Tax Ruling wins Iroquois Steeplechase again
Tax Ruling withstood a challenge from Slip Away at the 18th and final hurdle and went on to a second consecutive win in the $150,000 Iroquois Steeplechase at Percy Warner Park on Saturday.
The five-length win in the spring season's richest hurdle race was the third of the day for amateur rider Darren Nagle and owner Irvin S. Naylor.
Nagle and Tax Ruling went to the front as the field of nine approached the first hurdle on the course and stayed on the lead until they were headed by Slip Away, last year's steeplechaser of the year, approaching the 18th jump.
Slip Away took off earlier than jockey Paddy Young wanted and failed in his attempt to take the lead in the 70th running of the race.
Tax Ruling and his 22-year-old jockey jumped in form and landed running to win and collect $90,000 for first place.
The one-two finish by Tax Ruling and Slip Away was the same as last year's race when Tax Ruling won by 4 3/4 lengths.
''I felt pressure from Paddy's horse late in the race,'' Nagle said, ''But my horse just kept going. (Trainer) Brianne Slater has done a great job getting Mr. Naylor's horses ready. When I called on him, he had plenty left.''
Jack Ramsey, the Nicholasville, Ky.-based owner of Slip Away, said, ''It was all the last fence. He made a little bit of mistake.''
Tax Ruling ran the three miles over the course in 5 minutes, 46-1/5 seconds to raise his earnings to $422,415.
Naylor, a York, Pa. utility executive, and the Irish rider Nagle started their three-win afternoon when Chess Board took the lead at the last hurdle and crossed the finish line first in the $35,000 Bright Hour Stakes, a three-mile race limited to amateur riders. That win was worth $21,000.
They came back in the next race, the $75,000 Marcellus Frost, and collected $45,000 when Decoy Daddy jumped the 13th and final hurdle on even terms with Left Unsaid and then outran that rival in the home stretch.
The $156,000 in winnings for the afternoon vaulted Naylor to the top of the National Steeplechase owner's standings with $217,325 in the first three months of the nine-month jump racing year.