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Red-hot day for top jocks at Legacy Chase

Robert Eldredge wasn't about to let a broiling sun and temperatures rising into the mid 80s keep him from attending the 17th Legacy Chase at Shawan Downs on Saturday.

Eldredge, 88, who worked for Maryland Horse magazine for more than two decades, was perched on a hill on the 300-acre site protected by an umbrella to give him some shade.

Despite the heat, he and thousands of other fans were treated to an assortment of exciting races with top riders Jack Doyle, Darren Nagle and Mark Beecher boasting strong performances.

Doyle started strong with wins in a pair of 2-mile hurdles and completed his day with a triumph in the 1 3/8-mile flat race on First Friday, Aflutter and Lyonell, respectively.

Nagle won back-to-back outings on Second Amendment on an 11-jump, 2-mile hurdle handicap and then passed Beecher on Cornhusker near the finish line in the 3 1/8-mile Brown Advisory Legacy Chase timber race aboard Rodriguez in 6:51.1/5.

The 17-jump Legacy Chase win even surprised Rodriguez owners Jack Griswold and George Tydings, who said they had never seen the Irish-bred 10-year-old close with such authority.

"It was a whoosh," said Tydings. "It was like he was stung by bees."

There had to be some motivation, considering that at one point Rodriguez's rival, Cornhusker, owned at least a 25-length advantage.

"We were thinking (Cornhusker) was going to fade," Griswold said. "But we've never seen our horse do anything like that before. Darren just had a brilliant ride. It was absolutely perfect."

Losing a huge lead like that did not deter the accomplished Beecher, the 2015 Maryland Hunt Cup champ, because he tried — and prevailed — by using the same tactic in the following event, a maiden 31/8-timber race aboard Where's The Beef.

Beecher managed to build another significant gap between his horse and the rest of the field before falling briefly behind.

He then regained the lead and held on to win in 6:44.1/5, edging Kieran Norris on Enuff Alex and Shane Crimin on Only Charity.

Where's The Beef trainer Ivan Dowling said his confidence in Beecher's ability runs deep.

"I have the utmost trust in Mark," Dowling said. "He's an expert horseman who, above all else, takes care of the horse. I wasn't worried that he had such a big lead, but I was worried that I hadn't trained him well enough."

Beecher said his decision to bolt to the front, fall slightly behind and then retake the leading position was due to Where's The Beef's makeup.

"He likes to gallop," Beecher said. "So I thought's I'd let him gallop and then use it. I let him fall behind just to fill his lungs for the (final push)."

Legacy Chase spokesman Charlie Fenwick, who noted that the event raised funds earmarked for the Sandra and Malcolm Berman Cancer Institute at Greater Baltimore Medical Center in Towson, said that the weather "could have been a little cooler," but that it shouldn't have a negative effect on the participants.

"All in all," he said. "It's a great day for GBMC in terms of sponsorships and support."

And support is something cancer survivors, such as Jacqueline Bell, 52, has received from GBMC since being diagnosed with cancer two years ago.

She said her treatment from GBMC caregivers has been "awesome," as she mingled with friends and family in the Survivors Tent.

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