Irvin S. Naylor’s Black Jack Blues, fresh from receiving the 2011 Eclipse Award as America’s champion steeplechase horse, looms as the heavy favorite against five opponents in the $50,000 Carolina Cup (Gr. 3), feature race of the 80th annual Carolina Cup Races on March 31 at the Springdale Course in Camden.
The Carolina Cup, an annual rite of spring in South Carolina and neighboring states, attracts the largest attendance of any steeplechase meet each year, and proceeds benefit Kershaw Health. First post time is 1:30 p.m. for the six-race program.
Black Jack Blues will be putting his unbeaten American record on the line when he steps onto Springdale Racecourse for the 2 1/4-mile Carolina Cup over National Fences. Purchased by leading owner Naylor after a successful racing season last year in England, Black Jack Blues promptly won the $35,000 Dorothy Fred Smithwick Memorial Stakes at the Virginia Fall Races in Middleburg on Oct. 1 and the $250,000 Grand National (Gr. 1) at Far Hills, N.J., three weeks later.
Trainer Joseph W. Delozier III had intended to run the diminutive, nearly black gelding in the $100,000 Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup (Gr. 1) on Nov. 19, but a minor respiratory infection forced him to cancel that plan. Still, Black Jack Blues was the year’s leading earner with $171,000 in National Steeplechase Association purses. Ross Geraghty again will ride Black Jack Blues.
For the Carolina Cup, Delozier also will saddle Naylor’s recent import Nearby, who finished second three times in ten starts in England last year. He was most recently fifth in a hurdle race at Wincanton Racecourse on Feb. 18 and will be ridden by Bernie Dalton.
Black Jack Blues will be challenged by four accomplished steeplechase stakes winners. Julie Gomena will saddle Oakwood Stable’s Country Cousin, winner of Colonial Downs’ $50,000 David L. “Zeke” Ferguson Memorial (Gr. 3) on June 26, his final start of the year. He also won the 2011 Budweiser Imperial Cup at the Aiken Spring Steeplechase. Regular jockey Carl Rafter will be in the saddle.
Jack Fisher, annually among the sport’s leading trainers, will send out Andre Brewster’s All Together, the 2010 novice champion who won the Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes at Saratoga Race Course last summer. He also finished second in the AFLAC Supreme Hurdle for novices at the Steeplechase at Callaway in Georgia on Nov. 5. Xavier Aizpuru will ride.
Racing Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard will have a double-barreled entry in the Carolina Cup with Sermon of Love and Italian Wedding. Bill Pape’s Sermon of Love won the 2010 New York Turf Writers Cup Handicap (Gr. 1) but went winless last year. He finished second in the Noel Laing Hurdle at Montpelier, Va., but was unplaced in the Colonial Cup. Brian Crowley has the mount.
Regular jockey Danielle Hodsdon will be aboard Italian Wedding, who won Saratoga’s Michael G. Walsh Novice Stakes last August and finished a closing fifth in the Colonial Cup.