In the Company of an Eclipse Winner
by Sarah L. Greenhalgh
(first printed in the March 2012 Equiery)
In one short season, Black Jack Blues gave his trainer J. W. Delozier III his first sanctioned win and his first Eclipse Award, and catapulted his owner Irv Naylor into the record books. No question, Black Jack Blues, the nine-year-old son of Definite Article, is one special horse with some very interesting connections.
A virtual unknown last fall, Black Jack Blues only popped up on the radar when he won at the Virginia Fall Races on October 1. The little world traveler had only been in the country for less than 24 hours before that first win, having just been imported from Ireland.
Not new to the business of steeplechasing, Delozier is a former jockey, and has first-hand experience, having raced on just about every course the National Steeplechase Association and Mid-Atlantic point-to-point circuits have available. Most recently, Delozier came out of retirement to try his luck in the $15,000 allowance race at the 2011 Grand National and was second on Joe Gillet Davies’ timber prospect Fort Henry for trainer Blythe Davies. He still has his eye on a possible Maryland Hunt Cup run in the future.
Late in the summer of 2011, Delozier got the call to head up Naylor’s Stillwater Farm in Glyndon and the rest is glorious history. “I could never have imagined this year,” said Delozier. “I have a great stable of great horses I am working with and a wonderful facility to train them at.”
The 76-year-old Naylor has been a fixture in steeplechasing for several decades. The longtime owner and former jockey has won six National Steeplechase Association Timber Owner champion awards in the last 10 years.
Not always the easiest of owners to get along with, Naylor is known for rearranging his stock and trainers and must have sensed that Delozier would be the right fit as the pair went on to do quite well together in 2011.
At Naylor’s behest, Delozier entered Black Jack Blues in the $35,000 hurdle stakes at the Virginia Fall Races after collecting him at the airport from overseas. The morning of the win, he popped him over a few National hurdles on the farm and shipped him to Virginia where the horse made short work of his first American Steeplechase.
Also the NSA Horse of the Year, Black Jack Blues’ American claim to fame was the granddaddy jump race of the year, the $250,000 Far Hills hurdle stakes. “The win at Far Hills was every bit as exciting as winning the Maryland Hunt Cup. Especially since we were first and second at Far Hills. That was as much excitement as an ol’ man in a wheelchair can absorb in one day,” Naylor said.
In an unusual situation, Naylor had a second horse up for an Eclipse Award, a 10-year-old son of Dynaformer named Tax Ruling. Definitely no slouch, Tax Ruling won two grade I races, the $150,000 Iroquois Stakes and the $100,000 Colonial Cup, both for trainer Brianne Slater.
Normally the Eclipse is given out to the horse with the most money, but a panel of turf writers votes on it, so anything is possible. This year, the panel went with the money and Black Jack Blues was crowned the winner on January 16.
Delozier trained another horse on the Eclipse short list: Lake Placid.
In 2011, the six-year-old son of Giant’s Causeway stood in the winner’s circle eight times out of 14 point-to-point and sanctioned starts and traded owners several times before ending up in the Naylor barn. This from a horse that only has had 17 career steeplechase starts since 2010.
With all his runs, Lake Placid was the NSA Novice and Claimer champion for 2011. Naylor was pleased with Lake Placid and is looking forward to another season of wins with him. “Certainly the best claim of the year,” Naylor said. “And he will continue with his winning ways.”
But don’t look for Lake Placid in any more claiming races. “You’ll never see him there again. He’s earned his new place,” Delozier said.
Irv Naylor is Going Global
by Sarah L. Greenhalgh
Irv Naylor first strived to obtain a Maryland Hunt Cup win as a jockey but gave up that dream after he was paralyzed in a racing accident in April 1999 while riding in the Maryland Grand National on Emerald Action.
Undaunted, Naylor became one of the most competitive owners on the circuit, increasing his winning odds by sprinkling his stock with many trainers. He won the Maryland Hunt Cup twice as an owner, with Make Me A Champ in 2005 with trainer Bruce Miller (PA) and Askim in 2008 with Maryland trainer Ann Stewart. With one more win, he can retire the trophy.
In the 2011 season, Naylor transitioned from being one of the most successful timber owners into the leading hurdle owner with the four top horses: Black Jack Blues, Tax Ruling, Decoy Daddy and Lake Placid.
His horses won him a whopping $719,725 in earnings for the year. Consequently, Naylor broke the Augustin Stable/George Strawbridge record of the most money won in a season, which was $596,991 set back in 2001.
“Irv Naylor is probably one of the most competitive owners we have. [He has] a great business mind and supports the game in many different ways,” said National Steeplechase Association racing director Bill Gallo. “He made the transition from timber to hurdles in a very short time, breaking records along the way and proving he is a serious player with deep pockets. At the same time he improved the quality of the racing and showed that it is not luck, but effort that you gets you to this level.”
Not satisfied with American wins, Naylor is going global.
“Black Jack Blues won the big race at Far Hills,” Naylor said of the journeyman horse. “I’m looking forward to running him in Japan.”
Since 1999, Japan has hosted the most expensive steeplechase race in the world, The Nakayama Grand Jump held each year in April. It is a 2 5/8 mile race worth more than $1.5 million. However, American horses have failed to make a good showing there since its inception. Almost all the winning horses are Japanese racers or have Japanese connections.
Part of the problem is that the footing can be deep, and unlike American steeplechasing, the horses must break from a start gate. In addition, the travel takes its toll on the horses. American steeplechasers traditionally run on firmer conditions and to ask a horse that early in the season to take on such a race is very difficult. Plus an American horse has to qualify which means they need to be in country by March or earlier.
Naylor and Delozier have nominated Black Jack Blues for the race and qualifier.
But he’s not stopping there; he has plans in England too.
“I have a horse, Alfa Beat,” Naylor said. “He’s in training for the 2012 English Grand National and is being trained by John Hanlon.”
For Naylor and Delozier, the 2012 steeplechase season should be a busy one.
Voss 2011 Leading U.S. Steeplechase Trainer
Atlanta Hall’s Tom Voss (Monkton, MD) was the nation’s leading steeplechase trainer for 2011, the fifth time he has earned the title (the most recent in 2002). Ironically, it was not necessarily one his best seasons, with only 16 wins earning $384,070. In fact, according to the Steeplechase Times, it is the lowest victory total in almost 40 years, since Jonathan Sheppard earn the title with only 15 jump race wins.
Sheppard and Voss seem to frequently trade the title back and forth, and this year they were certainly running neck and neck over the line.
Steeplechase Times succinctly summarized the Voss season thus:
Built three-win lead after spring season, but endured winless summer at Saratoga, and entered fall season tied with Sheppard atop leaderboard. Two-win swing in Charleston feature (Voss’ Tizsilk beat Sheppard’s Air Maggy by a nose) proved to be the difference. Won 3-year-old championship with Wanganui, the stable’s only stakes winner.
Voss lost 25 races in a row between Fair Hill and Shawan Downs, didn’t win a race with 2010 champion Slip Away, lost eventual New York Turf Writers Cup winner Mabou to a claim at Saratoga.
But, at the end of the season, it was Voss on top…because that is horse racing.
Maryland-bred Wanganui is 2011 NSA Champion Three-Year Old
Wanganui was bred by Mimi Voss and is now owned again by Mimi in partnership with Betty Merck and races in Merck’s silks for The Fields Stable. The half-brother of champion mare Guelph, Wanganui helped to ensure that trainer Tom Voss (of course) was the top NSA trainer of the year by winning his only two starts, stakes at Far Hills and Camden, to earn $30,000 and win the NSA Three-Year Old champion division.
We know his bloodlines! His bloodlines reek of great Maryland Thoroughbreds! Wanganui is by Love of Money (who stands at Northview and ranks as the leading two-year-old sire of flat horses in the Mid-Atlantic region for 2011) and out of Distant Drumroll by Eastern Echo, one of the great stallions who stood at Shamrock, who upon his death in 2004 was represented by 22 stakes winners, including grade I winners Buddy Gil and Swiss Yodeler. No surprise that Wanganui can jump! Eastern Echo is a son of the great Maryland sire Damascus, to whom many a great jumping (eventing and steeplechase) Thoroughbreds reach back.
Interesting trivia: according to Steeplechase Times, Wanganui was named after a New Zealand city (in Maori, the word means big bay or bay harbor).
National Timber Champion by Earnings: Bon Caddo
After being winless in 2010, Bon Caddo came back with a vengeance in 2011, winning the My Lady’s Manor Steeplechase and the Virginia Gold Cup. The ten-year-old bay gelding also finished second in the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup, earning $73,500 for the year. He is owned by Charles and Barbara Noell’s Merriefield Farm in Monkton and is trained by Dawn Williams. Williams trains the horse out of Bruce Fenwick’s facility, Belmont Farm, in the Worthington Valley of Baltimore County, and keeps fit by foxhunting and horse showing.
The Steeplechase Times summarized Bon Caddo’s season thus:
With 2011 came expectations, and Bon Caddo opened with a point-to-point win at Piedmont for new jockey Blair Wyatt. The Canadian-bred captured the My Lady’s Manor timber stakes in April and added the Virginia Gold Cup in May.
With Wyatt watching from the sidelines for the autumn, Bon Caddo went to the International Gold Cup in October as the favorite, and lost jockey Jody Petty. They made up for it with a second in the season’s final timber stakes, the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup, in November. The latter performance, and its $6,300, was enough to win the championship by $8,200 over Maryland Hunt Cup winner Private Attack.