Ladies Day at Foxfield

It was a landmark day at the Foxfield Races in Charlottesville, Va., on Sunday, as female trainers ran the table, winning all six races on the card.

Sunday’s Foxfield Races. ©Camden Littleton

By Tod Marks

Perhaps the time will come when society stops measuring success by gender or calling out milestone moments as notable because they were accomplished by any group outside of the expected. But until then, we’ll continue to celebrate remarkable achievements precisely because they are out of the ordinary and rank as extraordinary.

On Sunday at the Foxfield Fall Races, female trainers, who account for 22 of the National Steeplechase Association’s 51 conditioners, dominated the card, not only capturing all six races, but finishing first, second, and third twice, and finishing first through fifth in two other contests.

Amazing as it is, this wasn’t the first time in 2022 that female trainers have made a clean sweep. At the Virginia Gold Cup Races in May, Leslie Young and Keri Brion combined to capture all seven races.

At Foxfield, Kathy Neilson kicked off the afternoon by taking the $15,000 maiden claiming hurdle with Hard Game LLC’s eponymous Hard Game, a four-year-old son of Hard Spun who began his jumping career in April following 14 starts on the flat. With Gerard Galligan aboard, Hard Game sat within striking range, launched his bid at the final fence, and dug in under a drive to prevail by a head over Hey Teacher Partners’ Hey Teacher, also trained by Neilson, with Barry Foley in the saddle. Like all hurdle races at Foxfield, the race was run at 2 ⅛ miles.

Keri Brion was a three-time winner – all with leading rider Parker Hendriks – capturing the second, a training-flat race with NSA newcomer Agitare, a five-year-old Irish-bred making his stateside debut following a long career in Europe. In races that count, Brion scored with Jimmy P, the first NSA win for prominent flat owner Madaket Stables. Jimmy P, a four-year-old who is co-owned by Paul and Molly Willis, made his first two starts over jumps at Colonial Downs this summer, finishing a sharp second in his most recent effort. In the fourth, a $30,000 maiden special weights event, Jimmy P settled early and closed over the final fence to win by 3 lengths over Patrick Boyle’s Cool Jet, ridden by Graham Watters and trained by Jack Fisher. It was another 4 ¼ lengths back to Greg Hawkins’ Webb and Bernie Dalton. 

Brion also took the finale, a $20,000 handicap for horses rated at 110 or less, with Sanna Neilson and John Huganir’s He’ll Do. Racing far back in the field of 12, He’ll Do was in 11th, 10 lengths behind after a mile and a half. He advanced on the far turn and closed full of run on the outside to overtake Brion-trained stablemate, Pleasecallemeback (owned by Upland Flats Racing and ridden by Barry Foley), by three-quarters of a length. Mason Hardaway Lampton’s pacesetter Three O One, trained by Lilith Boucher and ridden by daughter Mell, was third.

Hall of Fame trainer Janet Elliot found the winner’s circle with Saigon in the third, a $25,000 filly and mare maiden. It was the second win in the last three outings for Greg Hawkins’ five-year-old daughter of Mizzen Mast. Saigon, a maiden-claiming winner on the flat at Laurel over the summer, was far back early and made her bid with a quarter-mile to go, kicking clear after the final fence by 1 ½ lengths. Ashwell Stable’s Eponine (Freddy Procter) was second, Jordan Wycoff’s Ocean Air (Teddy Davies), third. The victory gave jockey Gerard Galligan two on the day.

Not to be outdone, leading 2022 trainer Leslie Young saddled Leipers Fork Steeplechasers’ Fast Vision, a French-bred five-year-old, to his second hurdle triumph of the season. The win came in the fifth, a $15,000 apprentice/amateur rider allowance for horses rated at 120 or less or entered for a $25,000 tag. Fast Vision sat in third for most of the trip, close to the pacesetters, got into gear in the stretch, and drew clear under Freddy Procter’s urging. The margin of victory was 2 ¾ lengths over The International Venture and Belle Meade Jockey Club’s Ljay (Theo Sushko), who couldn’t hold his late lead. Jeffrey Morris’ Shaka (Mell Boucher) was third.

Young’s victory gave her 25 on the season, two more than Keri Brion. Jack Fisher remains in third, with 13 wins. Jockey Hendriks’ two tallies gives him 19, eight more than Tom Garner and Freddie Procter.

Full results can be found here:

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