Henrietta Topham winning a stakes at Ellis Park in 2022. (Coady Photography)
By Mike Kane
FRANKLIN, Ky. — There is no doubt that Henrietta Topham is a special horse for Geoff Mulcahy. Earlier this year, she gave him his first graded-stakes win in the Mint Julep (G3) and she will be the last horse he trains.
Before he completely steps away from training to focus on his main business of breaking and prepping horses for the track, Mulcahy, 50, will handle Henrietta Topham for the rest of her career. Cambus-Kenneth Farm’s homebred 5-year-old mare will make her next start Saturday in the $1 million Castle Hill Gaming Ladies Turf Mile (G3) at the FanDuel Meet at Kentucky Downs. In this race last year, she missed third by a nose, less than two lengths behind Dalika, who edged Princess Grace by a neck.
“She’s raring to go,” Mulcahy said. “Loves the track. Ran a creditable fourth last year. Princess Grace and Dalika were probably the two top turf milers in the country last year. I thought she ran a helluva race.”
Henrietta Topham got a good break over the winter and returned to the races in April at Keeneland. She was off the board that day under Frankie Dettori but snagged her fourth career victory on May 21 at Churchill Downs and came back on June 4 to win Churchill’s Mint Julep at 8-1.
In her two races since, under regular rider James Graham, she was third in the Indiana General Assembly Distaff Handicap over a soggy course at Horseshoe Indianapolis and sixth in the Kentucky Downs Preview Ladies Turf Mile at Ellis Park on Aug. 6.
“In Indiana, the first thing James Graham said when he came back was ‘we won’t be running on soft turf ever again,’” Mulcahy said. “It was heavy that day, so we kind of threw that race out.”
At Ellis Park, Henrietta Topham had a frustrating trip.
“To no one’s fault we were down on the rail and just got trapped in,” Mulcahy said. “We galloped out strong after the fact. For as much good luck as we’ve had, we probably deserved a little bit of bad luck.”
Mulcahy grew up in Bansha, Tipperary and made his first visit to the U.S. in 1995 as a student. He emigrated from Ireland in 1998 and is based in Lexington. He has had at least one starter as a trainer since 2001 and has 58 wins from 558 starters. The bulk of his work is handling young horses for other trainers.
“In the back of my mind I’ve always thought it was a conflict of interest,” he said. “I typically trained for a lot of local farm managers or fillies that needed to break their maidens at Turfway during the winter, or something simple.
“I’ve been gradually phasing it out, but I became very good friends with the owners of this mare, Henrietta Topham. We’ve had horses for them a long time. I don’t think she’d even won a stake when I decided, ‘Look, this is going to be the last runner. I want to finish this off.’ So we didn’t know how good she was, but it kind of made it more of a fun story seeing as she is the only one we trained.”
Michael and Elizabeth Burns operate Cambus-Kenneth Farm near Danville, Ky. Henrietta Topham is named for Elizabeth Burns’ mother. She has turned out to be a productive runner for her connections, with five wins in 14 starts and $464,828 in earnings.
Mulcahy noted that the mare is lightly raced and said no decision has been made on how much longer she will continue to run. However long that is, Mulcahy will train her.
“I made that promise to the owner, so when she’s done, I’m officially done,” he said. “If she comes back next year we’ll keep the show on the road, but I leave it up to them.”
In the Castle Hill Gaming Ladies Turf, Henrietta Topham and Graham will start from Post 5 in the field of seven.
“We’re really looking forward to it after coming off those two races at Ellis and Indiana,” Mulcahy said. “Just hoping we get a piece of it and everything else is a bonus.”