by Donald Yovanovich
The Amateur Riders Club of America made history on Sunday when Bethany Baumgardner became the first American lady rider ever to win the Champ de Mars, the finale of the Longines Fegentri Ladies Championship in Mauritius.
In an invitational race limited to the top eight riders in the season-long competition, Bethany rode Social Network to a gate-to-wire victory in the 1,500-meter turf race.
Bethany has competed in about 60% of the offered races in the series and during most of the summer was ranked second. With a short hiatus in September and October, she fell to sixth in the standings, but a third-place finish aboard Bonnie Acclamation at Pisa on Nov. 26 moved her into the fifth spot.
Her victory in Mauritius placed her fourth in the world, with only 17 points separating the second-, third-, and fourth-place ladies. The series leader, Sara Vemeersch representing Belgium, ran away with the competition, winning by a huge margin. Bethany had two wins and seven seconds during the series, and she was thrilled by the finale victory. “It was an incredible experience,” she said.
We should also mention that the ARCA Fegentri World Cup Team finished the year by placing second to Norway. Special thanks to the riders, Erika Taylor, Amelia McGuirk, Brittany Trimble, Teresa Croce, and Mark Galligan. All the riders, including Bethany, are National Steeplechase Association-licensed jockeys.
Mark your calendars for Jan. 18 for the National Steeplechase Association’s annual Awards Dinner. Join with other steeplechase enthusiasts at the Maryland Club in Baltimore for this gala event.
Details will be forthcoming, but be sure to put that Thursday evening in your calendar. The event will honor champion horses as well as the champion owner, trainer, and jockeys.
The dinner will follow the annual NSA Race Chairmen’s meeting beginning at 10 a.m. that day at the Maryland Club.
Riverdee Stable’s Down Royal turned back a late challenge from Alshibaa to win the Steeplechase of Charleston’s featured $25,000 allowance hurdle for three-year-olds by a neck on Sunday as the National Steeplechase Association concluded its 2017 season. Hudson River Farms’ Snuggling, disqualified from a victory in Far Hills’ Gladstone Stakes on Oct. 21, finished third,
The 86th annual Carolina Cup Races next March 31 will offer a record $325,000 in purses, highlighted by the first spring edition of the Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup (Gr. 1), worth $150,000 and showcasing the steeplechase sport’s star performers.
In addition, the signature Carolina Cup for emerging steeplechase stars will carry a $75,000 purse, and races will be offered for fillies and mares in the $40,000 Life’s Illusion and for four-year-olds in the $30,000 Raymond G. Woolfe.
The program, approved this week by the Carolina Cup Racing Association’s Board of Directors, was developed by Carolina Cup Executive Director John Cushman and Bill Gallo Jr., the National Steeplechase Association’s director of racing.
Cushman expressed appreciation to his fellow board members for approving an expanded and expansive program.
“We’re very proud of the program. We’re fully invested in the sport,” he said. “This is the single best program we’ve ever put together.”
Cushman said the Carolina Cup’s prospective races were announced well in advance so that steeplechase horsemen will have plenty of time to prepare for the rich races at Springdale Race Course in Camden, S.C.
Camden, a center of winter Thoroughbred training for nearly a century, also will have available stalls for horsemen wanting to prepare their horses in a moderate climate in late winter. “We’re hoping steeplechase horsemen will ship down six or eight weeks before the races,” he said. “You’re not going to miss any time training, and you can ship north from here.”
With the purse increases, the Carolina Cup will be one of the three richest racing programs on the NSA’s spring schedule, with the Virginia Gold Cup on May 5 and the Iroquois Steeplechase the following Saturday.
The Steeplechase at Charleston on Sunday brings down the curtain on the National Steeplechase Association season, and the afternoon’s featured race for three-year-olds will provide a glimpse of upcoming seasons.
The three-year-olds are the youngest competitors in jump racing, and past three-year-old champions include Eclipse Award winner Demonstrative and graded stakes winner Schoodic.
The $25,000 allowance hurdle will be one of five races at Stono Ferry Racecourse in Hollywood, S.C. First post time for the season-ending meet will be 1 p.m.
The key matchup in the 2 1/4-mile hurdle will be Hudson River Farms’ Snuggling and Riverdee Stable’s Down Royal.
Snuggling, a half brother to graded stakes winner Parker’s Project, finished first by 2 1/2 lengths in the Far Hills Races’ Gladstone Stakes on Oct. 21 before being disqualified to third for interference at the top of the New Jersey course’s stretch.
Snuggling bumped with Down Royal, sending the Alphabet Soup filly to the far outside of the course. Down Royal regained her composure and closed ground through the stretch to finish third, four lengths behind Snuggling.
Far Hills’ stewards disqualified Snuggling to third position because of the interference and moved Down Royal into the second spot.
Darren Nagle, assured of the year’s champion jockey crown by wins, takes over the mount on Snuggling for Racing Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard. Bernie Dalton will ride Down Royal for his wife, trainer Kate Dalton. The Daltons bred Down Royal in New York.
Irv Naylor’s Ebanour took command heading into the $35,000 Pennsylvania Hunt Cup’s second-to-last fence and romped home to an 18-length victory on Sunday to collect his second consecutive win in the four-mile timber classic. Ridden by Darren Nagle, Ebanour survived a claim of foul lodged by Sean McDermott, who rode second-finisher Hot Rize. McDermott had