America’s rooting interest in the Cheltenham Festival, Bruton Street’s Franco De Port, was unplaced in Wednesday’s £100,000 Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle, which was won by John P. McManus’ 5-to-1 favorite Dame De Compagnie, a French-bred mare trained by Nicky Henderson and ridden by Barry Geraghty.
Trained in Ireland by Willie Mullins and ridden by Paul Townend, Franco De Port was prominent early and reached third position in the first mile of the 2 5/8-mile race. He surrendered a bit of position in the second mile but remained prominent on the inside rail of the left-handed Cheltenham course.
When the field of 25 began to quicken with a half-mile remaining, Franco De Port slipped farther back, was guided to the outside after the next-to-last fence, and was pulled up.
Dame De Compagnie made her bid on the outside rail and rallied up Cheltenham’s closing uphill slope to win by two lengths over Black Tears, trained in Ireland by Gordon Elliott and ridden by Nico de Boinville.
Preparations are well under way for the 54th annual Aiken Spring Steeplechase at Bruce’s Field on Saturday, March 21, and simultaneously work is beginning a few miles away on the future home of the ever-popular community event.
The Aiken Steeplechase Association is creating a new race course on Rudy Mason Parkway on the eastern edge of the City of Aiken. It is a project that has been years in the making and has been driven by a commitment to serve the Aiken community.
“This will be a track for the community,” said Aiken Steeplechase President Paul Sauerborn. “We have a real challenge on our hands, and we are committed to meeting that challenge.”
The race course is scheduled for completion in time for the 2021 Aiken Fall Steeplechase in late October. The schedule will allow time for all necessary construction and for the steeplechase turf course to take root. Until then, the upcoming Aiken Spring meet, the 29th annual Aiken Fall Steeplechase in October, and the 2021 Aiken Spring Steeplechase will be held at Bruce’s Field.
The new site of the Aiken Steeplechase totals 140 acres and is located just over two miles from Aiken’s thriving downtown area. In all likelihood, the new location will have a one-mile track so that the horses will be readily visible to the racegoers. “We plan on having a quarter-mile of railside parking,” Sauerborn said.
The Maryland Jockey Club announced Thursday that respected racing official Jillian Tullock has been appointed racing secretary at Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course. Tullock worked in nearly every capacity for the Maryland Jockey Club from 1994-2019, including assistant racing secretary under Georganne Hale. “It’s great to be back with people I know and love,”
The wishes of the founder of Foxfield, Mariann Tejeda, are continuing to be fulfilled. In her will, Mrs. Tejeda requested the “perpetuation of the Foxfield Races in Albemarle County for the recreation, education and enjoyment of the people of Albemarle County and their friends and visitors and of Virginia who appreciate the equestrian sports, competition, and related activities.”
To this wish, the Foxfield Racing Association is pleased to announce that an agreement has been reached to ensure the future of the Foxfield Races. Beginning June 1, 2020, the management and oversight of the Foxfield Races will be transitioned to the newly formed Foxfield Racing LLC.
Under the guidance of Dr. Reynolds Cowles and fellow members, Foxfield Racing LLC will continue under two five-year leases to run the spring and fall race meets, which are sanctioned by the National Steeplechase Association.
All the Way Jose, a Grade 1 winner and a novice champion, has been retired from racing and is in training for the Retired Racehorse Project’s 2020 Thoroughbred Makeover with Dr. Erica Gaertner.
An accomplished horsewoman based in Kennett Square, Pa., Dr. Gaertner is no stranger to All the Way Jose, who was bred by his trainer, Racing Hall of Fame member Jonathan Sheppard, and owned by Rod Moorhead’s Buttonwood Farm through much of his seven-year racing career.
Currently a sports-medicine fellow, Dr. Gaertner galloped All the Way Jose over the last three years while she was completing her medical residency. “When they retired him, I said I’d like to have him,” she said. “Jose is my dream horse, and I’ve very excited about the Makeover.”
By Senor Swinger out of Maternity Leave, by prominent steeplechase sire Northern Baby, 10-year-old All the Way Jose was entered to compete in the show jumper and field hunter divisions of the Makeover. Sponsored by Thoroughbred Charities of America, the Thoroughbred Makeover will be held Oct. 7-10 at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington.
Footpad, a star of the 2017-2018 National Hunt season in England and Ireland, has been purchased by Harold A. “Sonny” Via and is in training with Jack Fisher.
Via and Fisher most notably combined forces with two-time Eclipse champion Good Night Shirt, who was inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame in 2017.
Imported horses carry their overseas ratings into American steeplechase racing, and French-bred Footpad will have a 163 rating, the highest of the new season. In the initial National Steeplechase Association ratings for the spring season, Bruton Street-US’s Scorpiancer, also trained by Fisher, had the top mark at 154.
Now eight, Footpad had a notable career for top Irish trainer Willie Mullins. Purchased from the Robert Collet yard after two hurdle starts as a three-year-old, Footpad won 11 races, including six at the Grade 1 level, for owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede.
His biggest score was in the 2018 Cheltenham Festival’s Arkle Challenge Trophy Steeplechase by 14 lengths, and he followed that effort with a 12-length victory in Punchestown’s Ryanair Steeplechase in late April of that year.