MALVERN, Pa. — Making his first start of the year at a National Steeplechase Association sanctioned meeting, Wendy Hendriks' Surprising Soul sat back off the pace until the field turned into the home stretch the final time.
That was the point where jockey Ross Geraghty pushed the “Go” button. From there on, the six-year-old gelding made steady progress over the 12th and 13th national fences to claim the win in the rain-soaked and fog-blanketed $50,000, Grade 3 National Hunt Cup, the signature race of the 88th Radnor Hunt Races that were run Saturday afternoon.
The son of the Irish stallion Perfect Soul won his second stake race in two seasons when he took the measure of three rivals in the race of 2-1/8 miles that is run annually in memory of Mrs. William Cox Wright, a longtime member of the Radnor Race Committee and a steeplechase owner who campaigned multiple winners Grey Beret and Castlebar. Surprising Soul was a 2-1/4 length winner of the Marcellus Frost for novice horses at the 2017 Iroquois meeting.
The National Hunt Cup victory continued a May hot streak for trainer Ricky Hendriks, who has several owners including his mother, Wendy. He opened the month with a win in a $40,000 allowance race on the flat on the Virginia Gold Cup under card with Rosbrian's French-bred Sixty Five.
A week later, the Coatesville, Pa. conditioner teamed up with Rosbrian and Ross Geraghty to win the $200,000, Grade 1 Calvin Houghland Iroquois with Zanjabeel.
At Radnor, no sooner had Geraghty changed from Mrs. Hendriks colors of two shades of blue to Rosbrian's royal blue and orange silks than Rosbrian's Cheers to Us was taking an early lead and then going on to win the $25,000 James Moran, Jr. ratings handicap.
Surprising Soul turned out to be a bargain for Mrs. Hendriks. The Kennett Sq., Pa. owner said after he won the Hunt Cup, “I saw him at a sale (Fasig-Tipton Ky. Mixed 2016) and just had to have him. I wanted him for a steeplechase horse.” Sales stats show she took him for $9,000.
When asked about his Surprising Soul sitting off the pace in the Hunt Cup, trainer Hendriks said the gelding, who won a training race at Middleburg with amateur Eve Ledyard aboard, “Was not going to go to the lead. There's no argument here. When you're going 2-3/8 miles over fences in your first race of the season, you don't want to go the front.”
When asked the always 'What's next, Ricky?' he said, “I really don't know, we haven't discussed anything beyond this.”
One race earlier, Irvin S. Naylor's Irish-bred Top Man Michael took the lead in the home stretch and went on to win the co-featured $30,000 Radnor Hunt Cup, a 3-1/4-mile timber stake run in memory of George Strawbridge, Sr., a gentleman rider and former president of the National Steeplechase and Hunts Association.
Top Man Michael, an allowance winner last year, defeated five rivals with Darren Nagle in the saddle for trainer Cyril Murphy. Upland Partners' Mystic Strike took second with trainer Mark Beecher astride. Sycamore Run Farm's Pured It came from last place to take third money with Eddie Keating aboard.
Curses upon you, weatherman!” So say the Radnor Race Committee that saw that valiant group put on a first class 88-th running in spite of rain and fog that would have stopped most other sporting events. After their six race card that featured Surprising Soul's win in the Grade 3 National Hunt Cup, here are the standings to date for the equine and human awards the National Steeplechase Assn. will present at the close of the 2018 season in late November.
Owners, Purse Money Won:
- Rosbrian Farm, $241,650
- Irvin S. Naylor, $236,900
- Hudson River Farms, $157,950
Trainers, Races Won:
- Jonathan Sheppard, 11
- Ricky Hendriks, 10
- Jack Fisher, 6
Trainers, Purse Money Won:
- Ricky Hendriks, $336,650
- Jack Fisher, $305,350
- Jonathan Sheppard, $290,450
Riders, Races Won:
- Jack Doyle, 12
- Darren Nagle, 9
- Ross Geraghty, 8
Riders, Purse Money Won:
- Jack Doyle, $383,150
- Ross Geraghty, $313,700
- Daren Nagle, $271,050
Horses, Purse Money Won:
- Zanjabeel, $160,500
- Balance the Budget, $97,500
- Iranistan, $96,000
Timber Horse Owner, Purse Money Won
- Irvin L. Crawford, $90,000
- Sara E. Collette, $88,000
- Irvin S. Naylor, $83,600
Timber Horses, Purse Money Won
- Senior Senator, $90,000
- Zanclus, $88,000
- Andi'amu, $36,000
The spring calendar concludes on May 26 with the 49th annual Fair Hill Spring Races, Fair Hill, Md.
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