Montpelier Hunt Races Close Out Virginia’s 2021 Steeplechase Schedule

After a one-year hiatus due to the Covid pandemic, steeplechase action returned to Orange, Virginia on November 6. The return was met with a large crowd and great weather.

The Montpelier Hunt races take place at the former home of President James Madison.

The human stars of the show at Montpelier, the former home of President James Madison, were Jamie Bargary and Barry Foley, both three-time winners on the day. Foley’s wins, in fact, came in succession, and he just missed a fourth when beaten a half length in the opener. Foley also finished a close second again, this time aboard Irv Naylor’s Amschel, who trailed Hudson River Farm’s Iranistan.

Iranistan and rider Eddie Keating hold off runner-up Amschel (far left) in the Noel Laing Stakes.

Speaking of Iranistan, the seven-year-old son of Einstein, ridden by Eddie Keating and trained by Keri Brion, had his earnings crack the quarter-million-dollar mark in the featured $40,000 Noel Laing Stakes over Montpelier’s fabled natural brush fences. It was Iranistan’s third win in his last four starts, and his first since back-to-back victories at Saratoga in 2020, after which he went on the sidelines with an injury.

A training flat on dirt — the Montpelier Foundation Cup — kicked off festivities November 6.

Lisa Nelms’ Big Dave, a Pennsylvania-bred gelding trained by David Bourke and a veteran of 34 starts on the flat — all but two of which came at Penn National — opened the day with a half-length tally over Bruce Collette’s Grunion in the training flat race on the dirt. Big Dave made his debut over jumps at Virginia Fall in Middleburg last month, but lost all chance when he hit a wing and lost his rider.

#3 Big Dave and #7 Grunion battle in the final turn of the training flat.

Melissa Cantacuzene’s Yankee Doodle Boy gave Foley — and trainer Doug Fout — his first winner of the day in the second race, a handicap for horses rated at 110 or lower. The five-year-old son of Declaration of War raced toward the back of the pack early, took command during the second lap and drew clear of Potter Group USA’s Don’t Shout and Tom Garner by 2 ¼ lengths. The latter was making his second NSA start after a career in Europe.

#6 Yankee Doodle Boy (Barry Foley) and #4 Don’t Shout (Thomas Garner) battle side by side over the final jump in the Madison Plate. Yankee Doodle Boy ended up winning.

In the third, a $15,000 maiden claiming hurdle, Kinross Farm’s Sea Mast, with Foley in the irons, prevailed by a length under a vigorous hand ride over Petticoats Loose Farm’s The Kid Rocks, with Teddy Davies aboard.

The fourth race, a $25,000 maiden hurdle, was another thriller, and gave Foley his third straight when he urged Irv Naylor’s Scorpion’s Revenge to the wire in a driving finish 1 ¾ lengths ahead of Kiplin Hall’s Gearhead, ridden by Jamie Bargary. It was only the third lifetime start for the five-year-old Irish-bred son of Scorpion, trained by Cyril Murphy, and his second win. The first came at Cork Race Course in his home country back in April.

Sea Mast, rider Barry Foley and winning connections celebrate a victory in the Battleship.

The second division of the maiden hurdle gave Bargary his second of three wins on the card, this time with Riverdee Stable’s Queens Empire, who defeated The International Venture’s Going Country by 3 ½ lengths. Queens Empire, a four-year-old Empire Maker gelding trained by Jack Fisher, was coming off a solid third, beaten just 1 ½ lengths, in the $50,000 Harry Harris Stakes at Far Hills in October.

Sea Mast, shown in deep stretch of the Battleship.

Bargary found the winner’s circle again in the sixth, a $25,000 allowance hurdle for fillies and mares, with Beverly Steinman’s Eve’s City, who went wire-to-wire besting Ted Gregory’s Screen Image by 1 ½ lengths. Eve’s City’s stablemate, Speed Alert, was another two lengths back in third. Doug Fout trained the winner and show horse.

Eve’s City and rider Jamie Bargary prevailed in the Montpelier Cup.

Thank to Douglas Lees for supplying the great action photos.

The NSA’s 2022 spring meet dates have been announced and jump events in Virginia will take place over three consecutive weekends — Middleburg Spring races on April 23, Foxfield Races in Charlottesville on April 30 and the Virginia Gold Cup at Great Meadow in The Plains on May 7.