Rawnaq looks to pad championship credentials in Colonial Cup
Placed behind eventual champion Dawalan in the 2015 editions of the Grand National and Colonial Cup, Rawnaq has risen to the top of the class this term. Kicking off the season with a 15-length romp in the Temple Gwathmey (G3) at Middleburg, Virginia, the Cyril Murphy-trained gelding next led flag-to-finish in the three-mile Iroquois (G1) in Nashville, scoring by a neck.
Returning in the October 15 Grand National off a five-month break, Rawnaq led nearly the entire 2 5/8 miles, holding off a late challenge from Scorpiancer by three parts of a length under jump jockey legend Ruby Walsh. Sean McDermott, who rode Rawnaq in last year's Colonial Cup, takes over the reins Saturday.
Following the Colonial Cup, Rawnaq will begin preparing for the March 16 Ryanair World Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. By winning the Iroquois in May, Rawnaq became eligible for a $500,000 bonus if he could also win the Ryanair Hurdle within 12 months.
Looking to soften up Rawnaq on the front end is the speedy Portrade, who led throughout in taking the New York Turf Writers Cup (G1) at Saratoga in August. The Elizabeth Voss charge also flashed early zip in the Zeke Ferguson Memorial (G2) last time, but wilted to third behind Top Striker.
Jamarjo, runner-up to Scorpiancer in the Lonesome Glory (G1) at Belmont Park last time in his stakes debut, has never been out of the money in 11 tries over hurdles and will sport the same Irv Naylor silks as Rawnaq. Naylor will also be represented by Charminster, who won a Grade 2 earlier in the year and also placed in the National Hunt Cup (G3), Lonesome Glory, and Ferguson Memorial.