Friday, Jun. 7, 2024

Move West Claims Pennsylvania Hunt Cup

Jody Petty guides him through loose horses to win for Augustin Stables.

Painfully slow would be one way to describe the $35,000 Pennsylvania Hunt Cup, Nov. 2. Augustin Stable’s Move West and Jody Petty claimed the victory in Unionville, Pa., in the slowest time ever recorded of 10:12.

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Jody Petty guides him through loose horses to win for Augustin Stables.

Painfully slow would be one way to describe the $35,000 Pennsylvania Hunt Cup, Nov. 2. Augustin Stable’s Move West and Jody Petty claimed the victory in Unionville, Pa., in the slowest time ever recorded of 10:12.

The 74-year-old race, now open to professional as well as amateur riders, attracted eight starters for the last of the season’s 4-mile timber races. Among them were recent autumn champions Brigadoon Stable’s Erin Go Bragh (Paddy Young), Arcadia Stable’s Bubble Economy (Robert Walsh) and Stewart Strawbridge’s Western Fling (James Slater).

At the start, the horses lined up quietly, like they were about to be pinned in a class, and when the flag fell, no one budged. Finally Russell Haynes and Cary Jackson’s A Fine Story made the big decision, sprinting a good 10 lengths away with the rest barely following.

But his lead would not last long; A Fine Story took one look at Fence 3 (a large post and rail) and slammed on the brakes, refusing to go any further.

Barely cantering, the rest of the field approached the same fence. At this point Bubble Economy decided he was done for the day, refusing and dislodging his rider. Jubilee Stable’s Woodmont (Jeff Murphy), unable to avoid the sudden stop, slammed into the back of the pair.

And then there were five.

At this point Move West forged his way to the front, picking up the pace a bit. The 7-year-old grandson of Mr. Prospector had wired a timber race at Morven Park (Va.) in October and seemed to settle in as the established front-runner.

But the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup claimed one more jockey. At fence 12, Professor Maxwell got in a little too close and popped George Hundt out of the tack.

With only a few fences to go, Petty urged the big bay, and he eagerly responded, dragging the rest of the field with him. At the last fence, Patriot’s Path (Darren Nagle) made a bid to out-jump Move West but bobbled badly, still holding onto second. Landing well, Petty gunned his horse to the wire, keeping the rest of the field at bay a length back. Erin Go Bragh placed third and Western Fling picked up fourth.

This win ends an almost 10-year drought for Augustin Stables in the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup. Their last trip to the winner’s circle was in 1999 with Floating Interest.

Not Sure What To Expect

Although Move West had handily won the 3-mile race at Morven, he failed to finish well in the 4-mile Virginia Gold Cup in May. Both Petty and trainer Sanna N. Hendriks were not entirely convinced the much harder Pennsylvania Hunt Cup was going to go their way.

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“We weren’t really sure if we could get the 4 miles, but he got it today,” Petty said. “Once we got going we were all going at a good pace, and my horse settled on front.”

But Petty was not without unwanted company. One of the horses that had refused ended up making trouble for what was left of the field.

“Everyone had pretty much left me alone,” Petty said. “Then I heard someone coming up fast and I thought, ‘Who’s
this idiot coming up on me when we still got 2 miles?’ Then I saw it was just a loose horse.”

Although he made it around successfully, Petty said not all of Move West’s fences were picture perfect. “A couple fences came up really wrong,” Petty said. “And I said to him, ‘I’m sorry dude, but you got to do this.’ And he fixed it and got out of it. For a big horse to do that is huge. He just sailed the last. He was so clever.”

Hendriks did do one thing differently from the Morven Park race. “I took his blinkers off today, because I didn’t want him as sharp as he was at Morven Park,” Hendriks said. “He winged the last fence; it really won it for him.”

Many horses that win the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup go on to do well in the 4-mile Maryland Hunt Cup and vice versa. Hendriks isn’t sure if this is their spring goal yet with Move West, but she thinks that the horse might be a contender in some of the big amateur-only timber races for her brother Stewart Strawbridge.

Although the National Steeplechase Association’s leading timber horse Bubble Economy failed in his bid to win the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup (after winning the Virginia Gold Cup and the International Gold Cup in the same year), he will still clinch the title of Timber Horse of the Year for the second time in his career.

Not the easiest horse in trainer Jack Fisher’s barn, Bubble Economy has started over timber 26 times with varying degrees of success, earning him $292,450 in career jump earnings. This year alone he grossed $98,250.

Age Defying

Mary Fleming Finlay’s Dr. Ramsey proved that 14 is really the new 7.

A two-time champion of the 4-mile Pennsylvania Hunt Cup course, the son of Northern Baby returned for yet another run at the $5,000 amateur highweight timber, run over 3 miles.

Last year, Dr. Ramsey was disqualified after jockey Diana Gillam went off course to avoid a fallen rider. This year, she was all smiles in the winner’s circle after besting Music To My Ears (Hundt) by more than 3 lengths.

“Big change of fortune from last year,” Gillam said. “Last year was a total nightmare. We put it all together this year, and it turned out really well. When he turned for home, he wasn’t messing around. It was a total horse race all the way to the finish line.”

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For the past three years Gillam said she has been privileged to ride the horse for Virginia trainer Dorothy “Dot” Smithwick, who her father Jeremy Gillam used to ride for.

“Dr. Ramsey ran his heart out,” Gillam said. “He knows when to turn off and conserve his energy. He’s a total ladies ride. He’s a push button horse. I just have to shorten my reins and ask him a little bit, and he’s all business.”

In 2007 Dr. Ramsey was the Virginia Point-To-Point Timber Horse of the Year. He has won in both point-to-point and sanctioned races—10 timber races and three over hurdles.

Smithwick, who is turning 80 this year, was pleased to see Dr. Ramsey getting accolades once again. “He’s the oldest horse with the oldest trainer,” Smithwick said, smiling.

Sunny For Shady

Shady Valley is an important horse for the Haynes family. The 9-year-old son of Carnivalay was second in the 2007
feature race and for the past couple of years has always been on the boards in the big timber races.

Just a year ago, jockey Russell Haynes, 21, was helping his father, trainer Bruce Haynes, saddle several horses for the Pennsylvania meet, including the family’s lanky gray Shady Valley. Two months later, his father succumbed to a fatal heart attack.

This meet Haynes picked the shorter race, and Shady Valley didn’t disappoint, winning the $15,000 allowance timber. Haynes said the win was heartfelt for the Tennessee family.

“He was one of my father’s favorite horses,” Haynes said. “And Shady is very special to me. He’s going to be my foxhunter when he retires and will always have a permanent place on the farm. He was my first sanctioned win riding for my dad. He was a very good boy today.”

Haynes added, “The ground has been really bad at home; we’ve had a tough time keeping his feet together. I figured 3 miles would suit Shady just fine. I just didn’t think I had the depth in him to get 4 miles this time around, and the allowance race looked like a good place to pick up a win.”

Haynes was pleased that both the main race and this allowance race had opened back up for professionals.“I was happy to see a lot of horses. Last year everybody fell, and I was stuck giving myself a lead around the course,” Haynes said.

Sarah Libbey Greenhalgh

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