Irish Prince certainly looks ready to assume the throne in timber racing.
The New Zealand-bred gelding fended off several serious challengers yesterday and climbed to the lead in money winnings among timber horses over injured Salmo by rallying to beat Bubble Economy by a little more than a length in the $25,000 Ski Roundtop Stakes at Shawan Downs.
Trainer Jack Fisher threw nearly everyone but the stable pony at Irish Prince by running four horses in the race, but settled for second, third and fourth on a gorgeous afternoon in Baltimore County.
"I thought there was going to be trouble handling all of them," said winning trainer Sanna Hendriks. "But this horse has done everything right this year."
Converted to timber competition for 2007, Irish Prince has responded by breaking his maiden in South Carolina, winning a stakes in Nashville, Tenn., and now prevailing in Maryland.
One serious Fisher entry, Mr Bombastic, set the majority of the pace in the 3-mile test over 17 fences before giving way to the closers in the final half mile. Irish Prince was content to stalk the leader although he was ahead by more than 12 lengths at one point.
Irish Prince then seized the lead with two fences remaining and fought off the rallying Bubble Economy, also trained by Fisher, down the stretch.
Winning jockey Jody Petty said he wasn't concerned when Mr Bombastic shot off to such a big advantage.
"I'm thrilled," he said. "He impressed me a lot down at Nashville, and the goal today was to get him to settle. When I saw he was doing that, I knew he'd get going. When Jack's horse [Mr Bombastic] picked it up a little bit, I didn't think he was going as good as we were, because we were relaxed."
The victory shot Irish Prince's earnings to $72,000, more than $8,000 ahead of Salmo. But the race isn't over yet with several $50,000 races remaining on the National Steeplechase Association fall schedule.
"This horse is athletic and he has speed," Hendriks said. "He'll go next to Far Hills [N.J.]."
Irish Prince's owners from Augustin Stables are now running away in the owner standings, having scored eight timber victories.