05/14/2016 7:38PM

Rawnaq holds on by neck in Grade 1 Iroquois Steeplechase

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Rawnaq, closely hounded by Irish import Nichols Canyon throughout much of three-mile Calvin Houghland Iroquois Steeplechase, put away that rival and then withstood a stretch challenge from Nichols Canyon’s stablemate Shaneshill to narrowly prevail in the first Grade 1 stakes of the National Steeplechase Association season Saturday at Percy Warner Park in Nashville, Tenn.
By winning the $200,000 stakes by a neck, Rawnaq is eligible to shoot for a $500,000 bonus if he can go to the United Kingdom next March and win the Grade 1 Ryanair World Hurdle.
It was the second stakes win on the program for owner Irv Naylor and trainer Cyril Murphy, who have dominated early season races on the NSA circuit.
The 9-year-old Rawnaq, an Irish-bred son of Azamour ridden by Jack Doyle, ran the three-mile distance over firm turf in 5:42.40. He won his first start of the year by 15 lengths in last month’s Grade 3 Temple Gwathmey.
Shaneshill, who looked like the lesser of two horses sent from Europe by champion jumps trainer Willie Mullins, made a big move after clearing the last of 18 fences, but just came up short at the finish. It was another three lengths back in third to Nichols Canyon, a six-time Grade 1 winner in Europe who was a close second to Rawnaq for much of the race.
In the undercard stakes:
Tempt Me Alex, a 7-year-old who won over the course in 2014 and was second by a nose locally last spring, won the $75,000 Marcus Frost for novices going 2 1/4 miles. Tempt Me Alex was ridden by Jack Doyle for trainer Elizabeth Voss.
The 8-year-old mare One Lucky Lady continued the early-season success of Naylor and Murphy when she captured the $50,000 Margaret Currey Henley for fillies and mares going 2 1/4 miles. In four starts since coming to the United States from England last fall, One Lucky Lady has collected three wins and a close second.
The Nephew, an 8-year-old trying a timber race for the first time four weeks after failing to finish the course in a maiden race over hurdles, won the $50,000 Mason Houghland Memorial Timber Stakes over 3 miles.