The 46th annual Aiken Spring Steeplechase kicks off the 2012 season of National Steeplechase Association-sanctioned racing on Saturday, March 24, and the featured $50,000 Budweiser Cup attracted six nominees.
The two-mile race over National Fences at Ford Conger Field in the historic South Carolina racing community will be the highlight of a six-race program offering $110,000 in purse money. First post time is 1 p.m.
The Budweiser Imperial Cup is limited to novices—horses in their first seasons of racing over fences—and the American steeplechase sport’s all-time leading trainer, Jonathan Sheppard, will attempt to get the year off on a winning note with Hudson River Stables’ Royal Rossi.
The six-year-old Rossini gelding had a productive 2011 season with back-to-back victories at Saratoga Race Course, in a maiden race at the Saratoga Open House and a nose win in the Steeplechase Owners and Trainers Association Firestone Tire, an optional allowance race on Aug. 4. He subsequently stumbled and was pulled up in the Foxbrook Champion Hurdle at the Far Hills Races in New Jersey on Oct. 22.
Finishing second to Royal Rossi in the Saratoga optional allowance was Budweiser Imperial Cup nominee Baltic Shore, who closed out his 2011 season with a second in the Budweiser Holiday Cup, an allowance race at the Aiken Fall Steeplechase on Oct. 29. Arch Kingsley Jr. trains High Hope Stables’ six-year-old Johar gelding in Camden, S.C.
Leading owner Irvin S. Naylor and trainer J. W. Delozier nominated two novices to the Budweiser Imperial Cup. Under the race’s allowance conditions, Irish-bred Pullyourfingerout would carry the high weight, 156 pounds. He was pulled up in his only U.S. start, the Foxbrook Champion Hurdle, but had two wins over fences and a flat victory in England last year before his American debut.
Also nominated from the powerful Naylor stable was Best Alibi, who made only one start last year, a second in an optional allowance at the Carolina Cup in Camden.
Trainer Lilith Boucher, a winter resident of South Carolina, nominated Mede Cahaba Stable’s Class Indian, who won his maiden victory at the Radnor Hunt Races in Pennsylvania after two second-place finishes last spring. The homebred Waquoit gelding closed out his 2011 season with a fourth-place finish in the AFLAC Supreme Hurdle at Callaway Gardens in Georgia on Nov. 5.
Owner-trainer Michele Sanger nominated Birthday Beau, who would be making his first start in more than a year. The seven-year-old Silic gelding finished fourth in the 2010 Metcalf Memorial at Monmouth Park in New Jersey.
Here are capsule descriptions of the Budweiser Imperial Cup nominees:
Baltic Shore. 2006 ch. g., Johar—Ballence, by Saint Ballado. Owner: High Hope Stables. Trainer: Arch Kingsley Jr. 2011 NSA record: 5-1-2-0, $25,850. Won maiden race at Strawberry Hill by 13 lengths on May 21 and just missed in the Steeplechase Owners and Trainers Association Firestone Tire optional allowance at Saratoga Race Course on Aug. 4. Finished season with second in Aiken Fall’s Budweiser Holiday Cup.
Best Alibi (Ire). 2003 b. g., King’s Best—Chauncy Lane, by Sadler’s Wells. Owner: Irvin S. Naylor. Trainer: Joseph W. Delozier III. 2011 record: 1-0-1-0, $5,400. Finished second in optional allowance at Carolina Cup Races on April 2 before going to the sidelines. Started twice in 2010, with a third in a Philadelphia Park steeplechase race.
Birthday Beau. 2005 b. g., Silic (Fr)—Sue’s Jet, by Tri Jet. Owner-trainer: Michele Sanger. 2011 record: no starts. Coming back after more than a year on the sidelines. Ran fourth in 2010 Metcalf Memorial at Monmouth Park before finishing seventh in AFLAC Supreme Hurdle at Callaway Gardens in Georgia.
Class Indian. 2007 gr. or ro. g., Waquoit—Class Story, by Class Secret. Owner: Mede Cahaba Stable. Trainer: Lilith Boucher. 2011 record: 6-1-2-0, $26,155. Won maiden race at Radnor in Malvern, Pa., after second-place finishes at Stoneybrook and Virginia Gold Cup. Finished fourth in AFLAC Supreme Hurdle at Callaway Gardens in Georgia.
Pullyourfingerout (Ire). 2007 b. g., Indian Haven—Sandomierz, by Nordico. Owner: Irvin S. Naylor. Trainer: Joseph W. Delozier III. 2011 NSA record: 1-0-0-0, $0. Pulled up in Foxbrook Champion Hurdle at Far Hills, N.J. on Oct. 22 in his U.S. debut. Won two races over fences and one race on the flat in England last year before being purchased and imported to U.S.
Royal Rossi. 2006 b. g., Rossini—Princess Lea, by Stalwart. Owner: Hudson River Stables. Trainer: Jonathan Sheppard. 2011 record: 4-2-0-0, $43,800. Won two races at Saratoga Race Course in summer of 2011, a maiden race at the Saratoga Open House and the Steeplechase Owners and Trainers Firestone Tire, an optional allowance. Stumbled and pulled up in the Foxbrook Champion Hurdle at Far Hills, N.J., on Oct. 22.