Ballybristol Farm’s Andi’amu proved his mettle over mixed obstacles last year with two Virginia victories, and he successfully tackled traditional timber fences Saturday in the $30,000 Middleburg Hunt Cup.
Trained by Leslie Young and ridden by Jack Doyle, the French-bred took command at the 15th fence from a tiring Grand Manan and fought off a challenge from Le Chevalier at the last to win the 3 ¼-mile race by 5 3/4 lengths in 7:00 3/5 on soft turf.
Racing under clearing skies and seasonably warm temperatures, Andi’amu never was far behind the pace of habitual front-runner Grand Manan, who set a solid pace ahead of his seven opponents. Michael A. Smith’s Le Chevalier was at the back of the field, which remained tightly bunched for much of the distance.
Bruton Street-US’s Two’s Company, the 2016 timber champion and winner of the New Jersey Hunt Cup last fall, held the inside position in third under Sean McDermott as the field entered the final mile over the emerald Middleburg Spring course.
As Grand Manan gave way, Doyle and Andi’amu inherited the lead at the 15th fence. Le Chevalier, still at the back of the field, put in a cursory jump and quickly made headway on the leaders. Kieran Norris guided Le Chevalier to the outside, and they jumped the last in stride with Andi’amu.
After the fence as they began the run to the finish line, Andi’amu and Le Chevalier bounced off each other without any effect on either. As they made the turn into the stretch, Andi’amu began to pull away and widened to the finish.
Two’s Company finished third, another eight lengths farther back, and Irv Naylor’s Super Saturday, last year’s Middleburg Hunt Cup winner, finished fourth. Le Chevalier, trained by Julie Gomena, had finished second in the 2018 Middleburg Hunt Cup.
A few hours after that race, Andi’amu won the Alfred M. Hunt Steeplechase over mixed obstacles, and two weeks later he won the Virginia Gold Cup’s Steeplethon Stakes, his final start of the year. Before taking on the bigger fences, Andi’amu was Grade 1-placed, second in the 2016 New York Turf Writers Cup Handicap and third in the 2017 Calvin Houghland Iroquois.