Veteran Timber Star Schoodic Returns in Grand Fashion to the VA Fall Races in Middleburg

Originally posted on on October 19, Written by Tod Marks

At the Virginia Fall Races in Middleburg, the rain stopped long enough to complete the entire eight-race card, highlighted by the return of veteran timber star Schoodic in the $50,000 National Sporting Library & Museum Cup at 3 ¼ miles. In a fight to the finish, Dolly Fisher’s 13-year-old son of Tiznow fought off recent stakes winner and defending Cup winner Cracker Factory, to win by 1 ¾ lengths.

With the victory, Schoodic, ridden by Graham Watters for trainer Jack Fisher, went over the half-million-dollar mark in earnings in a remarkable 51-race career that began in 2012.

The scene at the 2023 VA Fall Races

On the sidelines for 17 months, Schoodic returned to the races two weeks ago at Shawan Downs to finish a hard charging second, in a timber allowance. The gelding has been a model of consistency, not only winning multiple stakes over hurdles and timber, but finishing in the top three 32 times, including in Grade 1 competition.

Here’s how the rest of the card played out:

The Stewart’s stand overlooking the course

Press Pause goes fast forward in maiden hurdle

Rolling Tide’s Press Pause, a French-bred five-year-old, led from start to finish in the $30,000 Theodora A. Randolph Cup maiden hurdle at 2 1/8 miles, the distance of all of the hurdle races at Glenwood Park.

Trained by Doug Fout for owner Allie Lawaetz, Press Pause, under Harry Beswick, broke swiftly in the nine-horse field, and extended his lead at every call, drawing off easily by 16 lengths at the wire. The win came in Press Pause’s fifth career start. He began his career at the Carolina Cup Races in April and finished in the top three in four of his five outings. Northwood Stable’s Look North (Graham Watters) was second. Armata Stable’s Imperial Assassin was third.

Press Pause ridden by Harry Beswick with the Winning Connections

Kiyomori comes from behind to break maiden in exciting finish

Greg Hawkins’ NY-bred four-year-old gave leading 2023 rider Harry Beswick back-to-back wins. The race began with Kiyomori stalking the pacesetter, Gary Barber’s Finding Freedom, in the $30,000 Virginia Equine Alliance maiden hurdle.

The gelding, in the hands of new trainer Todd Wyatt, fell back to fifth, then launched his bid heading toward the final fence. Kiyomori still trailed Michael Smith’s Foxy Walk (Mikey Hamill), who raced close to the lead throughout, and South Branch Equine’s I Can Only Imagine (Jamie Bargary), as the last hurdle loomed. Turning into the stretch after the long downhill run, Kiyomori narrowed the gap and closed with a flourish to get up at the wire by three-quarters of a length. Foxy Walk was second in his career debut, with I Can Only Imagine, third.

Kiyomori breaking his maiden, ridden by Harry Beswick; Photo by Tod Marks

Eye of Gunfighter gives Larry Smith milestone win

Trainer Larry Smith earned his 300th career victory – on the flat and over jumps – when Hickory Made Stables and Celtic Venture Stable’s Eye of Gunfighter captured the $30,000 Magalen O. Bryant ratings handicap.

With Gerard Galligan aboard, the six-year-old Pennsylvania-bred tracked the leader, Flying Elvis Stable’s Vincent Van Gogo, in second the first time around the course, took charge on the final lap, and held off Bruton Street-US’ South Mountain (Jamie Bargary) by 1 3/4 lengths. Gill Johnston’s Ping Pong Champ (Graham Watters) was third.

The victory was the second in a row for Eye of Gunfighter, who took a maiden claimer at Foxfield on Oct. 1.

Eye of Gun Fighter ridden by Gerard Galligan, gives trainer Larry Smith 300th win; Photo by Tod Marks

“General” takes no prisoners in $20,000 maiden starter hurdle

Making his first start over jumps after 11 tries (and three victories) on the flat, Sycamore Run Farm’s Union Gen. George made his move the second time around the course under Parker Hendriks, took the lead in a cavalry charge over the final fence, and was in an all-out drive to score by a neck over Maranto Manor’s Auction Kingdom in a race for runners who had previously started for a claiming tag of $20,000 or less.

Kathy Neilson trained the winner, a five-year-old son on Union Rags. The second and third-place finishers are also newcomers to steeplechase racing. Auction Kingdom, a son of Animal Kingdom trained by Neil Morris and ridden by Graham Watters, began his career over the summer at Colonial Downs. He finished two lengths ahead of South Branch Equine’s Casamo, who made his NSA debut at Shawan Downs two weeks ago.

Union Gen. George ridden by Parker Hendriks leaping a fence ahead of the competition; Photo by Tod Marks

Sheppard-bred Lap of the Gods gives Hendriks his first training victory

On a week that a memorial was held in honor of training legend Jonathan Sheppard, a horse that the late Hall of Fame conditioner bred made his first trip to the winner’s circle after three years and a dozen starts.

Owned by Stewart Strawbridge, whose father, George, teamed up with Sheppard to campaign several champions and multiple stakes winners, Lap of the Gods was third at the final fence and made up ground in the stretch to get up in time to defeat Bon Nouvel Chasers Ya Boy Ya by a length in the $20,000 James P. McCormick maiden timber.

The winner, a six-year-old Pennsylvania-bred son of Temple City, was trained and ridden by leading 2022 jockey Parker Hendriks. It was Hendriks’ first victory as a conditioner.

Ya Boy Ya, ridden by Gerard Galligan and making his first start in two years, was second best, 11 lengths ahead of Keystone Thoroughbreds’ Hard Strike.

Lap of the Gods ridden by his trainer Parker Hendriks; Photo by Tod Marks

Fashion Line makes statement in $25,000 steeplethon

Armata Stable’s Fashion Line, a seven-year-old son of Morning Line, made it three wins in six 2023 outings with a come-from-behind victory in the Kinross Steeplethon over mixed obstacles.

Ridden by Gerard Galligan, Fashion Line gave trainer Kathy Neilson her second score on the card, uncorking a late burst after the natural brush final fence to catch the leader, Leipers Fork Steeplechasers Court Ruler (Harry Beswick). The winning margin was 1 3/4 lengths. Sheila Fisher and Northwoods Stable’s Storm Team was another three-quarters of a length behind in third.

Fashion Line ridden by Gerard Galligan, with the winning connections after the $25,00 Steeplethon; Photo by Tod Marks

Scanno takes training flat finale

After 25 starts on the flat from Gulfstream Park in Florida to Woodbine in Canada, S. Rebecca Shepherd’s Scanno made his NSA debut a winning one on the flat at 1 1/4 miles.

With Taylor Kingsley riding for trainer Liam Bourke, the six-year-old son of Bernardini dueled Elizabeth McCue’s Prince Khozan, with Gretchen Eisenberg aboard, for most of the going. Heading downhill toward the stretch, Scanno – a winner of nearly a quarter-million-dollars in his flat career — took the lead and coasted to the wire 2 3/4 lengths ahead of late-closing Clifton Down (Mikey Hamill), an Irish-bred and France-raced three-year-old making his NSA debut for Runnymoore Racing and Leslie Young.

For Scanno, the race was a prep for next weekend’s $100,000 John Forbes Memorial flat stakes at Far Hills. For Liam Bourke, who works alongside his dad, trainer David Bourke, it was the first victory under the younger Bourke’s name.

Scanno ridden by Taylor Kinglsey, getting walked by trainer Liam Bourke’s father, David Bourke; Photo by Tod Marks