When Rawnaq won the $200,000 Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1) last May, he not only notched his first Grade 1 success by edging out Irish invaders Shaneshill and Nichols Canyon, but he also catapulted himself toward the 2016 Eclipse Award by qualifying to run for the $500,000 Brown Advisory Iroquois Cheltenham Challenge.
But Rawnaq’s training injury in January has effectively eliminated him from the competition, meaning the winner of the Grade 1 Sun Bets Stayers Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival on March 16 will now be qualified to run for the half million-dollar bonus at Nashville’s Iroquois Steeplechase on May 13.
The terms of the Challenge are simple: Win the Stayers Hurdle race at the Cheltenham Festival in England in March and the Iroquois Hurdle Stakes in Nashville in May, or vice versa, within a 12-month time span and win a $500,000 bonus. With combined purses and bonus, a horse completing the Challenge could earn close to $1 million.
Launched in 2016 to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Iroquois Steeplechase and sponsored with great success by Brown Advisory, which continues to be an important sponsor at Nashville and other race meets in America, the Challenge is an effort to re-establish the historical transatlantic racing rivalry. Building upon the momentum, private equity firm TVV Capital of Nashville, Tennessee, has agreed to carry the banner as presenting sponsor for 2017.
“The Challenge is a tremendous thing for international jump racing, and as horse owners we’re looking forward to having an opportunity to pursue it ourselves whilst continuing to support both the Cheltenham Festival and Iroquois Steeplechase,” said Brown Advisory CEO Mike Hankin.
TVV Capital Founder and President Andrew Byrd says the Challenge has elevated the sport across borders and continents in a way that truly connects Irish and UK racing with the best of American steeplechasing.
“That historical connection is strong, as is our longstanding relationship with the Iroquois, and so we are very pleased to announce the TVV Capital Iroquois Cheltenham Challenge,” Byrd said. “We wish to thank Mike Hankin and Brown Advisory, who first introduced us to the Cheltenham Festival and without whom the Challenge would have been impossible.”
TVV Capital is a Nashville-based private equity firm that acquires and grows businesses in the manufacturing, distribution and service industries across the Eastern United States. The hallmarks of TVV Capital companies are strong management teams, consistent profitability, a defensible market niche, and an identifiable growth path, either through organic, internal growth or through acquisition.
Iroquois Chairman Dwight Hall, who also serves on the Board of Directors for the National Steeplechase Association, sees the Challenge as an opportunity to showcase the best of jump racing in the United States.
“The Iroquois last year was a race for the ages, and we fully anticipate the top trainers in Europe entering their best horses again here in May,” said Hall. “Our intent was to reignite that overseas rivalry, and I believe we succeeded in doing that. They’ve seen how our tracks run and they have experienced our hospitality, and we expect the word to spread.”