Monday, Jun. 3, 2024

Good Night Shirt Gets His Due At Iroquois


There’s a new horse on the block, and he is putting several veterans on notice. Harold Via’s Good Night Shirt not only won the $150,000 Iroquois hurdle stakes, May 12, but he also wired it in some very tough conditions.

The second Grade I of the season had 10 starters, including the two titans, Michael Moran’s three-time Eclipse winner McDynamo (Jody Petty) and the two-time Iroquois winner, Kinross Farm’s Sur Le Tete (Chris Read).
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There’s a new horse on the block, and he is putting several veterans on notice. Harold Via’s Good Night Shirt not only won the $150,000 Iroquois hurdle stakes, May 12, but he also wired it in some very tough conditions.

The second Grade I of the season had 10 starters, including the two titans, Michael Moran’s three-time Eclipse winner McDynamo (Jody Petty) and the two-time Iroquois winner, Kinross Farm’s Sur Le Tete (Chris Read).

Jockey William Dowling rode Good Night Shirt to a close second-placed finish in the $150,000 Royal Chase at Keeneland (Ky.) (21⁄2 miles) and thought the horse would be more suited to the three-mile distance at Iroquois, but Mother Nature was not going to make it easy. The night before, 3 inches of rain fell on the Nashville, Tenn., course, and by post time, the air temperature soared to the high side of 85 degrees.

Good Night Shirt got away cleanly at the start and rolled down to the first fence, dragging the rest of the field on the rolling course. Meanwhile, the course conditions took their toll with Meadow (Danielle Hodsdon) and John Grigg’s Hip Hop (Chip Miller) pulling up.

By the final turn up the long hill to the stretch, Sur Le Tete and McDynamo started to make their move on the big chestnut, but just as they closed, Good Night Shirt was away again. By the last he was all alone, coasting to the wire more than 5 lengths ahead of Sur Le Tete in the time of 5:502⁄5. Chivite (Paddy Young) took third, with McDynamo fourth.

Trained by Jack Fisher, Good Night Shirt was the second of two wins in the day for the Monkton, Md., native.

This was the first Grade I win for Dowling, a 29-year-old who traveled to the States from Ireland two years ago. “I kept looking around for Sur Le Tete and McDynamo and wondering where they were as we approached the last fence,” Dowling said. “Once I jumped the last I just sat still, and he was a nice, easy winner.”

Dowling’s plan was not to be out in front that soon with the 6-year-old son of 1994 Breeders’ Cup winner Concern.

“We started off running down the hill, and he jumped the first so well I ended up in front and I couldn’t hold him,” Dowling said. “But once he got there, he pricked his ears and started to relax and just went out in a nice sensible gallop, so I let him be.

“The distance was perfect,” he added. “I knew adding that extra half-mile would make such a difference. If I had just made my move a little earlier at Keeneland it might have been a different outcome. He’s such a big horse it has taken him so long to settle into his job.”

Dowling is enjoying all the attention his recent celebrity has brought him, but he isn’t going to let it get to his head.

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“After the race people were asking me how well I knew the horse,” Dowling said. “I told them, ‘I know him pretty well; I was up at 6:30 a.m. cleaning out his stall.’ ”

Hendriks Takes The Lead

With this win, Fisher moves to the head of the pack in the National Steeplechase Association trainer, money-won standings with $434,255. Good Night Shirt’s owner Harold Via is at the top with $142,593, but trainer Sanna Hendriks is leading into the last of the spring races with 11 wins to Fisher’s 10.

Hendriks’ 10th win of season came in the $75,000 timber race with Augustin Stable’s Irish Prince (Petty). This was the first win back for Petty, who had taken a terrible fall at the Atlanta Steeplechase on April 14 and required plastic surgery to repair the left orbital socket in his skull after a horse stepped on him. The game jockey had ridden at the Virginia Gold Cup on May 5, but this weekend was his first full race card.

Petty placed the horse safely in the middle of the 10-horse field, which included stablemate and relative, Praise The Prince (Young), but soon Petty found himself in the lead.

Around the second-to-last, Monte Bianco (Miller) started closing in, but the pair bobbled and fell. At this point, no other horses were near enough to make a difference, and Irish Prince sailed the last, romping home some 9 lengths ahead of Jubilee Stable’s Woodmont (Richard Boucher).

Petty is impressed with Irish Prince’s first season as a timber horse. “I thought we were settled in fourth or fifth place,” Petty said. “He just jumped his way up to the front. He wasn’t running off with me; he wasn’t scary jumping. He was just jumping them proper and quick. That is what is so amazing about him.”
Petty started off the year winning with this horse over timber at the Carolina Cup (S.C.), and he said the 8-year-old son of Prince Of Praise is just getting better.

“The first time around the fence on the turn, Chris’ horse [No Fast Moves] was right in front of me,” Petty said. “When we jumped, we landed in front of him. We jumped the last well, and he galloped around the turn like a fresh horse. I just patted him from there to the wire.”

Still The Boss

Xavier Aizpuru had good luck earlier in the day on Fisher’s other Grade I stakes horse, Ann Stern’s Paradise’s Boss. The horse won the $40,000 stakes race at Aiken (S.C.) in March and was a closing third at Keeneland, but Fisher did not think he had 3 miles in him so he entered him at the $50,000 Grade III at Iroquois.

From the flag fall, Aizpuru kept a watchful eye on Preemptive Strike (Young). The powerful, front running horse had taken an uncharacteristic spill at Keeneland, and Aizpuru knew if Preemptive Strike was on his “A” game he had to be close.

With only one fence left, Paradise’s Boss paired up with Preemptive Strike, and the two horses jumped together, battling it out in the stretch. Paradise’s Boss won in the end by 1⁄2 length over Preemptive Strike.

The British Aizpuru was happy how his horse took to the deep going. “These horses are really used running on the top of the ground, and this was a hard for them today,” Aizpuru said. “They were really having to dig deep and find reserves they probably didn’t even know they had.”

He thought Preemptive Strike had been unlucky at Keeneland. “A fully wound-up Preemptive Strike is definitely the horse to beat, so I didn’t want to give any ground to him today,” Aizpuru said. “At the last, I had to take a gamble and hope I got a break on the inside and hold my position, and we did it. I met the last perfectly. It doesn’t happen by coincidence with horses like Paradise’s Boss. They are just naturals, and they find those spots. They see them as quickly as we do, probably even quicker.”

Last year Orchid Princess won the $50,000 Sport of Queens filly/mare race with Matt McCarron, who was substituting for an injured Bernard Dalton. This time, owner-trainer Linda Klein put Dalton back aboard the 2006 championship mare, and again she gave it her best, winning by a nose over F. Lee McKinney’s Feeling So Pretty (Miller).

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Dalton adores the 9-year-old daughter of Dermaloot Dermashoot. “She’s a funny old mare,” Dalton said. “You just have to be careful not to get to the front too soon. Going to the last, I knew Chip was coming; I knew my horse would pick up for me. She will try her heart out. She’s the only woman I have ever known who will keep a promise to me.”

Klein said she is one of the most easy going horses in her stable. “Last year we used her in the riding school summer camp,” Klein said.

With the money she won, she is going to head up to the University of Pennsylvania’s New Bolton Center to a fertility specialist, and with any luck she will be in foal next year.

More Than A Pretty Face

Feeling So Pretty’s owner-trainer, F. Lee McKinney, decided to retire her after her close second-placed finish at Iroquois. The 13-year-old daughter of Nordic Legend has done everything they have asked of her, said McKinney.

Best known for running in the filly races, Feeling So Pretty retires from the jumping game with 82 starts, eight wins, eight seconds, and 10 third-placed finishes, equaling $286,738 in purses.

Some of that money was earned at Keeneland (Ky.) when she placed fifth against 11 of the top geldings on the circuit. McKinney said that finish and her second-placed finish to Sur Le Tete at the 2006 Iroquois were two of her best races.

“I now can safely say, she never fell once in any of her races,” McKinney said. “Which is pretty darn good for any jumper. Oh she had a few fences that I will never forget, but she never fell.”

With any luck, Feeling So Pretty will be in foal next month. “She has a date with Shadwell Farm’s Swain,” McKinney said. “I have consulted with many steeplechase trainers, and this was the stallion we thought was best for her lineage. We like the Blushing Groom in him, and she has Northern Dancer.”

In a sport that is normally a sea of geldings, Feeling So Pretty is one of the outstanding mares of the decade and a staple in the filly/mare series that started three years ago. The race at Iroquois was the best field the series has ever started, with 12 solid entries. NSA Director of Racing Bill Gallo was pleased with the turn out.

“People were a little skeptical of the filly/mare series at first, but I always had a good feeling about it,” Gallo said. “It just takes time, and if you are patient the series will build and evolve. People can really see it growing when we have a race like that.”

Gallo added about Feeling So Pretty’s retirement: “She’s tenacious. She goes at one pace and kind of runs people down. She’s probably one of the grittiest of the fillies and mares of modern times. I am going to miss seeing her.”

Sarah L. Greenhalgh

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