One win was not enough for Michael Mitchell, so he got a second. Then he got a third, winning half of the events at the 89th Radnor Hunt Races in Malvern on Saturday.
Mitchell got the day started by finishing first in the opening event, the Milfern Cup. Prayer Hope, owned by DASH Stable and ridden by Mitchell, won the $30,000 purse in dramatic fashion. Such was the case for Mitchell throughout the day. Brianbakescookies led for most of the race before falling behind in the final lap, giving Prayer Hope the win.
“There were good horses today," Mitchell said. "You always hope for a good day. I think the big positive was that the track dried out, so it kind of helped my horses. ... You never go into it thinking you’re going to [win] three. But they all worked out.”
The weather for the race was the exact opposite of last year’s rain and mud, as the sun glared down on the W. Burling Cocks Memorial Racecourse for most of the afternoon.
In the James M. Moran Jr. Steeplechase, Mitchell led Av A Word to a $20,000 win. It was the first time he rode the horse, owned by Irvin S. Taylor. Barry Foley was the jockey before a change was announced before the races started.
“I never knew anything about the horse, just from replays and previous form,” Mitchell said. "That was a nice surprise. He ran great. The third horse, he’s been consistent so I expected him to run a good race.”
Mitchell’s final victory came in the day’s last race. He led Brooklyn Speights, owned by Turks Head Turf, to victory in the Henry Collins Steeplechase, a $20,000 purse.
In the Radnor Hunt Cup, Pured It came in with 20-1 odds, while Le Chevalier was the favorite at 4-1. In a surprise, jockey Eddie Keating led second-least favored Pured It to win the $35,000 purse. Owned by Sycamore Run Farm and Move-Up Stables, Pured It took the lead from the start and didn’t let up.
Keating said that the odds against him didn’t matter. It was “the heart” that Pured It showed that got them across the line first.
“We knew he didn’t have the speed to go with the [other horses], so we went out in front and tried to grind it out," he said. "If it was a sprint, a head-to-head, the other horses would have been a bit more fast. But he had the heart. He found another gear. He wanted to go. Some horses just give up. He didn’t give up. He’s definitely one of the tough ones.”
Le Chevalier, owned by Michael A. Smith and ridden by Kieran Norris, fell behind early and stayed in the back until its last-ditch effort fell short.
“We went slow at the start, then he picked up as we moved along,” Norris said. “The other jockey [Mitchell] made an error moving down the backside toward the bottom of the hill, which I thought was premature. … I said, ‘Well I’m going to take him now’ because I thought he moved too soon. I got a little bit faster, but he followed me down the wire.”
Maccabee had never raced in a competition as far as the Thompson Memorial Steeplechase. It had never taken a right turn in a race, either. So, naturally, jockey Richard Boucher changed that.
Maccabee, owned by Mason Hardaway Lampton, won the 2⅜-mile course and took the $30,000 purse that went with it.
It was not easy, though, as Kensington Court led for the first two laps, with Stormy Alex closing in on second for most of the race. Boucher closed the gap in the final circle after spending most of his time toward the back of the group.
“I started off in the back, and the pace wasn’t much in the front end,” Boucher said. “Going down the hill, he actually just started dragging me. I just couldn’t hold him. I was like ‘This is no good.’ This is the furthest he’s gone. But, he settled. We got a breather, and he ran on down the hill and got into second. I felt like I had enough left in the tank to get home, so I just waited, to be honest. You just get them to relax and get into the rhythm of running and breathing. They have to breathe the same as you and me, you know? He was a lot stronger today than he had been before. … He doesn’t give up.”
Lampton credited the difference in Maccabee, who “doesn’t significantly stand out,” as the reason he won.
Rider Willie McCarthy led Corky Lemon to the other $35,000 purse in the National Hunt Cup. The horse is owned by Heather Austin and Peter Austin.
Proceeds of the event benefit the Brandywine Conservancy.