Rawnaq Eyes Transatlantic Bonus


Rawnaq and Ruby Walsh | Sarah Andrew

Irvin S. Naylor’s Rawnaq (Ire) {Azamour {Ire}) has won his three starts over fences this year, banked $360,000, and is a virtual shoo-in for this year’s Eclipse Award as champion steeplechase horse.

Two of his wins have been in the year’s richest and toughest races, the GI $200,000 Calvin Houghland Iroquois in Nashville last May and last Saturday’s GI $350,000 Grand National at the Far Hills Races in New Jersey.

He is all but assured the National Steeplechase Association earnings title with an advantage of more than $140,000 over his closest competitor, Grand National second finisher Scorpiancer (Ire) {Scorpion {Ire}).

Under other circumstances, the 2015 import might be entitled to a turnout at Naylor’s Maryland farm. But the 9-year-old has more work ahead.

The ultimate goal lies across the Atlantic Ocean at storied Cheltenham Race Course on Mar. 16 for the G1 Ryanair World Hurdle. Brown Advisory, with offices in both the U.S. and UK, has offered a $500,000 bonus to any horse that can win the World Hurdle and Iroquois, both three-mile races, in the same 12-month period.

Immediately after Rawnaq’s hard-fought victory in the Iroquois, Naylor accepted the Brown Advisory Cheltenham-Iroquois Challenge.

Shortly after Rawnaq’s three-quarter-length victory in the Grand National, trainer Cyril Murphy indicated that he and Naylor were considering two starts before the World Hurdle, and the first will be the GI $150,000 Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup in Camden, S.C., on Nov. 19.

Rawnaq, who was third to stable mate Dawalan (Fr) {Azamour {Ire}) in last year’s Grand National, finished second to the eventual Eclipse Award winner in the Colonial Cup, which is run on the final day of the American jumps season. Murphy said he was uncertain when or where Rawnaq’s start after the Colonial Cup will be, but it will not be in a U.S. jump race. The American season begins late in March.

Also heading to the Colonial Cup is Robert Aplin’s Sharp Rise {Croco Rouge {Ire}). Trained by Charlie Longsdon, Sharp Rise finished third in the Grand National.

The presence of Sharp Rise and a second invader, Days of Heaven (Fr) {Saint des Saints {Fr}), in the Grand National field and legendary Irish jump jockey Ruby Walsh aboard Rawnaq garnered international attention for the race and the race meet.

Walsh, the 10-time Irish champion jump jockey, said in an interview that he was impressed by the scene at Far Hills and believed the idea of opening the infield of summer race courses for picnics and family outings might be worth considering.

He took over the mount on Rawnaq after regular jockey Jack Doyle was injured in a Belmont Park fall in September. Doyle attended the Far Hills meet and shared warm words with Walsh after Rawnaq’s victory.

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