73rd Running of the Iroquois

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By Nancy Brannon

The second Saturday in May is traditionally reserved for the Iroquois Steeplechase. On May 10, 2014 the Saturday before Mother’s Day, Percy Warner Park in Nashville, TN was once again filled with top steeplechase horses, Nashville’s elite, and thousands of partying race fans for a fun afternoon of races. The last race of the day is the most anticipated: the Calvin Houghland Iroquois. Rain came early in the day, but soon exited the Nashville area, leaving a sunny, warm day for the afternoon’s activities.

It was a great afternoon for jockey Willie McCarthy, who racked up his third win of the day in the Iroquois on Divine Fortune. Co-owned by William Pape and Jonathan Sheppard and trained by Sheppard, the Pennsylvania-bred, 11-year-old Thoroughbred led the $150,000 Grade I Stakes race from wire to wire. It was the second consecutive Grade I Stakes victory for Divine Fortune.

The race was almost a repeat of last year’s, with Divine Fortune leading the way throughout the 3-mile race, only last year, he was upset at the wire by Demonstrative. This year Demonstrative ran toward the back of the nine-horse field, but jockey Robert Walsh pulled him up and he didn’t finish the race.

This year Divine Fortune led all the way across the finish line, beating second place Gustavian, who had run second for most of the race, by 3 ¼ lengths. For Non Stop was third, and Pierrot Lunaire, the 2009 Iroquois winner, finished fourth.

McCarthy said he was able to set the pace early, yet still have a little extra toward the finish. “For an 11-year-old horse to put in a performance like this against the best horses in the country was breathtaking!” McCarthy said. “He doesn't pull, doesn’t do anything wrong,” McCarthy continued. “You just sit on him and it has to be all positivity.”

In the Mason Houghland Memorial Timber Stakes, Tax Ruling, the 2010 and 2011 winner, let for most of the race, but was upset near the finish by Cornhusker, who took the win by six lengths. Ridden by jockey Mark Beecher, Cornhusker also won the Middleburg Hunt Cup open timber race on April 19.

Tax Ruling made a successful transition to timber in 2013, finishing second in the Mason Houghland Memorial at the Iroquois last year and then winning a Fair Hill timber allowance two weeks later. He finished fourth in 2012 Calvin Houghland Iroquois while seeking third straight win.

Nationbuilder, in his new career over timber, placed third. Also trained by Jonathan Sheppard and owned by William Pape, he was the third place finisher in the 2011 and 2012 Iroquois. He won the timber race at last year’s Carolina Cup.

Willie McCarthy racked up his second win of the day on Mystery Jack in the George Sloan and John Sloan Sr. Sport of Kings Maiden Hurdle. There were some moments of concern about the horse, as he was trailered back to the barn from the finish line. Dr. Monty McInturff of Tennessee Equine Hospital said the horse had overheated a bit and had a slight fetlock injury. “Since they walk the horses to cool them down, we decided it was best to trailer him back to the barn so he didn’t have to walk back on his sore ankle. He responded nicely to treatment and cooled down at the barn. He’s making a full recovery.”

The $50,000 Margaret Currey Henley Sport of Kings Stakes is the “ladies race,” open to fillies and mares four years old and upward. Irv Naylor’s Bittersweetheart scored a significant victory when she bested a field of stakes winners. With champion jockey Paddy Young riding for his wife, trainer Leslie Young, the seven-year-old mare took command on the final turn and won by 1 1/2 lengths.

Arcadia Stable’s Take Her Tothe Top finished second, followed by Arcadia’s Opera Heroine in third place. Both are trained by current leading trainer Jack Fisher. Kisser N Run, the reigning Life’s Illusion Filly & Mare champion, finished fourth in a full field of 11.

In the $75,000 Marcellus Frost Novice Stakes, Pleasant Woodman set the pace and turned back a challenge from Rudyard K to win the race by a neck. Pleasant Woodman displayed his high cruising speed to deliver the victory for Nashville resident Virginia Lazenby and Farm D’Allie Racing Stables. Trained by Doug Fout and ridden by Gerard Galligan, he completed the 2 1/4 miles in 4:12.60 on firm turf. Edith Dixon’s Schoodic with Paddy Young up, who previously had been undefeated over fences, finished third.

In the $35,000 Bright Hour Stakes, Robert A. Kinsey’s Tempt Me Alex overtook Easy Reach at the final fence of and won by 4 1/2 lengths. Elizabeth Voss Murray, who took over training duties after the January death of her father, Maryland horseman Tom Voss, collected her first stakes victory.

Trainer Jonathan Sheppard secured his first win of the afternoon in the only flat race of the day, the $15,000 Guilford Dudley, Jr. Memorial, 1 ½ miles on the turf. Winner Codrington College is owned by Hudson River Farms and ridden by Bernard Dalton. Named after the Theological College on the island of Barbados, the four-year-old chestnut gelding is by the Duke of Marmalade, out of AP Easy.

Other Iroquois Features

The traditional Parade of Hounds sets the stage for the Iroquois. Once again this year, Susan Walker, MFH-huntsman, kept the Longreen Foxhounds in synchronized pace as they paraded before the grandstand.

Also traditional at the Iroquois is the hat contest, with many elaborate entries. The winners of the Hat Contest were announced by Nancy Floyd, Nashville’s nFocus magazine editor. 

Another tradition is the Stick Horse Races, where cuteness and speed are a winning combination. The three Stick Horse Races, divided by age category, for children ages 3 – 10, were sponsored by WSM FM 95.5 and Phillips Toy Mart, which donated the stick horses to the competitors.

Prior to each race as the horses are paraded in the “paddock,” one of the field is chosen as “Best Turned Out.”


Since 1981, Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt has been the official charity of the Iroquois Steeplechase and has received almost $10 million from the event’s proceeds.

Full Results:
Calvin Houghland Iroquois Grade I Hurdle Stakes: 1. Divine Fortune 2. Gustavian 3. For Non Stop 4. Pierrot Lunaire
Mason Houghland Memorial Timber Stakes:1. Cornhusker 2. Tax Ruling 3. Nationbuilder (only three horses finished).
George Sloan and John Sloan Sr. Sport of Kings Maiden Hurdle: 1. Mystery Jack 2. Dreamin Fool 3. Overwhelming  4. King Of All Diamonds
Margaret Currey Henley Sport of Kings Filly and Mare Hurdle Stakes: 1. Bittersweetheart 2. Take Her To The Top 3. Opera Heroine  4. Kisser N Run
Marcellus Frost Sport of Kings Novice Hurdle Stakes:1. Pleasant Woodman 2. Rudyard K 3. Schoodic 4. Run To Class
Bright Hour Highweight Hurdle Handicap Stakes:1. Tempt Me Alex 2. Easy Reach 3. Sporty  4. Broxbourne
Guilford Dudley Jr. Memorial Flat Race: 1. Cordington College 2. Gun Point 3. Saint Nicholas  4. Azulyekit
More about the Iroquois Steeplechase at the website: http://iroquoissteeplechase.org/ or facebook https://www.facebook.com/IroquoisSteeplechase

Photo cutlines:
DSC_2575 & 3994: The Margaret Currey Henley Sport of Kings Stakes, filly and mare stakes. Flagrant Honor (left) and Mystery Maeve (#5 right) battle for the lead early in the race, but were eventually bested by Bittersweetheart.
DSC_4000: Bittersweetheart (right) and Take Her To The Top (left) are nearly neck and neck over the last hurdle, but Arcadia Stable’s Take Her To The Top finished second.
DSC_2588: Crossing the finish line in the George Sloan and John Sloan Sr. Sport of Kings Maiden Hurdle is the winner Mystery Jack (#9)
DSC_2605: Jockey Willie McCarthy is interviewed after winning the George Sloan and John Sloan Sr. Sport of Kings Maiden Hurdle on Mystery Jack (#9)
DSC_4067: Tax Ruling led for most of the race, but over the last hurdle, Cornhusker takes the decisive lead and the win. Tax Ruling finished second.
DSC_2656: Divine Fortune has the clear lead in the Iroquois and led for the entire race.
DSC_2660: Divine Fortune (#4) crosses the finish line for victory in the Iroquois.
DSC_2670: Jockey Willie McCarthy racked up his third win in the Iroquois with Divine Fortune.
DSC_2677: (center left) William Pape and (center right) Jonathan Sheppard, also trainer of Divine Fortune, hold the Iroquois trophy, with (right) jockey Willie McCarthy.

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