Top hurdlers return to action in Virginia, while timber veterans square off in Maryland.
BY TOD MARKS
It has been 20 months since steeplechase fans watched Bruton Street-US’ mighty gray Moscato in action. Following 2020 victories in the G2 Temple Gwathmey at Middleburg and the G1 A.P. Smithwick at Saratoga, the 9-year-old British-bred son of Hernando was third in the G1 New York Turf Writers Cup at the Spa. But his two masterful performances were enough to earn Moscato the Eclipse Award in the pandemic-shortened season.
A tendon injury forced Moscato, now 11, to the sidelines for lengthy rest and rehab, and Middleburg will mark his official return, once again in the $75,000 Gwathmey, at 2 ½ miles. Jamie Bargary has the mount for trainer Jack Fisher. If there’s an optimal meet for Moscato to get back into the swing of things, Middleburg is it. Moscato has taken the Gwathmey twice, having defeated along the way Grade 1 winners Rashaan, Surprising Soul, Zanjabeel, Scorpiancer, and All the Way Jose in the historic contest.
But he’ll have to be at his best to do so, as he lines up against his brilliant stablemate, Snap Decision, also trained by Fisher. Snap Decision made history last season when he tied Thrice Worthy’s long-standing record of nine straight hurdle victories, in the Grade 1 Iroquois, a streak that came to an end in September against rival and 2021 Eclipse Award champion The Mean Queen in the Lonesome Glory at Belmont Park.
Both Snap Decision, who will be ridden by regular rider Graham Watters in the Gwathmey, and Moscato stretched their legs on the flat in preparation for their 2022 debuts at the Green Spring Valley Point to Point in Cockeysville, Md., on April 3. Snap Decision won pretty much as he pleased.
Also in the field is Irv Naylor’s Amschel, who chased The Mean Queen and Snap Decision in major races last year, and completed the season with a close second to Hudson River Farm’s Iranistan in the Noel Laing Stakes at Montpelier. Barry Foley rides.
Iranistan returns in the Gwathmey as well, as does another horse he defeated in the Laing, Sharon Sheppard’s Redicean, trained by Leslie Young. Iranistan, trained by Keri Brion, turned heads with three straight wins in his first three tries over hurdles, including a blowout score in the Marcellus Frost novice stakes in Nashville. He finished second and third in his initial efforts against open stakes competition, in the Smithwick and Turf Writers Cup, both G1s at Saratoga. After taking two handicaps at Saratoga in 2020, he was off for more than a year, and his win at Montpelier came in his second race back.
Redicean has been a tough competitor since coming to the U.S. from England in 2019. He won his American debut in the Jonathan Kiser novice stakes at the Spa, the scene of one of his best races, a second in the 2020 Turf Writers Cup. Last year, he was second in the G2 Zeke Ferguson at Great Meadow and third in the G1 Lonesome Glory. Tom Garner has the mount.
There are a total of eight races in the Middleburg Spring lineup, with $215,000 in purses. First race post time is 1 p.m.
The co-feature is the $25,000 Middleburg Hunt Cup timber stakes, at 3 ¼ miles, with a field of five expected. The field includes 2019 timber champion, Ballybristol Farm’s Andi’amu, a previous winner of this race along with the National Sporting Library & Museum Cup stakes over the same Glenwood Park course. The Hunt Cup is Andi’amu’s first race back since June 2020. Tom Garner rides for trainer Leslie Young. Also in the field are Sheila Williams and Northwoods Stable’s Storm Team, one of the top timber horses of 2021 and a stakes winner of more than a quarter-million dollars; Four Virginia Gents’ First Friday, who broke his maiden over the course last year; Buttonwood Farm’s The Silent Trainer and Crooked Run Racings Love of the Bay, both maidens.
The day’s other races include a $30,000 allowance hurdle; a $20,000 filly & mare hurdle; $25,000 maiden hurdle; a $20,000 maiden claiming hurdle; the $20,000 Alfred Hunt steeplethon over mixed obstacles; and a training flat race.