UNIONVILLE, Pa.-- Doc Cebu won the featured $35,000 Willowdale Steeplechase amateur timber stakes by 2 1/2 lengths over Pured It and Monstaleur on a damp and very chilly day with misty rain and occasional downpours.
Despite the cold and rain, there was a large and very enthusiastic crowd of spectators, with cars filling virtually every available parking space and kids riding stick horses and playing games.
Doc Cebu, owned by Charles C. Fenwick, Jr., Michael Hankin and Charles Noell, trained by Jack Fisher and ridden by Hadden Frost, also won this race last year.
Armata Stable's Grand Manon, trained by William Meister and ridden by Chris Gracie, went out to a big early lead, but he lost his rider on the second circuit of the three mile race, leaving the lead to Black and Blue Stable's Monstaleur, trained and ridden by Forrest Kelly.
Doc Cebu took command after the horses emerged from the woods at the top of the hill for the last time, and Sycamore Run Farm's Pured It, trained by Katherine Neilson and ridden by Eddie Keating, moved up through the stretch to place second.
"It was a shame Grand Manon lost his rider," said Fenwick. "Doc Cebu jumped well."
When he first started his career as a jumper, Doc Cebu was owned solely by Fenwick, who is also in partnership with Hankin and Noell in Bruton Street-US.
Fenwick said he decided last summer that, seeing as he was in the Bruton Street-US partnership, that Doc Cebu should also be owned in partnership, but that, instead of Bruton Street-US being named as owner, Doc Cebu would run in his name.
"He's a riches to rags to riches story," said Fenwick of the 8-year-old by Hard Spun out of a Jade Hunter mare. "He was very highly thought of as a 2-year-old. "But, racing on the flat, he ended up at Charlestown, exhausted."
That was when Fenwick got him and tried him over fences.
"He's won seven races for us," said Fenwick. "He's a tough customer. He has a lot of personality. I love him, but I don't trust him. He'll bite you, and he might kick you,"
"We tried to fox hunt him, but that didn't do," said Fenwick. "He seems to love this. He tries really hard."
CYRIL MURPHY saddled Irvin S. Naylor's Stormy Alex, ridden by Graham Watters, to win the $20,000 Rose Tree Cup conditioned claiming hurdle by 2 3/4 lengths over Mrs. S.K. Johnston Jr.'s Hanno, trained by Fisher and ridden by Sean McDermott.
"He was bred by Irv's son Scott, out of a stakes placed mare," said Murphy of the 6-year-old gelding by Afleet Alex out of Miss Atlantic, by Stormy Atlantic. "He ran three or four times on the flat without success, so they decided to try him over fences."
"He broke his maiden at Tryon in 2016, then he missed last year." said Murphy. "He fell at Tryon earlier this year. He's no super horse, but he tries for us."
Jonathan Sheppard's 6-year-old homebred Ebullience, by Fairbanks out of Effervescent, by Citidancer, now owned by Riverdee Stable and ridden by Jack Doyle, won the $15,000 Maiden Claiming Hurdle by 2 1/4 lengths over Beverly Steinman's New Horizon, trained by Doug Fout and ridden by Barry Foley.
"He's out of the same mare as was Italian Wedding," said Sheppard, referring to his homebred stakes winner. "He does stay well, and he's a good jumper. We had hoped we'd get soft ground that would slow down the faster horses. Most of this family gets better as they get older, but he has big shoes to fill."
"I just sold part of him to Sean Clancy's syndicate, Riverdee Stable," said Sheppard. "It was just done, so I'm not sure how much of him I own now."
Spirit of Shankly (GB), owned by Thistledown Farm and trained and ridden by Mark Beecher, won the $15,000 Landhope Cup Maiden Timber, first division, by 9 1/4 lengths over Nancy Reed's Handsome Hoyt, trained by Neilson and ridden by Gerard Galligan.
"I've had him since February of last year," said Beecher. "Leslie Young brought him over from England. "He wasn't competitive enough over hurdles, so they asked me if I wanted to try him over timber. He's a classy horse. He's a barn favorite."
Merriebelle Stable LLC'c Spoiler Alert, trained by Meister and ridden by Galligan, won the second division of the Landhope Cup Maiden Timber by 3 1/2 lengths over Move Up Stable's It's Nothing, trained by Neilson and ridden by Keating.
"He's been a little bit of a disappointment," said Meister. "They thought he'd win over hurdles. He likes soft going. I put blinkers on him today and took him off lasix. He's a tough little bugger, but he's nice to be around."
Joseph G. Davies saddled Frank A. Bonsal Jr.'s Stand Down (Ire), ridden by Eric Poretz, to win the $15,000Marshall W. Jenney Memorial Allowance Timber by 9 1/2 lengths over Straylight Racing, LLC's Pied du Roi (Ire), trained by William Santoro and ridden by Alexander Leventhal.
"I got him in England," said Davies. "He was a little fussy with his mount. Blythe (Miller Davies, his wife) rode him, and she put a hackamore on him. He eventually got better."
"He won at Elkridge-Harford, then at the Grand National," said Davies. "This was his third straight win. We're thrilled with him. Frank Bonsal's daughter rides him every day now, so it's a family affair."
Kristian J. Strangeway's I Am Not Here (Ire), trained by Todd Wyatt and ridden by Brett Owings, won the 2 mile flat race by 4 1/2 lengths over Gregory Hawkin's Gmac, trained by Janet Elliot and ridden by Poretz.
"He came over from England," said Wyatt. "He's run over hurdles. I've had him since last summer. He ran over fences lst fall, and he was fourth at the Gold Cup.