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 Cup, which is limited to novices, or horses in their first seasons of racing over fences. The festivities kick off at 1:30 p.m. at Springdale Racecourse in Camden, S.C.
Jack Fisher, the sport’s leading trainer, nominated DASH Stable’s Ice It and Signature Look, owned by Sheila Williams and Northwoods Stable. The 2015 three-year-old champion, Ice It won last spring’s Georgia Cup optional allowance hurdle and was second in two fall novice stakes, the Foxbrook Champion Hurdle in Far Hills, N.J., and the Aflac Supreme Hurdle at the Steeplechase at Callaway in Georgia. Signature Look scored a maiden victory at Callaway.
Owner-trainer F. Hill Parker’s Get Ready Set Goes won both the National Steeplechase Association’s female championship last season as well as the novice title, and she would be going against males in the 2 1/8-mile Colonial Cup. She closed out the 2016 season with three straight victories, including Saratoga Race Course’s Mrs. Ogden Phipps Stakes and the Peapack Stakes at Far Hills. She took the novice title as the leading earner among first-season winners with $94,500.
Richard Valentine, a top trainer now based Springdale over the winter, will play a strong hand with Gil Johnston’s Miguel Grau and Check Mark Stables’ Willow U. Miguel Grau, a seven-year-old, finished second in Belmont Park’s William Entenmann Memorial Novice Stakes and third in the Foxbrook.
Willow U, a six-year-old New York-bred mare, won twice on the Springdale course last season, a maiden win at the Carolina Cup and a score in the Colonial Cup’s Springdale Stakes in November.
Virginia-based horseman Neil Morris nominated Thomas Hulfish’s Formidable Heart, who finished a good second in a Colonial Cup ratings handicap after a fifth-place finish in the Foxbrook.
Camden-based trainer Kate Dalton nominated Stephen E. Johnson’s homebred Strongbox, an Offlee Wild gelding who won a Colonial Cup maiden hurdle under the trainer’s husband, veteran jockey Bernie Dalton.
Another Camden-based trainer, Arch Kingsley Jr., nominated Mark Buyck Jr.’s Show Court, an import from Ireland who finished seventh in the Colonial Cup ratings handicap. Other newcomers are James S. Carter’s Macnicholson, an Irish import trained by Jimmy Day, and Barracuda Stable’s Red Hammer, a handicap winner in England who is trained by Ricky Hendriks.
Racing Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard, who maintains a Camden stable over the winter, nominated Bill Pape’s Castle Hill, fourth in last October’s Foxbrook.
Here are the 11 nominees to the $75,000 Carolina Cup. The horse’s National Steeplechase Association rating is in parentheses at the end of each profile.
Castle Hill. 2012 b. g., Munnings—Push My Luck, by Press Card. Owner: William L. Pape. Trainer: Jonathan Sheppard. Breeders: William and Anne Pape (Pa.). 2016 NSA record: 7-1-1-1, $38,950. Won 2016 Shawan maiden hurdle and finished third in Foxbrook Champion Hurdle. Pulled up in Colonial Cup ratings handicap. Maiden winner on flat finished third in Iroquois maiden hurdle, then lost rider when stirrup leather broke in Parx maiden. Finished second and fourth in Saratoga allowance hurdles. (117)
Formidable Heart. 2010 b. g., Dynaformer—Win My Heart, by King of Kings (Ire). Owner: Thomas A. Hulfish III. Trainer: Neil Morris. Breeders: Liberation Farm, Kathy Zoc, and the Dynaformer Syndicate (Ky.) 2016 record: 4-2-1-0, $49,500. 2015 record: 3-0-1-0, $5,100. Showed plenty of heart in winning 2016 International Gold Cup allowance hurdle by three-quarters of a length after easy score in Virginia Fall maiden hurdle. Finished fifth in Aflac Supreme Hurdle and concluded 2016 season with second in Colonial Cup ratings handicap. (121)
Get Ready Set Goes. 2012 ch. f., Run Away and Hide—Ready to Goes, by Lord Avie. Owner-trainer: F. Hill Parker. Breeder: Frances Hill Myers (Ohio). 2016 record: 4-3-1-0, $94,500. Reigned as 2016 female champion after winning Saratoga’s Mrs. Ogden Phipps Stakes and Far Hills’ Peapack Stakes. In first starts over fences, finished second in Atlanta allowance hurdle limited to females and then won High Hope open maiden hurdle. Won on flat in Ohio-bred filly race in 2015. (119)
Ice It. 2012 gr. or ro. g., Tapit—Spice Island, by Tabasco Cat. Owner: DASH Stable. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Breeder: Qatar Bloodstock (Ky.) 2016 record: 5-1-3-0, $68,250. 2015 record: 3-1-0-0, $18,600. Won 2016 Georgia Cup optional allowance hurdle impressively, then second in Marcellus Frost Novice Stakes at Iroquois Steeplechase. Finished sixth in Belmont’s William Entenmann Memorial Novice Stakes before seconds in Far Hills’ Foxbrook Champion Hurdle and Aflac Supreme Hurdle. Won Far Hills’ Gladstone Hurdle to lock up 2015 three-year-old championship. (126)
Macnicholson (Ire). 2009 b. g., Definite Article (GB)—Heroic Performer, by Royal Applause (GB). Owner: James S. Carter. Trainer: Jimmy Day. Breeder: D. Shine (Ire). 2016 NSA record: No starts. Finished third in a steeplechase allowance at Gowell in January. Looking for first victory since August 2015. (NR)
Miguel Grau. 2010 b. g., City Zip—Zuri Ridge, by Cox’s Ridge. Owner: Gil Johnston. Trainer: Richard Valentine. Breeder: Sea Horse Breeders (Ky.) 2016 record: 6-1-1-2, $50,850. 2015 record: 6-1-1-1, $34,200. Finished second in Belmont’s 2016 William Entenmann Memorial Novice Stakes, then was third in Far Hills’ Foxbrook Champion Hurdle. Won Suffolk Downs Ratings Handicap by 9 3/4 lengths, then finished fifth in Saratoga overnight handicap. Finished fourth in 2016 Georgia Cup optional allowance hurdle, then third in Virginia Gold Cup allowance hurdle. (121)
Red Hammer (GB). 2012 b. g., Falco—Vole de Printemps, by Della Francesca. Owner: Barracuda Stable. Trainer: Ricky Hendriks. Breeder: Pontchartrain Stud (GB). 2016 NSA record: No starts. Raced in England’s juvenile handicap ranks in 2016 and secured first career victory in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, in March. (114)
Show Court (Ire). 2009 b. g., Vinnie Roe—Sparking Gem, by Revoque. Owner: Mark W. Buyck Jr. Trainer: Arch Kingsley Jr. Breeder: Grange Stud (Ire). 2016 NSA record: 1-0-0-0, $0. Finished seventh in Colonial Cup ratings handicap after debut 10th in International Gold Cup flat race. Won maiden over hurdles in Ireland in late 2015. (115)
Signature Look. 2012 dk. b. or br. g., Medaglia d’Oro—Ensenada, by Seeking the Gold. Owner: Sheila J. Williams and Northwoods Stable. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Breeder: Colts Neck Stables (Ky.). 2016 NSA record: 3-1-0-2, $25,400. Broke through for maiden victory over fences at 2016 Colonial Cup after third-place finishes at Shawan Downs and International Gold Cup. (116)
Strongbox. 2012 b. g., Offlee Wild—Wild Goose Chase, by Dynaformer. Owner: Stephen E. Johnson. Trainer: Kate Dalton. Breeder: Stephen E. Johnson (Ky.). 2016 record: 4-1-0-0, $21,000. Won 2016 Colonial Cup maiden hurdle, his only career win, after fifth-place finishes at Shawan Downs and Far Hills.
Willow U. 2011 b. m., Utopia (Jpn)—Overextended (Fr), by Entrepreneur. Owner: Check Mark Stables. Trainer: Richard Valentine. Breeder: Andy Beadnell (N.Y.) 2016 record: 5-2-0-1, $41,000. 2015 NSA record: 1-0-1-0, $3,600. Closed 2016 season with win in Colonial Cup’s Springdale Stakes after third in Saratoga’s Mrs. Ogden Phipps Stakes and sixth in Far Hills’ Peapack Stakes. A $35,000 flat claim from win at Saratoga in 2015 broke through for maiden victory at 2016 Carolina Cup, then was fifth in Margaret Currey Henley at Iroquois Steeplechase. (114)