Gregory Hawkins’ Alajmal launched a powerful charge on the outside after the last fence of the $100,000 Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup (Gr. 1) and drew clear to an impressive 3 1/2 length victory on Saturday, Nov. 23.
Jonathan Sheppard, the year’s leading trainer by purse earnings, took the next three spots at the finish. Sheppard’s Barnstorming grabbed the second spot, 1 1/2 lengths clear of Sheppard’s Italian Wedding. Bill Pape’s Divine Fortune finished fourth to lock up the year’s Lonesome Glory Champions Award as the year’s leading earner.
Trained by Racing Hall of Fame member Janet Elliot, Alajmal was ridden by Xavier Aizpuru after his designated jockey, Mark Beecher, was injured in the previous race. “I was a late pickup. You never like to pick up horses like that, but I certainly was glad to be on him today,” Aizpuru said. Alajmal ran the Colonial Cup’s 2 3/4 miles in 5:07 3/5.
Alajmal, last year’s novice champion and third in the Colonial Cup, started the year with a victory in the $50,000 Carolina Cup for novices on the same Springdale Course in Camden, S.C. He went off form through the summer, however. Elliot said she never figured out exactly what was ailing Alajmal, but “he’s worked through it,” she said.
Divine Fortune entered the Colonial Cup with a sizable lead in the earnings standings following his dynamic victory in the $250,000 Grand National (Gr. 1) at Far Hills, N.J., on Oct. 19. He had capitalized on an uncontested lead in the Grand National, but Irv Naylor’s Decoy Daddy and Magalen O. Bryant’s Gustavian went head to head with him from the start.
When Decoy Daddy slipped back, Gustavian–the only horse with a chance to deny Divine Fortune the earnings title–lapped on Pape’s veteran through the final run down the backstretch. Alajmal made steady progress under Aizpuru and began to move into contention at the top of the stretch.
Divine Fortune began to weaken at the last fence, and Gustavian stumbled over it, losing jockey Paddy Young off his neck. Bernie Dalton, riding Italian Wedding, made a big move on the inside, but Alajmal was moving fastest of all on the far outside and claimed his first Grade 1 victory. Barnstorming closed for second under Sean Flanagan, who had two wins earlier on the card.
Elliot said she was pleased with Alajmal’s late move. “I was happy to see him moving up down the backside and finishing, because at Saratoga [unplaced finishes in two novice stakes races] he wasn’t finishing his race. We think he probably had some kind of lung issue. We did a lot of tests, and most were inconclusive.”
Alajmal shipped to Camden two weeks before the race and was lodged with trainer Kate Dalton, Bernie Dalton’s wife. “I have to give Bernie and Kate Dalton a lot of credit. They have had the horses here for the last few weeks.”
In preparing Alajmal for the Colonial Cup, Elliot’s directions to Bernie Dalton were simply to stay on his back. “He’s ornery, but he seems to be getting over that.”
The Colonial Cup victory, Alajmal’s first since the Carolina Cup on March 29, raised the five-year-old First Samurai gelding’s 2013 earnings to $93,750.