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Digest (April 13): Mystic Strike surges to victory in My Lady's Manor steeplechase race

Digest (April 13): Mystic Strike surges to victory in My Lady's Manor steeplechase race
Left to right, Mark Beecher on Mystic Strike, Eric Poretz on Witor and Bethany Baumgardner on Grand Manan jump over timber during the 109th My Lady's Manor Steeplechase race. Beecher rode Mystic Strike to a first-place finish. (Kim Hairston / Baltimore Sun)

Mark Beecher, a Fallston-based amateur jockey, took the inside trip with Upland Partners’ Mystic Strike in Saturday’s $50,000 My Lady’s Manor, surged to the lead at the final fence, and held off a hard-charging Witor to win Saturday’s 109th running of the Maryland timber classic.

Bruton Street-US’s Lemony Bay finished third on a sunny, pleasantly warm afternoon in Monkton. The 3-mile My Lady’s Manor is the first jewel of the Maryland Timber Triple Crown, followed by the Grand National next Saturday in Butler and the Maryland Hunt Cup on April 27 in Glyndon.

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As expected, Armata Stables’ Grand Manan went right to the lead at the start, with reigning timber champion Doc Cebu tracking his pace through the first 1 1/2 miles. When Grand Manan began to falter, Doc Cebu went to the lead under Hadden Frost and jumped well through the middle portion of the race.

Beecher placed Mystic Strike close behind the leaders in the early going and kept to the inside to provide his 10-year-old mount with the shortest path around the Monkton course.

Approaching the final fences, Mystic Strike was well inside as Doc Cebu led the way ahead of Witor and Lemony Bay toward the outside of the spacious course. Beecher gave his mount a brief break and sacrificed some headway approaching the last two fences.

Doc Cebu, switched toward the inside, took out the top rail of the next-to-last fence and tossed Frost over his shoulder as he stumbled on landing. Doc Cebu hardly missed a stride and ran with the field to the next fence.

With Doc Cebu out of the chase, Blair Wyatt’s Witor took the lead under Eric Poretz, with Lemony Bay close behind him.

Mystic Strike, taking the inside path, kicked down the top rail of the last fence, never missed a stride, and fought past Witor early in the stretch run. Witor continued to battle to the finish line but could not gain any ground. The German-bred finished second by 1 1/4 lengths, and Lemony Bay was third, 12 1/2 lengths farther back.

Mystic Strike ran the 3-mile distance in 6:18 2/5 on turf rated as good. A foul claim by Poretz against Mystic Strike and Beecher was disallowed.

A Florida-bred Smart Strike gelding trained by Todd McKenna, Mystic Strike secured his first victory since having his number put up in the 2017 Radnor Hunt Cup in Pennsylvania. He had finished a distant third in last year’s My Lady’s Manor.

Doc Cebu, a former Maryland-circuit claimer who was bought cheaply in 2015 as a steeplechase prospect, is owned by Baltimore-area residents Charles Fenwick Jr., Michael Hankin, and Charles Noell. He won the National Steeplechase Association’s timber championship in 2017 and again last year.

More horse racing: Runnymede Racing’s Alwaysmining, who extended his win streak to five races with his fourth consecutive stakes triumph last month, heads a list of 15 sophomores nominated to the $125,000 Xpressbet Federico Tesio on April 20 at Laurel Park.

The 38th running of the 1 1/8-mile Tesio for 3-year-olds, and the fourth renewal of the $125,000 Weber City Miss for 3-year-old fillies are among seven stakes worth $750,000 in purses on the Spring Stakes Spectacular program which highlights Laurel’s 19-day spring meet.

For the fourth straight year, the Tesio will serve as a win-and-in race for Triple Crown-nominated 3-year-olds to the 144th Preakness Stakes (G1) on May 18, while the Weber City Miss is a ‘Win and In’ event for the 95th Black-Eyed Susan (G2) May 17, both at legendary Pimlico Race Course.

Alwaysmining, trained by Kelly Rubley, has been a front-running winner during each race of his streak, capped by a 6 ¾-length score in his two-turn debut in the Private Terms Stakes March 16 at Laurel, where he is six-for-eight lifetime. His other stakes wins have come in the Maryland Juvenile Futurity and Heft at 2 and the Miracle Wood to open his sophomore campaign.

Minor league baseball: Three third-inning home runs helped the Harrisburg Senators clinch the four-game series against the Bowie Baysox with a 10-4 win in front of an announced 3,247 at Prince George's Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

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For the second straight contest, Drew Ward launched a third-inning grand slam to put Harrisburg up 4-0 in the third inning. After Baysox starter Dillon Tate was lifted from the game, Rhett Wiseman and Zach Collier each hit a two-run home run to give the visitors an 8-0 lead.

Bowie and Harrisburg conclude their four-game series today at 1:35 p.m. LHP Zac Lowther aims for his second straight win over the Senators to open his Double-A tenure against Harrisburg LHP Ben Kraymer.

Today is also Kids' Opening Day at the ballpark. Futures Club members who purchased advance tickets can participate in a stadium-wide Easter egg hunt.

College administration: UMBC promoted Jessica Hammond-Graf to deputy athletics director, while retaining her position as senior woman administrator. Hammond-Graf has been a member of the Retrievers’ athletics staff since 2003. She recently received UMBC’s Jakubik Family Endowment Staff Award, which recognizes staff contributions toward the success of UMBC students.

In addition, Abbie Day, the department’s asistant athletics director for academic services, has been appointed as a member of the NCAA Division I Men's and Women's Track and Field and Cross Country Committee.

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