As the spring steeplechase season fades and the summer season begins, we take a look back at the highlight of the spring. No doubt it was the Iroquois Steeplechase when Willie Mullins traveled the world with Nichols Canyon and Shaneshill May 14. With the $500,000 Brown Advisory Iroquois Cheltenham Challenge on the table, the top class hurdlers finished second and third behind Rawnaq in the race of the year.
TIHR caught up with Mullins (2) and Walsh after their heroic effort fell just short. Here’s the rest of their thoughts, comments and observations on the Iroquois and American steeplechasing.
Racing around the world from Beverley in the morning to Charles Town at night. While you're watching, think about the veterans who sacrificed for our freedom. There is nothing more free than watching horse race on Memorial Day Weekend. We are so lucky. Here’s your Saturday Special presented by Pin Oak Stud, home of Alternation, Broken Vow and Cowboy Cal, for the beginning of your Memorial Day Weekend.
Fair Hill. Real money. Real betting.
The Spring season comes to a close with Fair Hill’s annual Memorial Day card. Funnel cake and snow cones. Exactas and trifectas. Graded stakes winners and promising newcomers on the flat. Well-meant maidens and Saratoga-bound fillies and mares. High-rated handicap hurdlers clash for a cool $45,000 in the feature. And quality timber horses meander around Fair Hill’s iconic timber course.
Kent Desormeaux shivered and shook, let out a few yelps and then one big “Aaaah” as he sat down in the Pimlico Race Course jocks’ room after the Preakness Saturday.
Willie Mullins raised both hands.
Like a crossing guard in front of an inferno, Mullins stood as Rachel Robins slowed Nichols Canyon, the six-time Grade 1 winner, sides heaving, nostrils flaring like hazards on a flipped-over car, tossed his head in the air and searched for balance. David Porter halted Shaneshill. The Grade 2 winner stopped, sidestepped, blowing hard, but nothing like Nichols Canyon.
Yes, there is life beyond the Preakness today. Racing from the Curragh to York in Europe and Arlington Park to Miles Park in America. All eyes are on Nyquist and the rest of the Preakness card, but there’s plenty of strong racing around the world. Here’s your Saturday Special presented by Pin Oak Stud, home of Alternation, Broken Vow and Cowboy Cal, for May 21. Stay out of the rain and enjoy.
Rain, rain go away. That will undoubtedly be the sentiment overnight Friday into Saturday as a significant amount of the wet stuff is expected in the Baltimore area for the 141st running of the Preakness Stakes and its supporting stakes program.
Take a deep breath, the Irish invasion is over, but steeplechase is far from finished. The jumpers venture to Radnor for its annual strong card and travel to High Hope for an entry-packed card at Kentucky’s only steeplechase meet. There should be a chalkboard or two at Radnor and look out at High Hope, Rusty Arnold usually has the inside scoop on the jumpers.
Keith Desormeaux walked out of Thursday’s Alibi Breakfast at Pimlico and – after wondering why the ever-quotable Eric Guillot didn’t attend – started talking horses. “The horse who changed my racing life is Texas Red and there’s nobody even close,” the trainer said. “That horse was a gift from God ever since the hammer dropped at the sale.”
The biggest weekend on the Maryland circuit gets underway Friday with a blockbuster card highlighted by a loaded renewal of the Grade 3 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes on what could be the best weather day of the spring to date. The forecast calls for 70-degree temperatures and plenty of sunshine - a far cry from what's expected Saturday for the 141st Preakness Stakes at Old Hilltop.
If you’re a steeplechase horseman in Maryland or Pennsylvania, or maybe a show rider from the local private school, you know the van. It’s a silver straight truck with a blue and white stripe around the middle, white International king cab, with a red silhouette of a jumping horse.