Two years ago, Matchless won his first Willowdale Steeplechase under Chip Miller, and this year, on May 9, he was raring to go over the 3 1/2 mile timber course near Kennett Square, Pa. But his appointed rider, Brooks Durkee, took an unscheduled spill with stablemate Spoonfullofsugar in the day’s opener, the maiden timber. (Durkee, though sore, escaped serious injury.)
Jack Fisher, who trains the 10-year-old, sought out Brian Korrell, who finished second with Overdale Stable’s first-timer Russian Ruler in that race. A regular at trainer Lilith Boucher’s stable in Unionville, Pa., Korrell is best known as the partner of owner-rider timber-topper Melting. This May, with Melting retired, he’s been spotted aboard the likes of former timber titlist Young Dubliner in Maryland’s prestigious Grand National.
“It was very unexpected,” Korrell said of his latest opportunity. “I’d never sat on [Matchless] before, but Jack came up to me by the jockeys’ tent and asked me if I wanted to ride him. Of course I said, ‘yes’ right away. I knew he was a very good jumper and a class horse.”
Fisher warned Korrell that Matchless might “attack” his first few fences. And Korrell was to avoid pressuring Fisher’s other entry, Northern Thinking (Paddy Young), who set much of the pace with Blackchesters (Blair Waterman) in second. “He didn’t want us to get into a speed duel,” Korrell explained.
True to form, Matchless pricked his ears at the first obstacle. “He saw it and just exploded to it, so I was glad that Jack mentioned that!” Korrell said, laughing. “But he found his spots beautifully, and he switched off beautifully in third place and just galloped along, jumping great.”
Matchless had one bad fence a mile from home, at a stake-and-bound. “I don’t know what happened; it sort of knocked the stuffing out of him,” Korrell recalled. “I thought I was out of horse, to tell you the truth. But I didn’t want to get after him yet, because we still had a long way to go.”
The bay son of Lyphard found his stride coming into the next two timber fences, the two biggest fences on the course. “He jumped both of those beautifully, and when he jumped the second big fence, I let him pick it up going to the second-to-last,” said Korrell. “I jumped alongside Blair there, landed in front of her, and asked him to go on a little bit. He cruised up next to Northern Thinking at the top of the hill, and I said, ‘I think I have something now.’ “
The pair raced as one on the downhill run, with Matchless overtaking Northern Thinking on the turn to the last and sealing the deal there with a perfect jump. Though Blackchesters got up for second, he was 11 1â‚¬2 lengths behind the winner, who stopped the clock in 7:45.
Korrell is no stranger to Willowdale’s picturesque course. “It’s very nice to do well in front of the home crowd,” he admitted.
Frank Bonsal’s recent claim Corruption (Alexandra Robertson) overcame a bizarre start to win the day’s hurdle feature, the highweight amateur race. Apparently reluctant to break first, all three entries stood at the start for nearly a minute after the flag was dropped. In the end, however, the Ricky Hendriks-trained 6-year-old caught frontrunner Preferred Guest (Paddy Young) in the stretch to win by 5 1â‚¬2 lengths.
Vicki Fuller’s Inca Colony, the runaway foxhunters’ series champion on the Virginia point-to-point circuit, resurfaced in Willowdale’s maiden timber. Robbie Walsh steered the Don Yovanovich trainee to a decisive score in this 3-mile event.
Amateur rider Stewart Strawbridge had a rollercoaster day, starting with a win aboard his father George Strawbridge’s Brankman in the $7,500 foxhunter’s chase. Strawbridge wasn’t so lucky, however, in the day’s finale, the 2-mile amateur training flat. Although he crossed the wire first with his father’s Marino Feliz, he was disqualified for going off course, and Meet At Eleven (Tiffany Mueller) was named the winner. The victorious entry is owned by William Lickle and trained by Kathy Neilson.
KENNETT SQUARE, PA’MAY 9.
The Landhope Cup Maiden Timber. 3 miles. 155-165 lbs.
5 3/4 lengths.
Dk.b./br.g., 1995, Pleasant Colony–Inca Rose, Lyphard.
R.S. Evans (Ky.).
1. Inca Colony (V. Fuller) R. Walsh;
2. Russian Ruler (Overdale Stable) B. Korrell;
3. A.K.A. Market (Kinross Farm) C. Read.
Thunder Gus (Kinross Farm) M. McCarron;
Silver Spoon (J.S. Griswold) B. Waterman;
Plenty Of Sweets (A.W. Arundel) P. Young;
Earmark (I.S. Naylor) J. Petty;
Spoonfullofsugar (Winsome Farm) H.B. Durkee (fell), Yankee Skip (Armata Stables) C. Gracie (fell);
Johnny (Waterford Farm) D. Bentley (fell);
Exultant (Saswalo Racing) R. Massey (off course).
Maiden Claiming Hurdle. 2 1/2 miles. 141-156 lbs.
Purse: $10,000. Time: 5:20 2/5.
Winning margin: 13 3/4 lengths.
Winner: 1999, Level Sands–Hang On For Effer, Effervescing.
Breeder: P. McLean (Ky.).
Trainer: C. Miller.
1. St. Malachi (Wind River) C. Miller;
2. Cool Fellow (W.G. Baker) X. Aizpuru;
3. Treacherous Quest (W.M. Russell) J. Petty.
Appleturnover Mike (Polaris Stables) R. Walsh;
Woody’s Prize (Ivy Hill Stable) M. McCarron;
Uhave Light (L.M. Kurtinecz) M. O’Dwyer (pulled up);
Perked In The West (Mrs. S.K. Johnston Jr.) P. Young (pulled up).
The Willowdale Steeplechase, Amateur Jockeys. 3 1/2 miles. 155-176 lbs.
Purse: $15,000. Time: 7:45.
Winning margin: 11 1/4 lengths.
Winner: B. g., 1994, Lyphard–Unreality, In Reality.
Breeder: Derry Meeting Farm et al. (Pa.).
Trainer: J. Fisher.
1. Matchless (Cohiba Stable) B. Korrell;
2. Blackchesters (J.S. Griswold) B. Waterman;
3. Northern Thinking (Acorn Hill Farm) P. Young.
Bruno Castelli (Waverton Farm) C. Lyons;
Classic Cal (Mrs. W.D. Class Jr.) C. Gracie (pulled up).
The Rose Tree Cup Highweight Hurdle, Amateur Jockeys. 3 miles. 171 lbs.
Time: 5:57 3/5.
Winning margin: 5 3/4 lengths.
Winner: Dk. b./br. g., 1998, Silver Deputy–Malicious, Risen Star.
Breeder: Hersey Farm (Md.).
Trainer: R. Hendriks.
1. Corruption (F.A. Bonsal Jr.) A. Robertson;
2. Preffered Guest (H.A. Via Jr.) P. Young;
3. Brinton Bridge (Mrs. S.K. Johnston Jr.) C. Gracie.
Foxhunters Chase, Amateur Jockeys. 3 miles. 180-190 lbs.
Time: 6:233 /5.
Winning margin: 111â‚¬44 lengths.
Winner: Gr. g., 1990, Woodman–The Branks, Hold Your Peace.
Breeder: S.L. Smith & S.L. Smith (Va.).
Trainer: S. Hendriks.
1. Brankman (Augustin Stables) S. Strawbridge;
2. Costly Fun (Kingfisher Farm) S. Fisher;
3. Complete Verdict (M. Cooney) owner.
Aspen Slopes (Houyhnhnm Stable) P. Miller;
Patrician Power (J.H. Whitner IV) owner;
Right About Now (L.D. Dryden Jr.) L.D. Dryden IV;
Personal Best (Hound’s Cry Farm) T. Kirlin.
Training Flat, Amateur Jockeys. 2 miles. 175 lbs.
Time: 3:54 4/5.
Winning margin: 13 1/4 lengths.
Winner: B. g., 1999, Oscar–Everdancing, Dance In Time. Bred in Ireland.
Trainer: K. Neilson.
1. Meet At Eleven (W.C. Lickle) T. Mueller;
2. Tycoon (Mrs. G.M. Sensor) C. Fenwick III;
3. Take Harry (Mrs. T. Gardner) G. Brutscher. 13 starters.