Tuesday, Apr. 23, 2024

Be Certain Looks Convincing At Radnor

He holds on to win by a head in the final leg of the Triple Crown.

Trainer Tom Voss won the third leg of steeplechasing’s Triple Crown series at Radnor Hunt Races, May 17 in Malvern, Pa., with Alnoff Stable’s Be Certain in a white-knuckle finish.

Jockey Matt McCarron stepped in for an injured Padge Whelan and just bided his time, letting the 4-year-old son of Thunder Gulch pick his way along the course.


He holds on to win by a head in the final leg of the Triple Crown.

Trainer Tom Voss won the third leg of steeplechasing’s Triple Crown series at Radnor Hunt Races, May 17 in Malvern, Pa., with Alnoff Stable’s Be Certain in a white-knuckle finish.

Jockey Matt McCarron stepped in for an injured Padge Whelan and just bided his time, letting the 4-year-old son of Thunder Gulch pick his way along the course.

Sunshine Numbers (Arch Kingsley) led the field, jumping just in front of Planets Aligned (Chip Miller), Imagina (Jody Petty), Run The Light (Chris Read) and Swagger Stick (William Dowling).

As Imagina was making her move around fence 14, she fell, and Run The Light, unable to avoid her, plowed into her. Planets Aligned forged ahead with Be Certain in his shadow.

Miller tried to shut the door on McCarron at the last, but Be Certain was catlike enough to avoid Planets Aligned and still had enough in the tank to win by a small head over his stablemate. William Pape’s The Price Of Love (Danielle Hodsdon) placed third.

This win gives Voss, of Monkton, Md., two legs of the Triple Crown with two different horses. Partially owned by former steeplechase jockey (now flat and jump trainer) Roger Horgan of Saratoga Springs, N.Y., the horse had not really shined on the flat as a 3-year-old, so Horgan asked Voss to watch him jump.

“We popped him over a few fences in the infield on Sept. 1, after Saratoga,” Voss said. “I was impressed. He acted like he has always jumped.”

Voss agreed to take Be Certain, and soon the horse was third in a $50,000 race at Far Hills (N.J.) and went on to win the $25,000 race for 3-year-olds at Colonial Cup (S.C.). More recently, Be Certain was victorious in the $30,000 allowance hurdle at the Virginia Gold Cup.

“He has always gotten better each time he has run,” Voss said. “I think he’s going to really factor later on this year.”

McCarron agreed: “He never really missed a fence. He was as genuine as could be. He’s such an honest, honest little horse who’s only 4, and for him to do that at this age is just a testament to what a gutsy little guy he is.”

He added, “It certainly is a lot more fun getting to ride him than watching him from behind.”

Run The Light and Read came out of the incident unscathed, but, Petty suffered a broken wrist and elbow, and sadly Imagina was euthanized. Course veterinarians determined that the 6-year-old mare had broken her shoulder, although it was unclear whether it happened in the initial fall or in the collision with Run
The Light.

Since 2006, the Chilean-bred daughter of Great Regent has been a staple in the filly/mare series. Last year Imagina placed second in the series, earning more than $72,000 for Augustin Stables. This year she went up against the boys, besting them in the $75,000 Carolina Cup (S.C.), and she placed a good second to
Planets Aligned at the Middleburg Spring Races (Va.).


Imagina had 14 starts, four wins, four second-placed finishes and career earnings of $142,400.
Her death is the second to hit steeplechasing in a week. Alfred C. Griffin’s Hidden Key died suddenly at trainer Doug Fout’s Virginia farm last week of a cerebral hemorrhage from the fall he sustained in the feature race at Willowdale Steeplechase (Pa.), May 11.

Normandy Farm Stars In Steeplechase Debut

For Normandy Tower, the High Hope Steeplechase on May 18 in Lexington, Ky., was the perfect meet to make over his career.
The big, 6-year-old great-grandson of Secretariat was on the muscle for the
beginning of the Sport of Kings maiden hurdle feature but then settled in and was nothing but business all the way to the wire, where he won by more than 3 lengths.
A new client owns the freshest addition to trainer Jonathan Sheppard’s summer string of hurdlers.

Since 1933, Normandy Farm has been an integral part of the Lexington breeding and flat-track racing scene. A favorite of the many farm tours, the L-shaped stable is an exact replica of a barn where the original owner sought refuge in Normandy, France, when his plane went down in World War I. It features a huge tower with a working clock. Now owned by Nancy Polk, this is the first time the flat track proprietor has dabbled in the steeplechase game.

“She really likes the ambiance of it all,” Sheppard said. “One of her advisors gave her my name, and we have a few of her horses. I thought I would run him [Normandy Tower] first on the flat at Churchill on Memorial Day, but it seemed so far away so thought we would give it a go at High Hope, which is easy for her to get to. Luckily, it all turned out well.”

Sheppard was not sure which of his stable jockeys was going to ride the strong horse. James Slater told the trainer he thought he and the horse were not getting along well. Hodsdon thought he might like her style better.

“He’s a tough horse to school,” Sheppard said. “Likes to run sideways. Dani thought he might like a girl’s touch better. She could talk to him, calm him down. She did a great job.”

The 8-year-old son of Corridor Key was a hurdle horse before turning to timber this year. In 17 starts, the homebred had four wins, three seconds and two third-placed finishes with $88,924 in career earnings.

Tough Field

Despite his win on Arthur Arundel’s Monte Bianco in the $40,000 timber stakes, Xavier Aizpuru still claims he’s not a timber rider.

On paper the field was even more formidable than the $100,000 Virginia Gold Cup timber race, with three former National Steeplechase Association timber horses of the year—Kinross Farm’s Miles Ahead (2005), Augustin Stable’s Irish Prince (2007) and Arcadia Stables’ Bubble Economy (2004).

Private Attack (William Santoro), winner of this spring’s Grand National (Md.), made the pace for most of the race, until falling around fence 17.

Calvin McCormack and Whitewood Stable’s Straight Gin parted ways shortly after. At this point, Aizpuru let the 7-year-old Irish-bred have his head, and the pair led for the rest of the 3 1⁄4 mile race.

Monte Bianco made a Herculean effort over the last, teetered slightly on the landing, then took off to leave Miles Ahead (Chris Read) and Irish Prince (Petty) for second and third, respectively.

Trained by Jack Fisher, of Monkton, Md., this is Monte Bianco’s second win of the year after easily taking the Carolina Cup (S.C.).


Aizpuru, who was the 2007 NSA leading jockey over hurdles, is still denying he has a knack for timber. “No, I am not a timber rider, well, not officially,” Aizpuru said. “I am still fussy about my horses. Very lucky to have the ride on what seems to be a very good one at the right time.”

Better Times

The Augustin Stables team had better times earlier in the day, when the Chilean-bred Rainiero commanded the stretch to win the $30,000 allowance hurdle race with Jody Petty up.

The 8-year-old started off the year with what looked to be an easy win at Aiken (S.C.) but fell at the last fence. He ran back at Strawberry Hill (Va.) and was just beat by Lead Us Not (Hodsdon).

Trainer Sanna Hendriks thinks Rainiero is making progress.

“I thought our horse would be tough to beat,” she said. “I thought he was doing a little bit better going into this race.”

Miller might have been beat in the feature, but he snuck in another win for Voss with Armata Stable’s Dynaski in the $25,000 maiden hurdle. The 5-year-old son of Dynaformer went head-to-head with Windmill Hollow Stable’s Nat Grew (Carl Rafter).

“He’s still very green, very careful,” Miller said. “He could be a Saratoga horse, and even though he didn’t win by much, he was sort of finding his way, figuring it all out. He’s pretty smart. I think he has a lot of potential, and he will be even better next time out.”

The Sterns were not so happy to see their newest acquisition, Duke Of Earl, entered in a $25,000 claiming race, especially for the bargain price of $15,000. But Duke Of Earl finished with a win, remained unclaimed and all was forgiven.

Carrying only 145 pounds and ridden by Aizpuru, the little 9-year-old, Irish-bred chestnut waited patiently. With a burst of speed at the last he left Pleasant Pick (Kingsley) more than 6 lengths back.

Aizpuru said Duke Of Earl is not much taller than he is.

“He’s so little, he has an advantage on the tight turns here,” Aizpuru said. “It got a little cozy on the inside, but I knew my little horse was going to be OK. He loves these turns and sticks to those beacons like he’s married to them.”

Sarah Libbey Greenhalgh




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