UNIONVILLE, Pa.--Mark Beecher rode Upland Partner's Mystic Strike, trained by Todd McKenna, to win the $40,000 Pennsylvania Hunt Cup by 2 1/4 lengths over pace setting Grand Manon, owned by Armata Stables, trained by Billy Meister and ridden by Archie Macauley.
"He jumped super," said Beecher. "I know this horse now. When he gets in front, he starts to look around."
Beecher kept the 7-year-old gelding in second throughout the race behind Grand Manon, began to move up approaching the last fence, drew even and jumped the last beside Grand Manon and drew away for the win.
The stewards announced an inquiry about the first two finishers in the stretch but allowed the result to stand.
"It felt long," said Beecher of riding in the four mile Hunt Cup that drew a huge crowd on a beautiful fall day.
"They weren't planning to run him," said Beecher of Mystic Strike's connections. "I called Todd and told him to enter the horse. I told him that I knew the horse could win it. I don't ride that much any more, so I guess people believe me now when I say that."
BEECHER IS doing more training now than riding but still picks up the occasional mount.
Super Saturday, owned by Irv Naylor, trained by Kathy Neilson and ridden by Gerard Galligan was third, 4 1/2 lengths back and a neck in front of fourth placed Witor, owned by Blair Wyatt, trained by Todd Wyatt and ridden by Paul O'Neill, with It's Nothing, owned by Sally Reed, trained by Neilson and ridden by Skylar McKenna a distanced fifth.
Last year's winner, Frank Bonsal's Stand Down, trained by Joe Davies, fell at the seventh fence with Eric Poretz.
JUST WAIT AND SEE, owned by Zohar Ben-Dov's Kinross Farm, trained by Richard Valentine and ridden by Jack Doyle, won the $20,000 Arthur A Choate Jr. Memorial at 3 miles over timber, beating Naylor's El Jefe Grande, trained by Cyril Murphy and ridden by Graham Watters by 8 3/4 lengths.
Doyle did an incredible job, not only of staying on but also somehow keeping Just Wait and See from falling when he left a leg at the third fence.
"I bought this horse for Zohar in Ireland after he won the bank race at Punchestown," said Valentine. "A friend called me and told me that he might be a Maryland Hunt Cup prospect. He said he was slow but a good jumper."
"He excels at cross country races like steeplethons," said Valentine, who bought the horse in the summer of 2018.
Just Wait and See's first win in this country was in heavy rain at Willowdale Steeplechase last May.
"This was his first proper timber race," said Valentine. "Hopefully, he'll go to the Maryland Hunt Cup next spring. I'm delighted for Zohar. He's a real kind horse."
Skylar McKenna rode Charles C. Fenwick's Royal Ruse, trained by her aunt Sanna Neilson, to win the $15,000 Maiden Timber at 3 miles, beating Lucy Goelet's Forever Bernardini, trained by Alicia Murphy and ridden by Jack Doyle, by 2 3/4 lengths.
"I rode her at Genesee Valley, where she was second," said Skylar. "She jumped really well here. She's lovely to ride."
"I was mid-pack during the race and started to make my move when Mark' horse started to tire," said Skylar, referring to third placed Renegade River, trained by William Dowling and ridden by Beecher, who led through much of the race.
Morning Star Farm's Good and Proper, trained by Ricky Hendriks and ridden by Elizabeth Scully, won the Athenian Idol Amateur Apprentice Jockey Training Flat race by 2 1/2 lengths.
"IWlizabeth works for me," said Hendriks. "She also won this race at Fair hill on him this spring."