COLUMBUS, N.C.--Sean McDermott won the Top Jockey Award at the 72nd Annual Tryon Block House Races on Saturday, April 14 for his wins in the $35,000 Block House Race and the $25,000 Dr. John Bradshaw Memorial Flat Race, both on horses trained by Jack Fisher, while Jonathan Sheppard saddled the winner in the $30,000 Sport of Kings Maiden Hurdle to extend his lead in the Trainer, Races Won category.
The Tryon Block House Races included four hurdle races and a flat race and were run in front of a packed crowd at the Green Creek Race Track for the second consecutive year.
"Two wins today, though I wish it was three," said McDermott, who was also fourth in the Ratings Handicap Hurdle. "You can't do it without the horses, and Jack Fisher traditionally starts his a little late in the season, and we use their first few races as a prep, and it sets them up nicely for their second runs of the season. They have a bit of longevity through the season. If you're not on the horses, you can't win the races, and we're grateful to have all the good horses we do that make our job easy."
THE HIGHLIGHT race for the day, The Block House, was won by McDermott on Riverdee Stables' Gibralfaro (Ire) by a neck over Jack Doyle on Bruton Street-US' Lord Justice (Ire), also trained by Fisher, with Gibralfaro finishing the 2 1/8 mile race in 3:55:2/5.
Rosbrian Farm's Sixty Five (Fr), trained by Ricky Hendriks and ridden by Ross Geraghty, was third in the six horse field.
"That's a beautiful horse," McDermott said of Gibralfaro. "Riverdee Stables have just imported him from England, and it's very difficult for a horse to win his first time off the boat over here, given the ground conditions and the different types of hurdles, so it's just a credit to his honesty and his engine that he got it done, and I'm sure he'll only improve."
"Overwhelming is a class horse, I think he's won three stakes over hurdles," said McDermott of his win the the Bradshaw Memorial Flat race. "We had a little prep run in Camden and a training flat race, so today we thought he'd win. He goes well on this ground, but he's had a small tendon injury in the past, so this was the best fit for him in his schedule, and we're very happy. It was a lovely stepping stone for him, and I presume he'll go for a hurdle race now. He's a tough horse over two miles over hurdles. He's a good cruising speed, and we're very happy with him."
Sheppard saddled Mrs. Calvin Houghland's Last Shani, ridden by Doyle, to win the Maiden Hurdle by 1 1/2 lengths over Bon Nouvel Chasers LLC's Sunset District, trained by Julie Gomena and ridden by Mark Watts.
SHEPPARD now leads in Trainer - Races Won with five wins over Henriks and Richard Valentine, with three wins each.
Sheppard also leads in Trainer - Money Won with $106,750, over Julie Gomena with $101,500 and Hendriks with $95,650.
"I was here last year, and the track is in great condition," said Doyle. "You want a quick horse around here, it's a pretty thick track, but it rides fair. It's nice. It was this horse's first run over hurdles, so he was a bit green early on, and it took him a while to get going, but then going into the second to last hurdle he jumped out well and got a nice run out and won nicely."
Valentine saddled Magalen Bryant's Bob'n for Silver, ridden by Shane Crimin, to win by 1/2 length over Mike Dalton's Etched in Time, trained by Lilith Boucher and ridden by Richard Boucher.
"He's not the fastest," Crimin said of Bob'n for Silver. "I just let him roll along and he comes away, so it was pretty straightforward with him. The track rode beautiful today - it's nice. I was here last year and had three seconds, so hopefully it ends up better today."
Valentine also owns and trains Life Said, who won the $25,000 Ratings handicap Hurdle by 10 3/4 lengths under jockey Crimin, beating Mrs. S.K. Johnston Jr.'s Ack Feisty, trained by Neil Morris and ridden by Kieran Norris.
"This one was different than Bob'n for Silver, he has more of a gear, and I can just sit and ride me race and just creep away into it like he did. While the other fella is a bit slow in the gallops, this one has a turn of foot, so two very different rides."
"It's my second year here," said National Steeplechase Association Director of Racing, William Gallo, Jr., "I was very impressed by this venue last year, obviously for its inaugural event, but it's a marvelous race course. The horsemen really like it. You can tell by the entries. It's well-supported, and it's got so much potential for the future as well. I could see it being a permanent site, and being a premier racetrack in America for Steeplechase racing."
"The Tryon Block House Races have become a very important part of what we offer at the Tryon International Equestrian Center," said TIEC Chief Operating Officer Sharon Decker. "We are thrilled to have the opportunity to do this event and to bring it to this magnificent location."