Spring Racing Returns to Charlottesville, with annual Foxfield Races

At Foxfield

Saturday’s six-race card, five over hurdles at 2 1/8 miles, offered record purses of $180,000. In the featured Daniel Van Clief Memorial Sport of Kings stakes, Upland Flats Racing and John Lewis’ West Newton made it back-to-back wins.

In a career that has seen him go back and forth on the flat and over jumps, for trainer Ricky Hendriks, West Newton followed up his 120 handicap victory in the season opener at Aiken last month with a hard-fought nose score over Irv Naylor’s Scorpion’s Revenge. Breaking on top, West Newton, under Harry Beswick, grabbed the lead, was challenged in the stretch, and barely held off a hard-charging Scorpion’s Revenge, with Barry Foley, who made a furious rally from the back of the pack.

The scene at the 2023 Foxfield races, photo by Tiffany Dillon Keen

In other action:

Oscar Winner takes a bow in $20,000 maiden claimer

Coming off of 15 career starts on the flat at Penn National, Tom Rice’s Oscar Winner, a five-year-old Pennsylvania-bred, came from off the pace under Mikey Hamill to win going away, giving trainer Leslie Young her third overall winner on Saturday.

Racing in fourth most of the way, Oscar Winner launched his bid after the eighth fence, had a length advantage hitting the stretch, and powered to a six-length margin at the wire. Louisa Stevenson and Achsah O’Donovan’s Greylover, who stalked CFC Stables’ Undercover Rowdy, the pacesetter, was second best under Graham Watters.

Horses jumping over a gate at the 2023 Foxfield races, photo by Tim Sudduth

Hooray for Hooroo

Fearnought Farm’s Hooroo improved upon his third place finish in similar company at Aiken to take the $25,000 handicap for horses rated at 110 or less. Trained by Doug Fout and ridden by Barry Foley, the six-year-old Irish-bred, who had a long career in the UK before coming stateside a year ago, was off slowly and gradually moved up in the field of six. With about five furlongs to go, Foley stepped on the gas and Hooroo scooted away to an 11-length win. Ashwell Stable’s Durragh, another recent import making his NSA debut for trainer Leslie Young, raced on or near the lead throughout, and finished second under Mikey Hamill.

Ping Pong Champ bounces to victory in $25,000 handicap

Exiting the maiden claiming ranks, Gill Johnston’s Ping Pong Champ, under Graham Watters, won for the second time in his last three outings with a declarative score in a handicap for horses rated at 110 or less.

Following a maiden claiming tally to close out 2022, the five-year-old son of Temple City ran a solid second to Fightinirishtabit in a 115 handicap at the Carolina Cup Races last month, setting him up Saturday’s performance. Sitting in third for most of the going behind The Fields Stable’s Circus and Paul Willis’ New Appointment, the Jack Fisher-trainee made his move with a half mile to go, assumed command easily, and prevailed by 3 1/4 lengths. Irv Naylor’s Fearsome, ridden by Erin Swope, was second.

Horses jumping over a gate at the 2023 Foxfield races, photo by Tim Sudduth

Newcomer For the Parish gives Leslie Young her 16th victory

Trainer Leslie Young continued her torrid pace this spring, saddling Leipers Fork Steeplechasers’ first-time starter For the Parish to capture the $30,000 maiden special weights hurdle with Mikey Hamill in the saddle. The five-year-old Irish-bred ran like an old pro, breaking in second behind Buttonwood Farm’s Sa’ad, launching his bid just before the stretch run, and digging down to prevail by a length over Hard Game’s High Deff, a recent convert to jump racing after a dozen starts on the flat.

The win gave Young two on the day at Foxfield to go along with a pair at the Queen’s Cup, and 16 for the spring. Her closest competitors, Jack Fisher and Ricky Hendriks have six winners each.

Family Tree is icing on the cake for Naylor’s big day

Irv Naylor has been a leading timber owner for decades, and on the day he won his third Maryland Hunt Cup, it’s only fitting that he finish out Saturday with another victory over timber, this time with Family Tree.

After a lengthy career on the flat and over hurdles – where he was placed in novice stakes competition – the eight-year-old son of Galileo switched to timber this season for trainer Neil Morris. After an inauspicious first start at the My Lady’s Manor Races, Family Tree, under Barry Foley, put it all together with a last-to-first surge to win going away by 4 lengths over his Naylor stablemate Island Nation, trained by Kathy Neilson, who saddled Naylor’s Hunt Cup winner Withoutmoreado.