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Morningstar Farm's Indigo Heart with Jack Doyle in the saddle flies over the last in the Imperial Cup at Aiken on Saturday. TOD MARKS PHOTO

Morningstar Farm’s Indigo Heart, always prominent under Jack Doyle, took the lead on the second circuit of the Aiken Horse Park course and drew clear to a 4 1/2-lengh victory in the Aiken Spring Steeplechase’s featured $30,000 Budweiser Imperial Cup on Saturday.

Rosbrian Farm’s Barhanpour, the lightweight in the ratings handicap hurdle, came on to take second, a half-length ahead of third finisher Dapper Dan.

The first two finishers are trained by Ricky Hendriks, who owns Morningstar Farm and was a close second in last year’s trainer standings by both wins and earnings. Indigo Heart ran the Budweiser Imperial Cup’s two miles in 3:40 4/5 on firm turf.

Morningstar acquired Indigo Heart from Rosbrian over the winter, and Rosbrian had purchased the Heart of the Storm gelding privately before a Shawan Downs ratings handicap victory last September.

Hendriks trained him on the Unionville, Pa., farm, worked him at the Fair Hill Training Center, and then shipped him to Camden, S.C., to await the race.

“He likes the front end, and he keeps galloping,” Hendriks said.

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The NSA kicked off its Spring season on March 23 with the traditional opener in the heart of Southern horse country: Aiken, SC. Ross Geraghty, last year's leading rider by purse earning, picked up victories in each of the two training flat races for owner Debbie Kachel and trainer Ricky Hendriks. Hendriks scored a third win with Morning Star Farm's Indigo Heart in the featured Imperial Cup ratings handicap. Jack Doyle was in the saddle for that score. The six-race card was also a tour de force for jockey Sean McDermott, who captured two hurdle races, the GH Bostwick Maiden Hurdle for owner-trainer Kathy Neilson's Soluble and the Ford Conger ratings handicap, with Irv Naylor's Change of View, also trained by Neilson. Tod Marks has the photo recap.

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