Iroquois Steeplechase

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Article by Nancy Brannon; photos by Nancy and Tommy Brannon

The 81st running of the Iroquois Steeplechase, at Percy Warner Park in Nashville, Tenn., was back on its regular date this year: the second Saturday in May (14th), 2022. But plenty of sun and temperatures around 90°F made racing a bit more difficult for the horses. The turf course was in excellent condition, maintained immaculately by Dwight Hall and his crew.

The main race of the day, the Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr 1) was moved up to the fourth race and race meet ended with the sixth race, the Mason Houghland Memorial Timber race. Both were the longest races of the day at three miles.

This year’s Iroquois winner was also last year’s winner: Snap Decision, trained by Jack Fisher with Graham Watters the jockey. Nicky Henderson-trained Pistol Whipped (IRE), ridden by Nicolai De Boinville, had led from the start of the race, and Snap Decision ran a close second to him most of the way. At the 13th jump, Watters made his move with Snap Decision, overtook Pistol Whipped, and was leading by six lengths coming to the last fence. He finished by seven lengths ahead of the pack. That left De Boinville riding the second placed horse (Pistol Whipped) and the Cyril Murphy-trained Amschel (GB), ridden by Barry Foley, was third [Amschel was second to Snap Decision in 2021].

At the winner’s area, trainer Jack Fisher, jockey Graham Watters, and the owners at Bruton Street-US all termed Snap Decision their “horse of a lifetime.” Jack Fisher “had a plan and the jockey executed it perfectly.” Watters said he rode the horse a little more forward this year than last and he challenged Pistol Whipped all the way.

“He was tired at the end; 16 fences going three miles in 90-degree heat with all this humidity,” Watters said. “He was tired, but less tired than those behind him.” Snap Decision won a $90,000 purse for his efforts.

Local owners Leiper’s Fork Steeplechasers got off to a winning start at this year’s Iroquois, as their horse Fast Vision, trained by Leslie Young and ridden by Harrison Beswick, won a $15,000 purse in the first race, The Bright Hour, by 7½ lengths.

Jack Fisher-trained and Bruton Street-US’ entry Proven Innocent gave Fisher his first win of the day in the second race, The George Sloan and John Sloan Maiden Hurdle, taking a $24,000 purse, with the owner’s son, Connor Hankin in the irons. Graham Watters’ mount Bickley, another Jack Fisher-trained horse, owned by Mrs. S.K. Johnson, Jr., was second.

Following the second race, the Stick Horse flat race drew enough young competitors to fill three heats. Lots of parents and photographers crowded the finish line to snap photos of the determined racers.

In the third race, The $75,000 Green Pastures Novice Hurdle, Irvin Naylor’s Irish-bred six-year-old Scorpion’s Revenge, trained by Cyril Murphy and ridden by Barry Foley, was not only the Best Turned Out horse in this race, but also the winner of a $45,000 purse for first place.

Following the fourth race, the Iroquois, it was time for the females to take the course in The Margaret Currey Henley Filly & Mare Hurdle. Down Royal won the race for trainer Kate Dalton and husband- jockey Bernard Dalton. This win marked Dalton’s 100th victory in his 18-year National Steeplechase Association career. Called “Princess” at the barn, she won three of four starts last year and was a solid second to The Mean Queen in last year’s Margaret Currey Henley Filly & Mare Stakes.

Following the mares and before the Timber race, Charles Montgomery, MFH, Huntsman and Whippers-In paraded the Mells Foxhounds down the course and in front of the 25,000 spectators. The parade of foxhounds before the final race is a tradition that dates to the early days of the Iroquois. The first Iroquois Steeplechase races were run in 1941 under the supervision of founder Mason Houghland, who was Master of the Hillsboro Hounds. The Hillsboro Hounds took the spotlight for many decades, followed in recent years by the Longreen Foxhounds, and now with the Mells Foxhounds.

The Mason Houghland Memorial Timber race was the last race of the day and, in more than the others, the heat seemed to take its toll on the horses. Winner Monbeg Stream skipped the winning photos to get extra time being cooled off by veterinarians and volunteers. The pace setter, Chosen Mate, fell at the 15th fence, but was not injured, and Notjudginjustsayin and Western Crusader pulled up. The course was run on a new timber course, installed earlier this year and donated by Leiper’s Fork Steeplechasers owners, Mark George and Mark McMillan, in honor of his father Brown McMillan, who was a long-time supporter of the Iroquois Steeplechase. The new timber course features new posts and rails that are safer for horses and riders.

Race results:
First Race:The $25,000 Bright Hour Hurdle: (2¾ miles over National Fences) 1. Fast Vision, 2. Shaka, 3. Queens Empire 
Second Race: The $40,000 George Sloan and John Sloan Maiden Hurdle: (2¼ miles over National Fences) 1. Proven Innocent, 2. Bickley, 3, Caughtmeoncamera
Third Race:The $75,000 Green Pastures Novice Hurdle: (2¼ miles over National Fences) 1. Scorpion's Revenge, 2. Decisive Triumph, 3. Going Country
Fourth Race: The $150,000 Calvin Houghland Iroquois: (3 miles over National Fences)1. Snap Decision, 2. Pistol Whipped, 3. Amschel, 4. Moscato
Fifth Race:The $50,000 Margaret Currey Henley Filly & Mare Hurdle: (2¼ miles over National Fences) 1. Down Royal, 2. Burn The Evidence, 3. Kicking Myself
Sixth Race:The $20,000 Mason Houghland Memorial Timber: (3 miles over Timber) 1. Monbeg Stream, 2. Elusive Exclusive, 3. Motivational 

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