NASHVILLE, Tenn.--Irish invader Scaramanga, trained by champion Irish trainer Willie Mullins and ridden by champion Irish jockey Paul Townend, won the $200,000, G1 Calvin Houghland Iroquois Stakes by 3 3/4 lengths over Snap Decision at the Iroquois Steeplechase on May 13..
Bruton Street-US' Snap Decision, trained by Jack Fisher, was ridden by Sean McDermott after his regular jockey, Graham Watters, suffered a back injury in a fall at the Virginia Gold Cup a week earlier.
Snap led through most of the race, although not by as much nor as brilliantly as ha has in past races, until Scaramanga drew even with him over the last fence and then drew off in the stretch.
"He got beaten by a better horse," said Fisher. "But I know he didn't like the going. He'll probably go to the race at Belmont next and then to Far Hills.""
The going was listed as good, although it appeared closer to soft than firm, and in the past Snap's connections have said they wouldn't race him again on the soft going that he doesn't like.
"SNAP WAS beaten by a very good horse," said Charlie Fenwick, who along with Mike Hankin and Charlie Noelle is a partner in Bruton Street. "The going wasn't the good to firm going that he likes, but you don't get the chance to run in a $200,000 race often. I'm not sure we can use the going as an excuse."
"They obviously though highly of Scaramanga to send him all the way over here, not just to Fair Hill or somewhere in the east but all the way to Nashville, and also thought highly enough of him to also send Paul Townend to ride him," said Fenwick.
"We had a lot of confidence in him," said David Casey, who flew over with him in place of Mullins. "He's a very special horse to beat a horse like Snap Decision."
"This has been a great experience," said his owner Malcolm Denmark. "I've been to the United States before, but I've never been to races here before. We've been made to feel very welcome. The ground over here is a little firmer than it is in Ireland, and we decided it would be good ground for him. You may think it's soft over here, but for us it's good going."
"Now we need to think about whether to stay over here," said Denmark. "Having beaten such a good horse makes us think about what to do next."
Scaramanga was reportedly shipped over to be sold after the race, but as of yet no sale has been reported.
Fisher also saddled Riverdee Stable's Cool Jet, ridden by Tom Garner, to win the $75,000 Novice Hurdle Stakes by 7 lengths over Freddy Flintshire, trained by Keri Brion.
"Cool Jet handles the soft going well," said Sean Clancy, who heads the syndicate Riverdee Stable. "He's a big, lovely horse, and Tom gave him a good ride. It's a real thrill to win here. I was impressed by both the two top horses. When The Hero Next Door fell, I was afraid Cool Jet would fall over him. I took a deep breath when he got around him,"
"We'll put him away for the summer," said Clancy. "He's not a race track horse. He'll probably go to Far Hills next."
Bercasa (Ire), owned and trained by Kathy Neilson and ridden by Gerard Galligan, won the $50,000 Filly and Mare Hurdle Stakes by 1 3/4 lengths over Met in Miami, trained by Kate Dalton.
Neilson's daughter Skylar McKenna saddled Bercasa as Neilson was at Willowdale, where she ran two horses and had one winner, Awesome Adrian.
"Bercasa hasn't run for two years,"said McKenna."She had a foal last year. The last time she raced was when I rode her here two years ago. She was 65 days pregnant then. I schooled her about four times before this race."
Brion saddled Madaket Stables' Jimmy P, ridden by Danny Mullins, to win the $35,000 Ratings Handicap Hurdle by 10 1/2 lengths over Fightinirishtapit, trained by Ricky Hendriks.
Brion's stable jockey Parker Hendriks had suffered a concussion in a fall, so Brion imported Mullins to ride at Iroquois.
"I'm the lucky one," said Mullins of getting the rides on Brion's horses, "I probably sat a little closer than we'd planned, but I got a nice jump over the last and went on to win."
"Jimmy P just keeps going,"said Brion."He keeps staying. I think he'll be a timber horse one day. We'd been looking at this race for him right from the start. I miss having Parker in the saddle, but Danny's been great coming in at the last minute."
Mullins made the trip worthwhile, as he won the Leading Jockey award at Iroquois.
While Brion only won one race, her horses also finished second in two races, third in two races, and fourth in three races, most ridden by Mullins.
Arch Kingsley saddled the winners of both $30,000 Maiden Hurdles.
Hudson River Farms' L'Imperatpr (Fr), ridden by Stephen Mulqueen, won the first division by a nose over Geordie Dreamer(Ire), trained by Brion.
"He likes to be dropped in back," said Mulqueen. "He only has one run. I thought after jumping the last fence that the other horse would come back to be, but in the end I thought I had just won."
"I found L'Imperatore at Keeneland," said Kingsley. "He was in Chad Brown's barn. He's taken to jumping like a duck to water. Stephen gave him a great ride.This was my first win for Ed Swyer. I used to ride for him when I was a jockey."
Richard Cotton's Barbados(Ire), also ridden by Mulqueen, won the second division by 1 length over Riendo, trained by Kate Dalton.
"When I came over, Arch said he was going to run his best horses here," said Mulqueen.
"His flat form was definitely there overseas," said Kingsley."I just wanted to keep him healthy and happy over here. l always wanted to get a good horse for Mr. Cotton."
This was Barbados second race over hurdles in this country after finishing second in Charlotte.
In France, he had run in G1 races and was stakes placed before being switched to hurdles in Ireland in 2021.
Irv Naylor's Family Tree (GB), trained by Neil Morris and ridden by Barry Foley, won the $25,00Allowance Timber by 71/4 lengths over Court Ruler (Ire), trained by Leslie Young.
"He went a nice gallop all the way,"said Foley, who moved from fourth up to second and finally into the lead over the last fence. "I was happy with where I sat. I think he's going to be a very good horse over timber."
"The three miles suits him," said Morris. "I was concerned about the soft going, but his class prevailed."