Jockey Brian Crowley is on a roll this spring, picking up wins at the Block House Races (N.C.), the Carolina Cup Races (S.C.), the Atlanta Steeplechase (Ga.) and the Aiken Steeplechase (S.C.). At Queens Cup, held April 30 in Mineral Springs, N.C., the Irishman added to his résumé by pulling off three top finishes in jumping races and one flat victory.
Crowley’s biggest win of the day was the $50,000 Queens Cup MPC ’Chase Sport of Kings Novice Hurdle Stakes. He was aboard Magalen Bryant’s Triplekin for trainer Jonathan Sheppard.
With three race meets on the same day, the entries at Queens Cup were a little spartan, and only five horses ran in the feature. Mede Cahaba Stable’s bold front-runner Complete Zen (Richard Boucher) went to the lead, but Triplekin didn’t let them get too far ahead.
Triplekin jumped his way to the front and had the race in command with a few hurdles to go. The 6-year-old son of Makin made his trainer’s heart skip a beat when he hiccupped over the last, but he recovered and won handily by almost 6 lengths.
“There were some nice horses in there, “ Crowley said. “Mr. Sheppard thinks pretty highly of his other horse, [Augustin Stables’] Port Morsbey, and Richard’s horse [Complete Zen] is always tough. I’m proud of mine. We weren’t sure what to expect. This was his first race in a while.”
A leg injury took Triplekin out of the rotation a little more than a year ago, and he’s just coming back.
“He looked good,” Sheppard said.
“He was unchallenged for most of it. Despite the lovely turf, the ground underneath was firm. They weren’t getting much of a cut in it, so it made the take-off a little slick. I think they are going to try throwing sand on it next year.”
Hall of Fame trainer Sheppard got another win when Hudson River Farms’ Inauguration (Danielle Hodsdon) bested last year’s Eclipse Award winner and National Steeplechase Association Horse of the Year, Kenneth Ramsey’s Slip Away (Matt McCarron), in the training flat.
A hurdle rider all his life, Crowley decided to try American timber racing last fall for Virginia-based trainer Richard Valen-tine, who put him up on Lucy Stable’s Westbound Road for the $15,000 allow-ance timber at Queens Cup. Crowley took care of the 14-year-old veteran jumper, and the two smoked the younger competition, winning the race by more than 8 lengths.
“He’s such a joy to ride,” Crowley said. “If you put a house in front of him, he would jump it. All I had to do was to sit there and not do anything stupid. If all horses were like him, timber would be an easy game.”
This is Crowley’s first win since adding timber to his jumping repertoire, but Valentine had no worries putting a “novice” timber rider up on this horse.
“Brian’s a good rider,” Valentine said. “And Westbound is a pretty straightforward horse.”
But you won’t see Westbound Road at any more timber races. Owner George Hundt Jr. and Valentine wanted to end the horse’s career on a good note and have retired him to the hunt field.
“Even though he looks so good and won so easily, he’s 14,” Valentine said.
“It would be a lot to ask him to come back next year or even this fall. It’s time. He’s been a great horse for George.”
Westbound Road’s win was one of two for the trainer that weekend. Jacqueline Ohrstrom’s Demonstrative (Robert Walsh) won the $25,000 feature at Foxfield Spring Races in Charlottes-ville, Va., the same day.
Crowley, West Grove, Pa., also picked up a couple of outside rides for a second Hall of Fame trainer, Janet Elliot, winning a maiden hurdle and a maiden training flat for her.
Cherry Knoll Farm’s Roman Glory is a hurdler Elliot acquired on a recent buying trip in Great Britain. Crowley looked up his past performances before sitting on him at Queens Cup and thought his flat form would be an advantage in the $15,000 maiden hurdle. He was right.
“He has a bright future,” Crowley said. “He really is nice horse and has beaten Triplekin on the flat. I’m expecting to see great things from him.”
Crowley finished the day with a flat win on another of Elliot’s new acquisitions, Gregory Hawkins’ Alajmal.