After a series of solid performances in the maiden and allowance ranks, Holwood Stable’s Road to Oz became a stakes winner on Saturday, April 23, taking the 119th running of the $30,000 Grand National, the second leg of the Maryland Timber Triple in Butler.
With Brett Owings in the saddle for trainer Mark Beecher, the 7-year-old Maryland-bred son of Quality Road bided his time early, sitting in the middle of the field of six. He began to gain ground after the 10th of 18 fences, drawing even with the leader at the 14th, and taking charge with three jumps to go in the three and a quarter-miles test. At the wire, Road to Oz was two lengths clear of Nancy Reed’s Awesome Adrian and Eric Poretz, who maintained the same advantage over the show horse, Armata Stable’s Goodoldtimes.
After making 13 starts on the flat, where he established a record of 1-2-1 in 2018 and 2019, Road to Oz was claimed by Beecher for $5,000 at Laurel Park Oct. 17, 2019. The gray gelding made a few hurdle starts in 2020, even winning a point-to-point, before making his timber debut last year.
He won first time out in the Thomas H. Voss Memorial maiden timber race, the third race on the My Lady's Manor card, before finishing third in the Middleburg Hunt Cup Stakes and sixth in the Virginia Gold Cup Stakes. Road to Oz rounded out his first timber season with a neck victory over Pocket Talk (Ire) in the allowance race at the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup in November.
Returning this March, he prepared for the Grand National at the Cheshire races in March, finishing third in an allowance there.
The newly minted stakes winner has improved his record over timber to 3-1-1 from six starts, with $43,300 earned.
Bred by Larry Johnson, Road to Oz is one of seven foals out of the Mizzen Mast mare Miz Magician, who has four winners from six starters. The mare's youngest is a 2-year-old Redesdale colt who has not started.
Grand National runner-up Awesome Adrian, also a Maryland-bred, started over hurdles as a 3-year-old in 2016 before going to the flat and winning twice, and switching to timber in 2018. He picked up a maiden win in 2019 and last year, won an allowance at the Grand National, finished second at Cheshire at third in the Buttonwood/Sycamore Farm Willowdale Steeplechase Stakes.
The Kathy Neilson trainee kicked off this season with an allowance win at Cheshire, finishing two and a quarter lengths ahead of Mercoeur (Fr).
A 9-year-old gelded son of Include, Include It is one of two foals to race for the Valley Crossing mare River Kwai. Handsome Hoyt, his full-brother, also won on the flat and over jumps.
In the day’s final race, an allowance event restricted to apprentice riders, Riverdee Stable’s Include It won over the course for the second straight year, this time under Elizabeth Scully for trainer Todd Wyatt. The victory was the third in a row for the 7-year-old Maryland bred. Include It was content to race near the back of the field early, closed the gap turning for home, but still had ground to make up heading to the final fence. After that it was clear sailing, with Include It drawing clear by about five lengths. Ballybristol Farm’s Mercoeur was second.
Bred by Fitzhugh, LLC, the gelded son of Include is one of 10 foals produced by Pissarro, a stakes-placed daughter of Empire Maker, who has five winners from six starters. The mare's last reported foal is a yearling colt by Redesdale, born last April.
Road to Oz, Awesome Adrian, Include It and Bogey's Image (third in the inaugural Grand National maiden timber) will all receive bonuses from the Maryland Horse Breeders Association, as part of the Maryland-bred steeplechase awards program established this year for registered Maryland-bred horses that finish first, second or third at the five steeplechase meets that qualify. To learn more, click here