Rawnaq holds off Shaneshill to claim Iroquois

Profile Picture: Vance Hanson

May 14th, 2016

Rawnaq shook off two European invaders trained by Willie Mullins, first Nichols Canyon and finally Shaneshill, to score a narrow victory in Saturday's $200,000 Calvin Houghland Iroquois (NSA-G1) hurdle at Percy Warner Park, the first top-level jump event of the 2016 season.

On a beautiful sunny day in Nashville, Tennessee, Rawnaq tussled with Nichols Canyon on or near the front end for the better part of the three-mile journey. After shaking loose from that rival with a couple of fences to go, the nine-year-old Azamour gelding gamely held off a late surge from Shaneshill by a neck to register his first Grade 1 win in the U.S.

Owned by Irv Naylor, trained by Cyril Murphy, and ridden by Jack Doyle, Rawnaq covered the good course in 5:42 2/5.

"He was in the form of his life coming in...we got what we deserved, I think," Murphy said.

Imported from Ireland late last summer, Rawnaq finished second to stablemate and eventual divisional champion Dawalan in both the Grand National (NSA-G1) and Colonial Cup (NSA-G1) in his final two starts of the year. He kicked off this season on April 23 with a 15-length score in the Temple Gwathmey (NSA-G3) at Middleburg, Virginia.

Murphy said it was unlikely Rawnaq would race this summer, with the Grand National at Far Hills, New Jersey, in October the primary goal for this season.

By winning the Iroquois, Rawnaq became eligible for a $500,000 bonus should he also win the Ryanair World Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in England next March.

(Jamie Newell/