My Lady’s Manor, Tryon Block House recap

Teddy Davies on Our Friend (IRE) © Tod Marks

By Tod Marks

Our Friend notches first stakes victory at The Manor, while Go Poke the Bear scores in Tryon feature.

Not only was it a big day for Armata Stable with Our Friend taking the featured $50,000 My Lady’s Manor timber stake, but there were plenty of cheers for Hyggelig Haven’s Druid’s Altar, trainer Willie Dowling and jockey Dan Nevin, who captured the first division of the Tom Voss Memorial maiden, along with Merriebelle Stables’ Wagner, a Maryland Hunt Cup hopeful for Blythe Miller and jockey Freddie Procter, who was very impressive in his NSA debut in the second division of the Voss.

It was also a memorable meeting for trainer Todd McKenna and 24-year-old NSA newcomer Andrew Burke Ott, who doubled with Keystone Thoroughbreds’ Hard Strike in the John Rush Streett allowance and Upland Partners’ Rhythmia in the John D. Schapiro allowance for apprentice riders.

In the My Lady’s Manor, which like all five timber races at the Monkton, Md., course was at 3 miles, Armata Stable’s nine-year-old Irish-bred son of Shantou, ridden by Teddy Davies and trained by his dad, Joe, held off a late surge by Riverdee Stable’s Include It and Elizabeth Scully to take the $50,000 first leg of the Maryland timber triple.

The margin of victory was a neck, and came after a thrilling stretch duel. At the outset, Our Friend sat in second, initially behind Fat Chance Farm’s pro-tem leader Salamanca School (Freddie Procter), then Charlie Fenwick’s Royal Ruse (Dan Nevin).  Our Friend seized command from Royal Ruse in the stretch as Include It unfurled his rally from fifth position.

In other action:

Hard Strike rallies to win $25,000 allowance

Keystone Thoroughbreds’ Hard Strike, a six-year-old Kentucky-bred son of Hard Spun, made it back-to-back wins in 2024 with a come-from-behind score in the John Rush Streett non-winners of two allowance.

Sitting in fourth for much of the contest, Hard Strike made his move three fences from home, led over the final jump, and drew clear by 2 1/2 lengths under Andrew Burke Ott, a native of County Cork, Ireland, for trainer Todd McKenna.  Daniel Doane’s Theda’s Boy, with Brett Owings aboard for Kevin Boniface, was off slowly and rallied for second.

Druid’s Altar notches first NSA tally

Making just his fourth NSA appearance in two-and-a-half years, Hyggelig Haven’s Druid’s Altar stalked the leaders, rallied with three fences to go, took the advantage over the final jump, and outkicked Happenstance Stable and Achsah O’Donovan’s Hero’s Return to win the first division of the $20,000 Tom Voss Memorial maiden contest.

Ridden by Dan Nevin for trainer Willie Dowling, Druid’s Altar extended his lead to 1 ¼  lengths at the wire. Brett Ownings piloted the runner-up.

After making 18 starts in Europe, Druid’s Altar came to the U.S. in 2021, making his first start in the Foxbrook Champion Hurdle stakes at Far Hills, finishing fifth. He didn’t start again until April 2023, in a maiden timber event, followed by another maiden start several weeks later, finishing second. This was his first start since then. Overall, it was the Irish-bred seven-year-old’s seventh career score.

Wagner overtakes Don’t Shout to take second division of $20,000 Tom Voss

The Merriebelle Stable newcomer shined bright in his NSA debut.  Coming off of a 17-race career in the UK, the Irish-bred nine-year-old, ridden by Freddie Procter, raced in mid-pack for the first mile and a half, began to narrow the gap with two fences remaining, drew alongside leader Don’t Shout (Virginia Korrell) at the last, and extended his lead 2 3/4 lengths at the wire.

Wagner, trained by Blythe Miller, is nominated to the Maryland Hunt Cup, and his race on Saturday was his first over timber. In the UK, he raced in assorted contests: over hurdles, in steeplechases, and in hunter chase events.

Rhythmia romps in $15,000 race for apprentice riders

In the biggest blowout of the day, Upland Partners’ Rhythmia won for the third time in his last four outings, with a 10 1/4-length score in the John D. Schapiro Memorial.

The win gave new NSA rider Andrew Burke Ott his second on the card. It was also a training double for Todd McKenna. For the eight-year-old younger half brother to timber powerhouse Mystic Strike, owned and trained by the same connections, it marked the third trip for the winner’s circle since breaking his maiden over timber at Winterthur last May.

The race began when two-time Maryland Hunt Cup winner, Armata Stable’s Vintage Vinnie, snatched the lead under Teddy Davies and held it until the second to last fence, when Rhythmia rallied after stalking in second. Vintage Vinnie, who was making his 15-year-old debut, held on for second, a length in front of Nancy Reed’s Awesome Adrian.

And at Tryon…

Saturday’s 76th Tryon Block House races in Columbus, N.C., showcased Go Poke the Bear, an eight-year-old Kentucky-bred who earned his third win in six NSA outings for his ownership syndicate of the same name, along with trainer Leslie Young and jockey Jamie Bargary.

Go Poke the Bear, who came off the flat last spring following 42 trips to the post, led from start to finish in the $35,000 handicap hurdle for horses rated at 120 or less. The son of Kitten’s Joy repelled a belated run from sixth to second by Riverdee Stable and Ten Strike Racing’s Rocket One, ridden by Sean McDermott and trained by Hall of Famer Jack Fisher in the feature at 2 miles, the distance of all four hurdle races over the Green Creek course.

In the opening $20,000 maiden claiming hurdle, Riverdee Stable and trainer Fisher got off to a fast start when Jimmy Dan gave 2023 leading rider Graham Watters his second victory of the young season. Making his first NSA start after a long career on the flat, the Kitten’s Joy gelding broke on top, fought off a bid by Morningstar Farm’s I Am Fortunata (Gerard Galligan), and drew off by 8 ½ lengths.

It was jockey Galligan who found the winner’s circle in the next race, a $30,000 maiden special weights hurdle with Green Valley Construction and Ashwell Stable’s Tufton Avenue. The Irish-bred seven-year-old was the first of two victories for trainer Leslie Young, who has led the NSA standings in victories for two straight years. Making his first U.S. appearance, Tufton Avenue set the pace for the first half mile, then surrendered the lead to Silverton Hill’s Kelmscott, also trained by Young. He reasserted himself with a quarter-mile to go, and held off a surge by Gill Johnston’s Smart Uncle to prevail by three-quarters of a length.

Another recent convert to jump racing, Vivian Rall’s Icandothat, got the best of more seasoned jumpers in the third, a $25,000 conditioned claiming hurdle for non-winners of two races. With trainer Sean McDermott doing double duty in the saddle, Icandothatt broke alertly, set a moderate pace, and coasted home three lengths clear of Maranto Manor’s Auction Kingdom (Graham Watters), who launched a bid at the top of the stretch but had no finishing kick. The margin of victory was three lengths.

In the training flat finale at 1 ½ miles, Del Rio Racing’s Recent Revelations, who was making his first start in two years, showed no signs of rust, coming from off the pace under a confident ride by Harrison Beswick to edge past St Rita Racing’s China Beach (Mell Boucher) by a half length. Ricky Hendriks trained the winner.

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