Snap Decision, Schoodic shine at Middleburg while Awesome Adrian scores in the Grand National

Schoodic © Tod Marks

By Tod Marks

Saturday proved to be a banner day for two of the sport’s premier athletes, while the human side of the equation produced equally stellar heroics. At the Middleburg Spring Races in Virginia, a full house of approximately 8,000 fans witnessed Bruton Street-US’ perennial powerhouse Snap Decision begin his 10-year-old campaign with an exclamation mark in the Grade 2 $75,000 Temple Gwathmey Stakes, while Dolly Fisher’s Schoodic, last year’s timber champion, proved he hasn’t lost a step at 14 as he kicked off his quest for a second title with a victory in the $30,000 Middleburg Hunt Cup. Hall of Fame conditioner Jack Fisher and jockey Graham Watters once again combined to produce those winning results, and they teamed up twice more for another pair of wins.

Meanwhile, trainer Leslie Young, the NSA’s leading conditioner for the past two seasons, had three winners on the nine-race card, with Jamie Bargary riding two of them.

About 100 miles northeast of Middleburg, Nancy Reed’s Awesome Adrian, an 11-year-old veteran of 46 starts over nine seasons, won his first ever stake, taking the $35,000 Grand National, the second leg of the Maryland Timber Triple, in Butler. Trained by Kathy Neilson, Awesome Adrian was ridden by Teddy Davies, who notched three victories on the four-race card.

Leslie Young made her presence felt at the Grand National, too, recording her fourth victory of the afternoon with The Butler Yates in a maiden timber event.

Here’s a summary of the action:

Snap Decision is spectacular in 10-year-old debut

A star on the NSA circuit since 2019, Bruton Street-US’ Snap Decision put on another astounding display by winning his third Gwathmey in four years at Glenwood Park. Keystone Thoroughbreds’ Noah and the Ark was second, with Riverdee Stable and Ten Strike Racing’s Awakened — both G1 winners — third.

With regular rider Graham Watters aboard, the Phipps-bred sensation sat behind pro-tem leader The Hero Next Door for most of the 2 1/2 miles and exploded heading toward the final fence, drawing clear of a star-studded field by 8 lengths.

As usual, the Hard Spun gelding was spotting plenty of weight to his opponents, from 10 to 20 pounds, but it made little difference.

Snap Decision’s victory added another $45,000 to his bankroll. A millionaire in combined earnings on the flat and over jumps, Snap has now amassed $839,400 in his National Steeplechase Association career. That moves him into fifth place all time, ahead of Divine Fortune and $100,000 behind Demonstrative. Ahead of them are McDynamo, with $1.310 million, Good Night Shirt, with $1.006 million, and Lonesome Glory, with $965,809.

Schoodic soars in 14-year-old debut

The 2023 champion timber horse picked up where he left off last year, with an authoritative wire-to-wire victory in the $30,000 Middleburg Hunt Cup at 3 1/4 miles.

Ridden by Graham Watters for trainer Jack Fisher, Dolly Fisher’s ageless star broke swiftly and never looked back, prevailing by 2 1/4 lengths over Irv Naylor’s late-closing Family Tree and Harry Beswick. The Hundred Acre Field’s Cracker Factory, who stalked Schoodic throughout, was third.

For the winner it was his third straight stakes score, and continued a remarkable skein of nine consecutive top-three finishes dating back three years. Overall, it was his 16th career win and elevated his bankroll to $589,606.

A horse to watch

It’s not often we get to see an accomplished European flat runner make the transition to NSA jump racing at the allowance level.

But at Middleburg, Leipers Fork Steeplechasers and trainer Leslie Young unleashed a dynamo named High Definition that turned heads. Making his first NSA start following a career in Europe in which he won a Grade 2 and boasted multiple top three finishes in G1 and G2 competition, the six-year-old son of Galileo rallied from fifth to first. Initially, High Definition repelled a challenge from Gill Johnston’s Bickley over the last fence, and then held on by a neck over hard-charging Leipers Fork Steeplechasers’ stablemate Rampoldi Plan (Paddy O’Hanlon) in a $50,000 non-winners of two allowance.

High Definition, a multi talented runner who also earned a maiden victory over jumps at Leopardstown and followed that start with an ambitious attempt at the 2023 Cheltenham Festival, also finished a solid sixth in the 2023 Belmont Gold Cup at 2 miles on the flat on Belmont Stakes Day, when he was trained by Joseph O’Brien. On Saturday, Jamie Bargary was aboard for the win.

My Forever Annie breaks maiden in first career start

The five-year-old Irish-bred daughter of multiple Grade 1 winner Champs Elysees gave trainer Leslie Young her second of three victories on the card, rallying from fourth to first to score going away in the $30,000 filly & mare maiden hurdle by 5 1/4 lengths.

With Paddy O’Hanlon aboard, My Forever Annie sat patiently in mid pack, drawing even with Greg Hawkins’ Camcha (Ben Ffrench Davis) at the final fence, and drawing off convincingly.

Tiz a Giant comes up big in NSA debut

Making his first NSA appearance following 14 starts on the flat, Riverdee Stable’s Tiz a Giant roared home 16 lengths in front of the field — the biggest blowout of the day — in one of two $30,000 open maiden special weights hurdles.

With Graham Watters again in the saddle for trainer Jack Fisher, the five-year-old Florida-bred son of Tiznow stalked early leader, Buttonwood Farm’s By the Riverside, took command when the pacesetter fell three fences from home, and scored under hand urging through the stretch. Kinross Farm’s Price Talk, under Harry Beswick, finished second.

Kitten Mischief, an NSA newbie, breaks his maiden at first asking

In yet another victory by a runner making the transition from the flat, Gill Johnston’s Kitten Mischief, a five-year-old son of Into Mischief, rallied with two fences to go to take the day’s other $30,000 open maiden special weights hurdle.

The winner, piloted by Graham Watters for Jack Fisher, sat in fourth for the first mile and a half, then hooked leader Boffo Kid (Bernie Dalton) at the final fence, outkicking his foe in the stretch to score by three lengths.

It was the Kentucky-bred’s first try over jumps after a dozen starts at tracks from Keeneland to Del Mar, and Aqueduct to Ellis Park.

Evie’s Prince takes $20,000 maiden starter for Morris, Beswick

Shannon Hill Farm’s Evie’s Prince, coming off of a third in a optional claiming maiden to start the season in Aiken, made his move two fences from home and withstood a late challenge from Over Creek Stables’ Little GT to take the maiden starter hurdle for horses who previously started for a claiming tag of $20,000 or less.

With Harry Beswick riding for trainer Neil Morris, the seven-year-old son of Animal Kingdom was never farther back than fourth in the field of 10, moved up to third after the first 1 1/2 miles, and assumed the lead with about three furlongs remaining. Little GT, ridden by Zach Miller, closed steadily to get up for the place position.

Order in the “Court”

Leipers Fork Steeplechasers’ remarkable Court Ruler has truly made the most of a carefully managed, abbreviated career. A 10-year-old with just 19 starts under his girth, the Irish-bred son of Court Cave has captured nine of those starts, with six seconds, and a third, for earnings of $156,900.

On Saturday, the Leslie Young-trainee, with Jamie Bargary aboard, led from start to finish of the $20,000, 2 5/8 mile steeplethon over mixed obstacles, besting Hickory Made Stables and Celtic Venture Stable’s Eye of Gunfighter by 3 3/4 lengths.

The victory gave Young three winners on the card and Bargary a riding double.

Wicked West triumphs on the flat

Rounding out the day’s action — or should I say kicking off the day — was a training flat contest at 1 1/2 miles over the undulating terrain of Glenwood Park. Ten horses went to the post and most of the field remained bunched up most of the way, cutting the corner and turning into the narrow home stretch.

At the wire, it was Genet Racing’s Wicked West, with Ben Ffrench Davis in the irons, who prevailed in a scintillating duel with Will Russell’s Seismic Wave (Graham Watters) by a neck. Much of the field was within a couple of lengths of the winner, trained by Todd Wyatt.

And at the Grand National Races

Awesome Adrian is awesome in Grand National

After a series of solid performances in the maiden, allowance and stakes ranks, Nancy Reed’s Awesome Adrian became a stakes winner, taking the 121th running of the second leg of the Maryland Timber Triple in Butler.

With Teddy Davies in the saddle for trainer Kathy Neilson, the 11-year-old Maryland-bred tracked Kinross Farm’s pacesetter Great Road, assumed the lead with about a half mile to go, and extended his lead to 4 ½ lengths at the wire.

Daniel Baker’s Road to Oz, who finished third to Our Friend the previous week in the My Lady’s Manor stakes, the first leg of the series, advanced from fifth to second under Brett Owings, six lengths clear of the show horse, Upland Partners’ Shootist.

The win was the 11th straight top-three finish for Awesome Adrian, dating back more than two years. In fact, the Great Notion gelding has had only two off-the-board finishes in 22 efforts since September 2018.

Awesome Adrian is not entered in Saturday’s Maryland Hunt Cup, at 4 miles the longest and most demanding jewel of the series. However, Irv Naylor’s Withoutmoreado, the defending Hunt Cup champion, also trained by Neilson, is. Withoutmoreado ran in the Grand National, but lost his rider after jumping the eighth fence.

The Grand National was one of four timber races on the card. In the $15,000 maiden at 3 miles, Greenlights’ The Butler Yates, with Freddie Procter riding for Leslie Young, earned his first career tally in seven tries, seizing the lead then almost losing it after drifting out approaching the 17th fence, but correcting in time to prevail by a length over Irv Naylor’s Island Nation (Conor Tierney).

In the $20,000 allowance for non-winners of two races at 3 ¼ miles, Teddy Davies was back in the winner’s circle, this time with Armata Stables’ Mr. Fine Threads, an 11-year-old making just his 11th career start. Mr. Fine Threads advanced gradually from fifth to first, taking charge in the stretch, and proving best under mild urging by 4 ½ lengths. Joe Davies trained both the winner and runnerup, Kinross Farm’s Blackhall (Charlie Marshall). Mr. Fine Threads and Blackhall are entered in the Hunt Cup.

In the finale, a $15,000 allowance event at 3 miles restricted to apprentice riders, Harvey W. Goolsby, Daniel Colhoun, and Achsah O’Donovan’s Bogey’s Image gave the father-son duo of Joe and Teddy Davies another victory. Breaking fast, Bogey’s Image led at every call, extending his advantage to 35 lengths at the finish. Adlestrop Hill’s Paddy’s Crown (Charlie Marshall), was second.

Bogey’s Image has made just one start in each of the past three seasons, and all came over the Grand National course. Saturday’s win came after a previous maiden score in 2023 and a third-place finish in 2022.

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