Irvin S. Naylor’s Black Jack Blues kept alive his American unbeaten streak with an authoritative 6 1/4-length victory in the $50,000 Carolina Cup (Gr. 3) on Saturday, March 31, in Camden, S.C. The reigning Eclipse Award champion set all the pace under jockey Ross Geraghty and completed the Carolina Cup’s 2 1/4 miles in 4:06.80 on firm turf.
Making his first start since winning the $250,000 Grand National (Gr. 1) at Far Hills, N.J., on Oct. 22, Black Jack Blues showed no signs of rust as he went to the lead at the start and jumped powerfully over 13 National Fences on the Springdale Course.
Oakwood Stable’s Country Cousin, a multiple stakes winner trained by Julie Gomena, kept pace with Black Jack Blues through the early stages under Carl Rafter. With a half-mile remaining, Arcadia Stable’s All Together moved into second, but Country Cousin launched a challenge entering the final turn and moved into second position again. His attack on the leader was short-lived, and Black Jack Blues jumped the final fence carefully before drawing away through the stretch.
All Together, with Xavier Aizpuru in the saddle, held third, 1 3/4 lengths behind Country Cousin. Owner-trainer Jonathan Sheppard’s Italian Wedding closed ground in the stretch to take fourth, 2 3/4 lengths farther back, in a field of six.
With his Carolina Cup victory, Black Jack Blues answered the final question about his ability: He showed he can handle firm ground against top company. Both of his 2011 victories, in the Grand National and Dorothy Fred Smithwick Memorial Stakes at the Virginia Fall Races in Middleburg on Oct. 1, were on yielding turf.
Trainer J. W. Delozier said he was pleased with Black Jack Blues’ performance. “He couldn’t have gone any better,” he said. “Ross was able to give him a breather, and when that other horse came to him he responded. He loves competition.”
Delozier said Black Jack Blues would be pointed toward either the $50,000 Temple Gwathmey (Gr. 3) at the Middleburg Spring Races on April 21 or the $150,000 Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1) in Nashville on May 12. Owner Naylor has won the Calvin Houghland Iroquois the last two years with Tax Ruling.
Naylor, 2011’s record-setting leading owner, won the second stakes race of the young National Steeplechase Association season. Another Naylor Irish-bred, Pullyourfingerout, won the season-opening $50,000 Budweiser Imperial Cup for novices at the Aiken Spring Steeplechase a week earlier.