Trainer Ricky Hendriks launched the National Steeplechase Association’s spring season by sweeping both divisions of Aiken Spring’s $25,000 Budweiser Imperial Cup and a training flat race on Saturday. Both winners of the Budweiser Imperial Cup divisions, Any Given Royal in the first two-mile heat for maidens and Surprising Soul in the second, are owned by
The 51st annual Aiken Spring Steeplechase kicks off the 2017 National Steeplechase Association season on Saturday with two $25,000 divisions of the Budweiser Imperial Cup, several full fields, and a highly competitive Ford G. Conger ratings handicap. First post time is 1 p.m. at the Aiken Horse Park in Aiken, S.C. The focus will be
Accomplished racecourse performers, two formidable mares, and several intriguing newcomers are among the 11 nominees to the $75,000 Carolina Cup, the featured race of the 85th annual Carolina Cup Races on Saturday, April 1. The region’s annual rite of spring attracts crowds of up to 70,000 and will feature steeplechasing’s rising stars in the Carolina
Andrea and Graham Wylie’s Nichols Canyon charged up Cheltenham Racecourse’s storied homestretch under champion Irish jockey Ruby Walsh to win Thursday’s £300,000 Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle and become eligible to claim the $500,000 TVV Capital Iroquois-Cheltenham Challenge.
Trained by Willie Mullins, Nichols Canyon competed in last year’s $200,000 Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1) and finished third. To claim the Challenge prize, a horse must win the Stayers’ Hurdle and the Calvin Houghland Iroquois in the same 12-month period.
Nichols Canyon went off at close to 12-to-1 in wagering at Cheltenham, while Unowhatimeanharry was favored at less than 2-to-1, considerably longer than the odds in prerace betting.
Cole Harden, the 2015 winner, set the early pace with American-bred Lil Rockerfeller, who went off at long odds. With seven furlongs remaining in the three-mile race, Cole Harden attempted to quicken away from the field, but Little Rockerfeller caught him after the next to last fence and looked to be a longshot winner. Unowhatimeanharry began his move, but he appeared to lack the finishing kick that had carried him to eight straight victories.
Walsh, the 10-time Irish champion, had Nichols Canyon in good position throughout the race and took the inside path approaching the final fence. The seven-year-old British-bred gelding jumped the last hurdle handily and quickened for the arduous climb up Cheltenham’s run-in under a hand ride.
He caught Lil Rockerfeller with about 70 yards remaining and began to draw clear before the finish.
Unowhatimeanharry finished third, and Cole Harden was fourth. The Wylies’ Shaneshill, who had finished second in last year’s Calvin Houghland Iroquois, was unplaced.
If Mullins and the Wylies decide on a return trip to Nashville for the three-mile Calvin Houghland Iroquois on Saturday, May 13, more than $800,000 in total purses and the TVV Capital Challenge bonus will be on the line.
The three immediate past winners of the $100,000 Maryland Hunt Cup—Senior Senator, Raven’s Choice, and Guts for Garters—have been nominated to the 121st running of America’s best-known timber race on Saturday, April 29. One of the most sought-after prizes in American racing, the Maryland Hunt Cup is the culmination of the Free State’s timber triple
J. P. McManus’ Unowhatimeanharry, unbeaten in his last eight starts for trainer Harry Fry, continued to head the betting for Thursday’s £300,000 Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle (Eng-Gr. 1), the first leg of the $500,000 TVV Capital Iroquois-Cheltenham Challenge. The nine-year-old was listed as a heavy 5-to-4 consensus pick among 13 likely starters for the three-mile
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