Rawnaq wins Calvin Houghland Iroquois Steeplechase
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Rawnaq regained the lead in stretch and held on to win the $200,000 Calvin Houghland Iroquois Steeplechase on Saturday at Percy Warner Park.
The 9-year-old gelding became eligible for a $500,000 bonus offered by Baltimore's Brown Advisory Group to the Iroquois winner for a victory in England in March in the Ryanair World Hurdle.
When asked if he was willing to accept the challenge for his Irish-bred horse, owner Irvin S. Naylor of Reisterstown, Maryland, said, ''Yes. Somebody else did all the work to set it up. I'll go and take their money.''
The win was the second straight in stakes company for Rawnaq. Last month, he and regular jockey Jack Doyle were 15-length winners in the Temple Gwathmey Stakes at Middleburg, Virginia.
The Irish-bred Rawnaq took the measure of two horses that were shipped from Ireland to run for Iroquois purse and the bonus. Shaneshill, a winner at Naas in January, was second with Danny Mullins aboard. Champion rider Ruby Walsh was third aboard Nichols Canyon. Both horses are trained by the Irish champion trainer Willie Mullins.
Rawnaq stalked the pace set by Nichols Canyon for the first half of the three-mile race contested over 18 national fences. Those two went head-to-head for for for the final mile and half before they hit the home stretch with Shaneshill looming on the outside.
Shaneshill managed to get his nose in front before Rawnaq came again to prevail by a neck. Nichols Canyon was another three lengths back in third.
Rawnaq finished in 5:42.40.
After the race, trainer Cyril Murphy said Rawnaq's preparations for the race paid off.
''I couldn't have had him any tighter,'' he said. When ask about his plans for Rawnaq through the November ending of the American season and then going toward Cheltenham in March, the Irish-born former rider said, That's all a long way off. I'll have to talk to Mr. Naylor.''