouattheevent on his heels.
The pair roared into the tight stretch, but no one was going to catch Erin Go Bragh. Seeyouatheevent placed second, and Patriot’s Path was third.
Trainer Doug Fout has always liked Erin Go Bragh, a 10-year-old by Desert Sun, formerly owned by Brigadoon Stables. After the horse won the allowance timber at the 2007 Pennsylvania Hunt Cup, Fout thought he had himself a stakes winner in the making.
But things have not gone as planned with the New Zealand-bred.
After a dismal record in 2008, Fout pegged Erin Go Bragh’s ailment as a thyroid problem. With that issue finally under control, they scored a win at the end of the year in the $50,000 timber stakes at Far Hills (N.J.).
Entering 2009, Fout was expecting great things, but coming into this race, the horse’s only victory had been at the Orange County Point-To-Point (Va.) in March. Erin Go Bragh finished third at the Middleburg Spring Races (Va.) and in the $75,000 Virginia Gold Cup, then fifth at Radnor (Pa.).
“Finally,” Fout said after the Virginia Fall triumph. “I was wondering if I was ever going to get a win with this horse. It has been a really long year. He had the summer off and came into this race fresh and never missed a fence.”
The feature was one of three wins Young scored at Glenwood Park. His second came with Chess Board in the $10,000 optional allowance/claiming hurdle.
Also trained by Fout, the British import had been owned by Ken Luke of Eldon Racing Farm Stable of Georgia, but after a poor showing Fout retired the horse back to the owner. Luke gave the horse to his riding instructor Lynn Gebbard, and for the past 10 months he has been a school horse.
“We weren’t getting anywhere with this horse,” Fout said. “Whatever we tried we could not get him right. Chess Board never tried. There was always something wrong with him, ulcers or he would get hurt, so when Ken called up and said did I want Chess Board back, I said, ‘not particularly.’ After some convincing on his part, I told him we would give him one flat run and one jump run and run him in Ken’s colors.”
Despite the win, Fout is not entirely convinced that his charge is going to be the star that Luke’s retired Eclipse Award winner Hirapour was.
“The best thing [Luke] could have done was give the horse to Lynn and get him away from racing for a year,” Fout said. “He was always a good jumper. She took him on all these cross-country runs, but he’s still nervous and shakes in his stall. We will have to see how he does. At least we have some nice new people coming in, getting interested, and that’s what the game is all about.”
Timber Or Hurdles?
Young’s final win for the day came with Ann Stern’s Major Malibu in the maiden timber for trainer Jack Fisher.
Young got a text message in the morning asking if he wanted to ride the 5-year-old son of Malibu Moon. The Irishman had ridden the horse over hurdles at Philadelphia Park (Pa.) in June, and despite only placing third, he really liked him.
“He ran really well, but we didn’t win. I thought, ‘Oh I will probably never ride that one again,’ ” Young said. “Then I got Jack’s message. It just worked out.”
Major Malibu had placed second in the Virginia Gold Cup steeplethon course with William Dowling in May, so Young knew he could handle timber fences.
“He was good,” Young said. “Obviously, he just had run over hurdles this summer so it took him a while to get his stride, and this is some solid stuff at Middleburg. It was not bad for his first time over a proper timber course.”
On The List
When Jacob Roberts checked the National Steeplechase Association’s jockey standings on Monday, he saw his name for the first time.
Since winning his first sanctioned race at Willowdale (Pa.) in May the 26-year-old has started picking up some choice rides, and after two wins at Shawan Downs (Md.) in September and another three wins at Virginia Fall Races, his career is moving fast. He is tied at six wins with three other jockeys, in sixth place.
“I think it is a combination of me doing better in my racing, acquiring more work, as well as the point-to-point horses I have been riding stepping up to the sanctioned level,” Roberts said.
Living in Laurel, Md., Roberts gallops horses at Bowie Training Center for Lacey Gaudet and her family and is getting the call more and more. In addition to his wins this year, he has six placings in sanctioned jump races.
His first win at Glenwood came with Gordon Keys’ Maximize for trainer Bay Cockburn in the $7,500 maiden hurdle. The big dark bay galloped away to win by more than 4 lengths.
“He’s pretty strong,” Roberts said. “He kind of likes to do things his way but jumped really well.”
Roberts second win came with Peter Hitchen’s Scandalizer in the maiden claiming filly/mare hurdle.
Scandalizer burst onto the scene at the Casanova Hunt Point-To-Point (Va.) in February with a win for jockey Richie Spate. After Spate went back to the United Kingdom Roberts took over.
“She was keen early on and traveling well,” Roberts said. “She’s extremely competitive and wants to get busy early. I think she deserves to run in the stakes races for fillies and mares, but she likes it rock hard so it has to be just so for her.”
Roberts has sat on several frontrunners this year, so it was no surprise to see him some 20 lengths ahead of the field on Cockburn’s I’m Telling in the amateur highweight timber.
After Incaseyouraminer ducked inside a beacon, losing owner-rider Ben Swope, Roberts and I’m Telling destroyed the small field to win by more than 46 lengths.
“He likes to gallop,” Roberts said. “He’s not that one dimensional as everyone thinks he is; he can wait to get there. I’m Telling is one that has definitely stepped up to the NSA level.”