Fappa Fire might be a relative newcomer to timber racing, but already he has an impressive victory on his resume.
The 10-year-old gelding out-dueled a strong Jack Fisher-trained entry through the stretch to score narrowly yesterday in the 97th running of the $30,000 My Lady's Manor steeplechase at Monkton.
Then, Fappa Fire and rider Blake Curry survived another threat - a foul claim by Fisher, who was aboard third-place finisher Mr. Bombastic, for alleged interference through the lane. The stewards disallowed it after viewing the replay of the race.
Fisher-trained Bubble Economy, with jockey Diana Gillam, finished second in a three-horse battle to the finish, little more than a neck behind the winner.
"He has more heart than any horse I've ever sat on," said Curry, who acknowledged that he "drifted a little bit to the left" during the drive. "But it wasn't enough for a foul."
Owned by four families, including Curry's, which constitute Pack Up Stable, Fappa Fire was a flat racer stabled at Pimlico Race Course when he caught the jockey's fancy after several gallops together.
"Blake was wild about him," said winning trainer Alicia Murphy. "He liked his power. He's a really powerful horse, rugged."
"He ran like a grass horse and was built like one who could jump, so I took a chance," Curry said.
The victor had to be powerful to overcome the Fisher entry, both sides of which have solid timber credentials.
"He handles the geography here, really likes the hills," Curry said. "We came around to the last [fence] and I asked him for a big one [jump] and he gave it to me. I knew it was going to be close."
Fappa Fire had a decent, though not outstanding, career in flat racing, before he was turned into a hurdles competitor. He has been on the timber scene little more than a year, making his first start at Howard County last spring.
Royal's Quest set nearly all the pace in the My Lady's with Rosbrian on his heels. Rosbrian fell at the 12th fence, the third entry in the race to undergo a spill, before both halves of the Fisher entry made their moves. At the end, Fappa Fire came flying on the outside to pass both.
In the secondary feature, the $15,000 John Rush Streett Memorial, rider-trainer Billy Meister and Mr. Liberator had everything their way, leading virtually wire-to-wire in what turned into an easy win.
"It was his first sanctioned race," Meister said. "That's pretty neat."
After taking a fall during the race, jockey Darren Nagle was taken via helicopter to a hospital for precautionary reasons. He was walking, and his injuries were not believed to be serious.