Steeplechase of Charleston recap

Bruton Street clinches earnings title at season finale

Neotropic (far left, with Graham Watters, up) won the maiden hurdle at the Steeplechase of Charleston, clinching the leading owner title for Bruton Street-US. ©Grace Beahm Alford / The Post and Courier

By Tod Marks

With most key championships already locked up, the final meet of the 2022 National Steeplechase Association season lacked the high drama of previous years. But it did decide the title of leading owner when Bruton Street-US’ Neotropic captured the $30,000 maiden hurdle, giving the stable the crown over Irv Naylor by just $27,000.

Led by stable star and probable Eclipse Award winner Snap Decision, the only two-time Grade 1 winner of the year, the Bruton Street partnership of Mike Hankin, Charlie Fenwick, and Charlie Noell, amassed $450,750 in purses vs. $423,100 for Naylor. The third-place finisher was Ballybristol Farm, with $239,100, largely through the exploits of their timber champion Andi’amu, who secured the honor for the second time this season.

With two wins at Charleston, Keri Brion secured her place as the only trainer to crack the $1 earnings mark, a milestone previously reached only by Hall of Famer Jack Fisher. Brion ended the year with 33 victories, four behind Leslie Young. Young, who secured the championship following a big day at Montpelier and Callaway Gardens on Nov. 5, notched her 37th triumph with a win in the second at Charleston with Leipers Fork Steeplechasers’ Captain Middleton. Last year, Young came oh-so-close to taking the title, losing it to Fisher at Charleston.

Here’s a recap of the card:

Trainer Arch Kingsley greets daughter Taylor after her win in the training flat on Hurricana Farm’s Merry Maker. ©Grace Beahm Alford / The Post and Courier

Merry Maker gives Taylor Kingsley her first win

In the opener, Hurricana Farm’s Merry Maker came from behind to win going away in a training flat contest, giving young rider Taylor Kingsley her first career win.

Trained by Taylor’s dad, former top jockey Arch Kingsley, Merry Maker sat off the pace in the field of five set by Agitare and Tatiana Sushko, then slipped through on the inside in deep stretch to score easily.

Auction Kingdom, who stalked the leader for much of the way, was second under Tom Garner, while Agitare finished third.

Captain Middleton caps career year for Leslie Young 

In the initial hurdle race of the day, Leipers Fork Steeplechasers’ Captain Middleton earned his first career win with a romp in the $15,000 maiden claiming hurdle.

The win gave Leslie Young her NSA leading 37th score of the season and jockey Freddie Procter his 18th tally, second only to Parker Hendriks, who last week cemented his first crown.

For Captain Middleton it was his first win in 10 tries, in a career that began in Europe. He came stateside last spring, making three starts in maiden special weight hurdles. This was his first effort in claiming company.

Approaching the last fence, Captain Middleton had a three-length lead after collaring pro-tem leader, Cheyenne Stables’ Royale, ridden by Jack Gilligan, and extended that advantage while veering to the outside through the lane. Royale held the place position while Flying Elvis Stable’s Be Yourself (Gerard Galligan) was third.

Neotropic takes maiden hurdle and ices owners’ crown for Bruton Street

Bruton Street-US’ Neotropic, making only his second start over jumps after a solid third in his debut at Far Hills, rallied heading to the last of 10 fences and won going away by about eight lengths in the $30,000 maiden special weights contest.

With Graham Watters riding for Jack Fisher, Neotropic was never far behind in the crowded field, which raced close together for most of the 2 1/16 miles. But as longtime leader Hurricana Farm’s Sherkali gave way, William Russell’s Seismic Wave took command only to be overtaken late by Neotropic, who was clearly best. Seismic Wave, under Gerard Galligan, held for second; Del Rio Racing’s Riendo and Bernie Dalton were third.

Pleasecallmeback stages late rally to take ratings handicap

Upland Flats Racing’s Pleasecallmeback, who broke his maiden at Colonial Downs over the summer, earned his first victory in handicap competition, taking the $20,000 race for horses rated at 110 or less by about three lengths.

With Barry Foley riding for trainer Keri Brion, Pleasecallmeback was content to sit behind Fat Chance Farm’s Salamanca School, the longtime pace setter, and QR Stable’s Criticize, who maintained a stalking position. Heading to the 12th and final fence in the 2 3/8 contest, Foley asked his mount for run, and the duo seized the lead but had to work for the win as there was no quit in Salamanca School, ridden by Tom Garner, who was a determined second. Criticize and Gerard Galligan were third.

Topic Changer prevails in Alston Cup

Jordan Wycoff and Frank Mullins’ Topic Changer, coming off a maiden score at Aiken in his steeplechase debut, was miraculously able to avoid a mishap at the last fence to win the Alston Cup stakes for three-year-olds, the final race of the season.

Ridden by Barry Foley, Topic Changer moved up alongside Hudson River Farms, Madaket Stables, and R and K Racing’s The Insider, the race leader, making his move going up the backside the final time.

At the top of the straight, Topic Changer and The Insider, winner of the prestigious Gladstone stakes at Far Hills last month, were heads apart with Wycoff’s filly Clara Belle, ridden by Jamie Bargary, gaining ground. Approaching the last jump, the trio were tightly bunched, with Topic Changer on the outside, Clara Belle on the inside, and The Insider, slightly behind the duo, in the middle.

Heading over the jump, Clara Belle appeared to have a bit of trouble, veering slightly to her right, with The Insider directly behind. The encounter caused The Insider to go down and Bargary to be unseated, and even though the contact caused Topic Changer to swerve to his outside, he was able to continue his run and cross the wire in front. Michael Smith’s Hoffman, the only other horse to finish, was second under Tom Garner.  

For Keri Brion, who trained all three horses involved in the drama, it was win 33 of the year. Both horses and riders were OK.

Full results can be found here:

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