The two time Maryland Hunt Cup winning pair of James Stierhoff and Twill Do (owned by Lucy Goelet, trained by William Meister) took to the lead at the start of this year’s 119th running of the four mile timber course at Worthington Farms. New comers Raven’s Choice (owned by Mrs. Cary Jackson, ridden by Mark Beecher, trained by Todd Wyatt) and Almarmooq (owned by Irvin Naylor, ridden by James Slater, trained by Katherine Neilson) were right on Twill Do’s heels over the first few fences when Jason Cole’s Joshua G and jockey Sarah Shaffer took to the lead and started to leave everyone else behind.
Joshua G had a commanding lead through the middle of the course with Raven’s Choice being out in front of the rest of the field. Raven’s Choice almost went down over the 12th fence but Beecher made an incredible save and kept the gelding on his feet. As the horses crossed the road with just a few fences left to go, Joshua G started to fade while 2014 Maryland Hunt Cup winner Guts for Garters (owned by Stewart Strawbridge, ridden by Jody Petty, trained by Sanna Neilson), Raven’s Choice and Imperial Way (owned by Merriefield Farm, ridden by Bethany Baumgardner, trained by Elizabeth Voss) surged past to take the lead with Raven’s Choice narrowly out in front.With just three fences left to jump, it seemed like it would be another year for a close finish as all three horses powered towards the finish. Baumgardner and Imperial Way edged past Raven’s Choice and Beecher to cross the finish first by half a length. Unfortunately, Baumgardner was unaware that her 20-pound weight slipped from Imperial Way’s weight pad between the 19th and 20th fences. Upon weighing in after the race, Baumgardner immediately realized she was disqualified. The pair, who finished second in 2014 by a nose, were disqualified giving the win to Raven’s Choice. This was Beecher’s second Hunt Cup victory in the last three years.
Raven’s Choice was the 2014 Maryland Steeplechase Association’s Novice Timber Horse of the Year (tied with Irvin Naylor’s Durer) and also won awards for top Maryland-bred and Maryland Million-sired timber horse in 2014. The nine-year-old gelding is by Dance With Ravens and out of Millashand, by Regal Intention. He was bred by the late Cary W. Jackson.
Earlier this season, Raven’s Choice won the Open Timber at Elkridge-Harford and finished third in the Grand National. The win today moves Beecher even further forward in the MSA Governor’s Cup leading jockey standings.
In other Hunt Cup news, jockeys Eric Poretz and McLane Hendriks both completed their first Hunt Cup. Both riders came up the ranks through MSA’s pony and junior race circuit.
Please check The Equiery’s Facebook page over the next few days for more photos and video from today’s race!
- Raven’s Choice/Mark Beecher/Mrs. Cary Jackson/Todd Wyatt
- Guts for Garters/Jody Petty/Stewart Strawbridge/Sanna Neilson
- Spencer Road/Eric Poretz/Elanor Russell/Blythe Miller Davies
- Joshua G/Sarah Shaffer/Jason Cole/Jason Cole
- Catch The Echo/Diana Gillam/Gerry Brewster/Blythe Miller Davies
- Fort Henry/McLane Hendriks/Welcome Here Farm/Blythe Miller Davies
- Twill Do/James Stierhoff/Lucy Goelet/William Meister