Stonelea Stable’s Balance the Budget, who blazed to a front-running victory in the year’s first Grade 1 race, heads a competitive field for Saturday’s $75,000 David Semmes Memorial (Gr. 2), the featured hurdle race of the 92nd annual Virginia Gold Cup.
Trained in Virginia by Julie Gomena, Balance the Budget began his 2018 season as he had ended the 2017 campaign, with a front-running victory in a graded stakes race. He won the $150,000 Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup (Gr. 1) by 6 1/4 lengths while setting all the pace on March 31.
His 2017 season concluded on a high note with a nine-length win in the International Gold Cup’s David L. “Zeke” Ferguson Memorial (Gr. 2) over the same Great Meadow course. Mark Watts, who was aboard for both victories, will be in the saddle for the 2 1/8-mile Semmes.
Also coming out of the Colonial Cup is Rosbrian Farm’s Swansea Mile, who finished fifth. Trained by Ricky Hendriks, Swansea Mile upset Saratoga Race Course’s A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1) last summer. Michael Mitchell again will ride the Irish-bred.
Magalen O. Bryant’s Personal Start also was a winner on the same program as the Colonial Cup, laying down all the pace and winning the Carolina Cup for novices by 1 1/4 lengths. Bred in Kentucky by the owner, the seven-year-old Jump Start gelding is trained by Richard Valentine. Barry Foley has the mount.
The remainder of the seven-horse field emerged from the $75,000 Temple Gwathmey Handicap (Gr. 2) at the Middleburg Spring Races on April 21. Michael A. Smith’s Mercoeur set the early pace and finished third.
Mercoeur is trained by Leslie Young, who also saddled Irv Naylor’s Jamarjo to a seventh-place finish in the Temple Gwathmey. Naylor’s stable also fielded Sempre Medici, who was pulled up in the Temple Gwathmey in his first start in 16 months.
Jack Doyle, currently the sport’s leading jockey by wins and purses, will ride Mercoeur. Eddie Keating, a talented amateur jockey, will be aboard Jamarjo for the first time. English jockey Graham Watters will ride Sempre Medici for trainer Cyril Murphy.
Virginia Lazenby’s Hardrock Eleven finished eighth in the Gwathmey in his first start for trainer Kate Dalton, and Bernie Dalton will ride the Rock Hard Ten gelding in the Semmes.
Here is the field for the $75,000 David Semmes Memorial in post-position order. The horses’ National Steeplechase Association ratings are in parentheses at the end of their profiles.
Sempre Medici (Fr). 2010 b. g., Medicean—Sambala, by Danehill Dancer. Owner: Irvin S. Naylor. Trainer: Cyril Murphy. Jockey: Graham Watters. Breeders: Myriam Bollack, Noel Forgeard, and E.A.R.L. du Haras de Pierrepont (Fr). 2018 record: 1-0-0-0, $0. 2017 NSA record: No starts. Pulled up in 2018 Temple Gwathmey (Gr. 2). Competed at top level in England and Ireland for trainer Willie Mullins before being imported. Easily won trials preceding the 2016 Champion Hurdle, in which he was pulled up after the next-to-last fence. Female-line descendant of foundation mare Best in Show, by Traffic Judge. (143)
Swansea Mile (Ire). 2010 b. g., Dylan Thomas (Ire)—Hurry Up Helen, by In the Wings (GB). Owner: Rosbrian Farm. Trainer: Ricky Hendriks. Jockey: Michael Mitchell. Breeder: W. Kane (Ire). 2018 record: 1-0-0-0, $6,000. 2017 record: 7-1-1-2, $122,650. Finished fifth in 2018 Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup (Gr. 1). Won Saratoga’s 2017 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1) at 28.50-to-1, then finished fifth in New York Turf Writers Cup (Gr. 1) and third in Belmont Park’s Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1). Opened 2017 with second in Steeplechase of Charleston’s featured optional allowance hurdle and then was fourth in Temple Gwathmey (Gr. 3). Finished third in High Hope’s featured optional allowance hurdle. Finished fourth in Belmont Park’s 2016 Lonesome Glory in U.S. debut. (133)
Hardrock Eleven. 2010 gr. or ro. g., Rock Hard Ten—Stark Beauty, by Unbridled’s Song. Owner: Virginia Lazenby Racing Stable. Trainer: Kate Dalton. Jockey: Bernie Dalton. Breeders: Farm III Enterprises and Off the Hook Partners (Fla.) 2018 record: 1-0-0-0, $0. 2017 NSA record: 5-0-0-0, $10,300. 2016 NSA record: 7-2-1-0, $105,700. Finished eighth in 2018 Temple Gwathmey (Gr. 2). Opened 2017 with fourth in Tryon Block House handicap, was pulled up in Virginia Gold Cup’s David Semmes Memorial (Gr. 2), and finished fourth in Fair Hill’s Valentine Memorial ratings handicap. Tired to finish fourth in Saratoga handicap and was fifth in a similar race. Won 2016 William Entenmann Memorial Novice Stakes after winning Saratoga allowance hurdle for second straight year. Formerly trained by owner’s late brother, David P. Banks, and won an Evangeline Downs optional allowance flat race in 2014. (120)
Mercoeur (Fr). 2011 gr. or ro. g., Archange d’Or (Ire)—Erivia, by Kendor. Owner: Michael A. Smith. Trainer: Leslie Young. Jockey: Jack Doyle. Breeder: Ambrose Dupont (Fr). 2018 record: 1-0-0-1, $7,500. 2017 record: 4-2-1-0, $54,550. 2016 record: 4-1-0-2, $19,500. Finished third in 2018 Temple Gwathmey (Gr. 2). Won Montpelier’s 2017 Noel Laing after fourth in Far Hills’ 2017 Foxbrook Champion Hurdle. Won 2017 Radnor conditioned allowance hurdle after second in Tryon Block House allowance hurdle. Scored maiden hurdle victory at 2016 Montpelier Hunt Races. (125)
Balance the Budget. 2009 ch. g., Bellamy Road—Every Day Is Good, by El Corredor. Owner: Stonelea Stable. Trainer: Julie Gomena. Jockey: Mark Watts. Breeder: Liberation Farm & Oratis (Ky.). 2018 record: 1-1-0-0, $90,000. 2017 NSA record: 5-2-2-0, $94,800. 2016 record: 4-1-1-0, $51,600. 2015 record: 7-1-1-0, $37,250. Set all the pace in the 2018 Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup and won by 6 1/4 lengths. Won International Gold Cup’s 2017 David L. “Zeke” Ferguson Memorial (Gr. 2) by nine lengths after setting all the pace. Won 2017 Tryon Block House Handicap, then finished second in Fair Hill’s Valentine Memorial ratings handicap. Finished fifth in Saratoga’s A.P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1) and was second in Saratoga handicap. (143)
Jamarjo (Ire). 2007 b. g., Marju—Athlumney Lady, by Lycius. Owner; Irvin S. Naylor. Trainer: Leslie Young. Jockey: Eddie Keating. Breeder: Frank Dunne (Ire). 2018 record: 1-0-0-0, $0. 2017 NSA record: 4-1-1-0, $56,400. 2016 record: 5-1-1-2, $55,500. Finished seventh in 2018 Temple Gwathmey (Gr. 2). Won Radnor’s 2017 National Hunt Cup (Gr. 1) easily after second in Foxfield Spring’s 2017 Daniel Van Clief Memorial optional allowance hurdle. Finished fourth in Grand National (Gr. 1) at Far Hills, N.J. (133)
Personal Start. 2011 dk. b. or br. g., Jump Start—Personal Doreen, by Personal Flag. Owner: Magalen O. Bryant. Trainer: Richard Valentine. Jockey: Barry Foley. Breeder: Magalen O. Bryant (Ky.) 2018 record: 1-1-0-0, $45,000. 2017 record: 6-1-1-2, $46,750. 2016 record: 5-1-0-1, $23,800. Set all the pace in the 2018 Carolina Cup and won by 1 1/4 lengths. Won 2017 International Gold Cup allowance hurdle by eight lengths. Finished third in 2017 Saratoga allowance hurdle, then was second in Shawan Downs handicap and fourth in Virginia Fall’s Randolph D. Rouse Memorial ratings handicap. Opened 2017 with third in Tryon Block House allowance hurdle, then stumbled at Iroquois Steeplechase and finished fourth. (129)