Three races, three different winning combinations score at Virginia Point to Point.
by Tod Marks
With substantial purse money on the line for the first time, Saturday’s Old Dominion Hounds Point to Point in Washington, Va., attracted some star National Steeplechase Association talent. And by day’s end Hall of Fame conditioner Jack Fisher had his first winner of the young season, while leading 2022 trainer Leslie Young registered her fifth to remain atop the standings.
The day began with a thriller in which Fisher ran one-two. In the first of three sanctioned races, Riverdee Stable’s Fits the Jill, making her third NSA start following seven on the flat, took the $25,000 maiden hurdle for fillies and mares, following a spirited rally to catch the pacesetter, Northwoods Stable’s Dream North, who was making her jump-racing debut. Dream North, under Jamie Bargary, assumed the lead from the break, but never headed the nine-horse field by more than a few lengths during the entire 2-mile contest.
Meanwhile, Fits the Jill maintained a stalking positiion, sitting in third or fourth throughout, and made her move under Graham Watters with one fence to go. Dream North, however, wasn’t ready to give up without a fight. Through the stretch, Fits the Jill opened up by about two lengths, but Dream North dug in and narrowed the gap, with only a half length separating the pair at the wire. Ashwell Stable’s Right Tempo came from off the pace to get up for third under David England, two lengths behind the runner up.
In the second race, an open $25,000 maiden special weights hurdle, a field of nine faced the starter and only five finished. Breaking alertly and setting the pace for the 2-mile journey, Michael Smith’s Hoffman earned his first U.S. victory following three solid starts last season. As soon as the flag dropped, Hoffman, under Mikey Hamill, spurted to the lead and was quickly shadowed by Riverdee Stable’s Keys Discount and Barry Foley. By the third fence, the duo had already separated themselves from the spread-out field, and by the fourth, Hoffman had taken command by about two lengths. That lead extended to five or so lengths with one lap to go, and grew to double digits by the third fence from home. Despite the wide margin, Hamill kept working on Hoffman, who was 4 ½ lengths clear of Del Rio Racing’s Riendo, with Bernie Dalton, at the wire.
Hoffman has been a horse to watch ever since Leslie Young imported the three-year-old Irish-bred from England. He finished third in his maiden debut at Shawan Downs last fall, followed by two seconds, in the Gladstone stakes at Far Hills and in the Alston Cup stakes at Charleston.
Only four horses started in the finale, a $15,000 allowance over timber, but one of them was Storm Team, a multiple stakes winner of nearly $300,000, making his nine-year-old debut for owners Sheila Williams and Northwoods Stable and trainer Jack Fisher. With Graham Watters riding, Storm Team put on quite a show, dictating the pace – as is his custom – for most of the three miles. With two fences remaining, Irv Naylor’s Stooshie, a 10-year-old veteran of 34 starts who broke his maiden over timber only last fall, made his move from the back of the pack under Barry Foley, seizing the lead and holding off Storm Team in a driving finish by a head. Cyril Murphy trained the winner. Four Virginia Gents’ Nathanielhawthorne put in a furious rally of his own, finishing a neck behind Storm Team under Parker Hendriks.
You can view a replay of the races at www.nationalsteeplechase.com.