Nine races with purses totaling $115,000 are up for grabs at Saturday’s Virginia Fall Races at Glenwood Park in Middleburg, as the National Steeplechase Association (NSA) returns to the Old Dominion for the second straight week. Because of ongoing Covid-19 protocols, the event will be run without spectators, but you can still enjoy the races in real time via live stream broadcast.
All told, 94 horses were entered in the final overnights. The expansive nine-race card, with a first-race post time of 12:30 p.m., is anchored by the National Sporting Library and Museum Cup (the fourth race of the afternoon), which will be run as a timber stake as a result of a purse bump from $15,000 to $25,000.
The 3 ¼-mile test features a lineup of eight veterans including Irv Naylor’s Super Saturday, runner up to Andi’amu in last year’s running, and Armata Stable’s Grand Manan, who finished second in the race in 2017. Two other contenders, S. Rebecca Shepherd’s Curve of Stones, and Sheila J. Williams’ and Northwood Stable’s Storm Team had previously broken their timber maidens over the course. Charlie Fenwick’s Royal Ruse comes into the stake off of a 15-length triumph in a non-sanctioned open timber event at Shawan Downs two weeks ago. Up-and-coming apprentice Skylar McKenna has the mount for her aunt, trainer Sanna Neilson. Also in the field is Upland Partners Mystic Strike, winner of the 2019 Pennsylvania Hunt Cup. Mystic Strike finished second to Royal Ruse at Shawan.
The card also includes three maiden hurdles, a handicap for horses rated at 115 or lower, a timber maiden, steeplethon over natural brush and timber fences, and a timber race and training-flat contest, both restricted to apprentice jockeys. There’s an interesting footnote to the fifth race, the $10,000 Daniel P. Sands Cup maiden hurdle for three and four year olds. One of the entries making his debut over jumps is Irv Naylor’s Junior Senator. If the name conjures memories of another horse with a similar name, it’s not a coincidence. Junior Senator, a four-year-old gelded son of Smarty Jones out of the mare Queen Kennelot, is a half brother to the legendary Senior Senator, the three-time winner of the Maryland Hunt Cup. Junior Senator ran eight times at Laurel over the flat for trainer Billy Meister, winning once.
Looking at the leaderboard entering Saturday’s races at Middleburg, trainer Jonathan Sheppard, who had a hot hand at Saratoga and saddled one winner at the Foxfield Fall Races in Charlottesville, Va., last Sunday, has an 11 to 10 edge in victories over conditioner Jack Fisher. Among jockeys, Gerard Galligan has eight victories, one more than Michael Mitchell, and two more than Tom Garner and Sean McDermott.
If you choose to watch the races via the live stream, you can print out the program by going to the NSA web site and clicking on the link for the overnights: https://www.nationalsteeplechase.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/Va-Fall-Races-overnight-scratches-program.pdf. The live stream is sponsored by Brown Advisory, Charleston’s The Post and Courier, Bruton Street-US, and the Virginia Equine Alliance.