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May 29, 2009

Tax Ruling Reaps Rewards At Radnor

He and Darren Nagle write off the feature race in Pennsylvania.

Deceptively tiring ground likely caused several upset wins at the Radnor Hunt Races, May 16.

Steady rains all week on the Malvern, Pa., course made it look lush and with a good cut in it, but once the horses started galloping and punching through the heavy turf, it soon took its toll on many of the favorites.

But Irvin Naylor’s Tax Ruling (Darren Nagle) seemed to skip across the ground, leaving the others far behind. The pair shot to an early lead and never relinquished it, winning the $75,000 National Hunt Cup Grade II Novice Hurdle Stakes by 12 lengths.

Tax Ruling’s big stride just ate up the 2 3⁄8-mile course. At one point Riverdee Stable’s gray Dictina’s Boy (Padge Whelan) made a move but got tangled up in a beacon and was pulled up because he was off course. By the end, only Bright Brook Farm’s Terpsichorean (Robert Walsh) was in second-place range, and a tired The Price Of Love (Danielle Hodsdon) took third.

This is the third $75,000 win in a row for trainer Desmond Fogarty and Naylor. They won the Virginia Gold Cup on May 2 with Salmo and the Iroquois timber stakes (Tenn.) on May 9 with Patriot’s Path.

For Tax Ruling, however, the spring season has been a mixed bag. He fell in his last outing at Queens Cup (N.C.) on April 25 but won at Strawberry Hill (Va.) on April 11.

“He’s a little quirky if he does not get his own way,” Fogarty said. “He will do either one of two things; he will win his race, or he’s done a half mile from home. No point putting him in behind horses or he will sulk. It always has been in the back of my mind to put this horse over timber, but I think we should run him in a few Grade I races. After he ran like that here, he deserves a shot at it.”

But the 6-year-old son of Dynaformer most likely will not be shipping to the stakes races in Saratoga Springs (N.Y.) from his Maryland stable this summer.

“He does not handle the heat, and I am starting to realize he’s not a horse that likes to ship overnight,” Fogarty said. “You can only take him on a day trip.”

The Switch

Trainer Jonathan Sheppard had two horses he wanted to run in the $30,000 allowance hurdle. His regular jockey Danielle Hodsdon said she would ride Hudson River Farm’s Arcadius and chose Darren Nagle for the open ride on Normandy Farm’s Normandy Tower. Then she decided to switch horses.

But when the race was over, it was Arcadius and Nagle in the winner’s circle, while a tired Normandy Tower was pulled up.

Once a flat horse with a $500,000 price tag, the 5-year-old son of Giant’s Causeway showed a serious turn of foot in the stretch, blowing by a driving Great Gusto (Jody Petty) to win by a length.

Sheppard thinks Arcadius has found his niche. “Earlier in his career, he was a bit of a disappointment,” Sheppard said. “So they used him as a lead horse, to work the better horses.”

The Pennsylvania trainer said he was gelded and turned out for a year, then started as a hurdler. But, he added, this might be Nagle’s first and only time on the horse.

“He probably will never ride him again if Dani has anything to do with it,” Sheppard said with a laugh. “Darren was nice and quiet, just what the horse needed. It was a good choice.”

Prince Returns

In 2007, it appeared Augustin Stables had quite the timber horse on their hands. Irish Prince won all four of his sanctioned starts, accrued a record $102,000 and was awarded the NSA timber horse of the year title.

But in 2008, he just could not get to the winner’s circle. He ran third and even second but did not show the same spunk he had in 2007. So trainer Sanna Neilson Hendriks didn’t have any particularly high expectations for him in the $40,000 timber race at Radnor. She put his usual jockey Jody Petty in the irons of her other Augustin hopeful, Radio Flyer.

When the 2008 timber horse of the year, Bubble Economy, became a late scratch due to the unfavorable footing, Hendriks asked Bubble Economy’s jockey Xavier Aizpuru to pilot Irish Prince, and he agreed.

Up against many of the same horses he battled last year, Irish Prince jumped happily within the field. They were all following behind the 12-length lead Alicia Murphy’s speed demon Major Price (Jacob Roberts) had established.

The fire soon died out in Major Price as they covered the 31⁄2-miles on the dead ground, and new leaders emerged by the last. Gum Tree Stable’s Uppercut (Jake Chalfin), J. Alfred Prufrock (Conrad Somers) and Irish Prince all sprinted to the wire, but Irish Prince’s big kick won the race by more than a length.

“I feel really bad,” Hendriks said. “Because Jody really wanted to ride Irish Prince, but I wanted him to ride the other horse. I just felt like the other horse was going to run a really big race today.”

The Pennsylvania trainer could never put her finger on why 2008 was not like 2007 for the 10-year-old son of Prince Of Praise. “Irish Prince has kind of struggled a little bit,” Hendriks said. “For whatever reason he has run some good races, but we just have not gotten there. I actually wasn’t going to run him today, but with Bubble Economy coming out and Xavier becoming available, it seemed like a good match.”

Aizpuru admitted he was excited about riding Irish Prince for the first time.

“He’s a really nice horse,” Aizpuru said. “He looked like a fun ride, and I have been up against him many times. Jody and Sanna were really helpful. It just worked out.

“I don’t think he liked the ground,” he added. “None of them did. It was really testing, hard to describe what was wrong with it. It looked good but did not ride that way. The humidity didn’t help either. We were all tired, horses and jockeys.”

Holding Court

Radnor’s course seems to be the pint-sized Duke Of Earl’s kingdom. He and Aizpuru were second there in the $25,000 claiming race in 2007, then came back to win the same race in 2008.

This year, Duke Of Earl wasted no time in the middle of the field, leading his loyal subjects all the way to the wire.

Trained by Maryland’s Jack Fisher, the flashy chestnut has been running in claiming races and a few stakes on and off for three years. Up for a tag of $15,000 at Radnor, Fisher has placed his faith in the bad economy that no one will claim him away from owners Ann and Henry Stern.

Not exactly lightly raced, the 10-year-old Irish-bred son of Ali-Royal entered Radnor with 60 combined starts in flat and jump racing and more than $200,000 in purses. He now has 11 wins, 10 seconds and nine third-placed finishes for his efforts.

“He’s one of the bravest horses,” Aizpuru said. “He has so much heart. He hated the ground but did it anyway.”

Randleston Farm’s So Amazing (Liam McVicar) finished off the day with a win in the maiden claiming hurdle for trainer Jimmy Day of Virginia.

The pair finished well and looked like they could do another mile.

“It’s hard to get him to settle,” McVicar said “He’s funny with his mouth. As soon as you take hold, he forgets where he has put his feet before and after. Going down the backside I went past Xavier not because I wanted to, but because I could not hold him anymore. I could not pull him up halfway down the back after the wire.”

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