Tom defends his title. Sean probably saw a few of the runners at a Virginia point-to-point stop. And Joe goes racing. After a two-race warm-up act at the Cheshire Point-to-Point in Pennsylvania, the 2021 National Steeplechase Association schedule gets into real gear today at the historic My Lady’s Manor Races in Monkton, Md.

Four timber race make up the card with a post time of 1:30 p.m. You can watch the live stream (races only) on the NSA website, and catch a recap show starting at 7 Monday night.

Now, on to the Manor card and some fearless predictions. Again, Tom won the 2020 contest but that just means he’s a target for 2021.

First race. $30,000 timber stakes going 3 miles. The Manor is one of Maryland’s big three timber meets and has historically been a key stop for horses prepping for the Maryland Hunt Cup, Virginia Gold Cup and other loftier – but no less prestigious – goals. The 2021 version gets a bit of a shakeup in that the Gold Cup pushed its date back to May 29, and that’s too far away to call this a true prep. Mystic Strike won the most recent Manor, back in 2019, for Upland Partners and trainer Todd McKenna. The 12-year-old Smart Strike gelding started just twice last year – a second at Middleburg in October and a second consecutive win in the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup. McKenna nominated to the Maryland Hunt Cup, but said he’d probably opt for another path with his stable star. Gerard Galligan takes the ride on the favorite, whose main competition comes in the form of Schoodic. A hurdle stakes winner, the 11-year-old son of Tiznow has piled up $419,546 in lifetime earnings, which towers over the field. Over timber, he’s won five of seven including a maiden score over the Manor course in 2019. Dolly Fisher’s charge ran just once last year, a dull fifth at Middleburg in June. Hadden Frost gets the riding assignment. The others in a field of seven are a mixed bag. Vintage Vinnie will appreciate the overnight rain (though Mystic Strike and Schoodic should be fine with it too) and is trying to make his case for a Hunt Cup try. Officer Sydney has won two amateur/apprentice timber races, and gets a stiff test. Preseli Rock gets off the bench, in his first NSA start since 2017. Jockey Connor Hankin also returns off a long layoff (welcome back). Drift Society has placed in four Maryland Hunt Cups, but hasn’t won since the 2016 Manor card. Jeffery G. is another Hunt Cup prospect looking to knock off some rust.

Tom: Mystic Strike, Preseli Rock, Schoodic.
Sean: Schoodic, Preseli Rock, Mystic Strike.
Joe: Schoodic, Mystic Strike, Preseli Rock.  

Second race. $15,000 maiden timber going 3 miles. Frequently the launching pad for progressive timber types, this one figures to be much of the same. Bruton Street-US and Jack Fisher take German-bred Jaleo from the 2019 Iroquois to a maiden timber. He was rated 138 over hurdles in England, ought to love the ground and had a timber spin at the Old Dominion Point-to-Point.

Tom: Jaleo, Shootist, Our Legend.
Sean: Jaleo, Our Legend, Lucky Soul.
Joe: Jaleo, Shootist, Our Legend.

Third race. $15,000 maiden timber going 3 miles. Eight more timber maidens try to get going. Bernie Dalton ships up from South Carolina for a ride aboard First Friday for trainer Doug Fout. Road To Oz, a 6-year-old Quality Road gelding, makes his timber debut. The Maryland-bred comes from a deep line of flat owner/breeder Larry Johnson’s program going back to stakes winner and producer Special Kell. Road To Oz’s dam Miz Magician is a half-sister to stallion Street Magician. Claimed by Mark Beecher for $5,000 in 2019, Road To Oz tried hurdles twice last year and won over timber at the Green Spring Point-to-Point.

Tom: Notjudginjustsayin, First Friday, Corky Lemon.
Sean: Road To Oz, First Friday, Notjudginjustsayin.
Joe: Road To Oz, Midnight Shot, Highway Prince.

Fourth race. $10,000 apprentice timber going 3 miles. Five line up here and cover all the bases. Super Saturday, frequently a factor in timber stakes, gets some serious class relief and rules the experience battle. Can he win for the first time since 2018? Flash Jackson looked good last October, but had a fall at Piedmont Point-to-Point. Cheers To Us comes off a win at Cheshire. Goodoldtimes won over timber in 2019 and tuned up for this with a win at Green Spring.

Tom: Flash Jackson, Cheers To Us, Super Saturday. 
Sean: Cheers To Us, Flash Jackson, Goodoldtimes.
Joe: Goodoldtimes, Cheers To Us, Super Saturday.