When the 2019 National Steeplechase Association racing season concluded, Bruton Street-US reigned as the leading owner for the second time in three years, Jack Fisher was champion trainer for the eighth straight season, and Michael Mitchell graciously skipped the year’s final meet to end in a tie for the jockey championship with Jack Doyle.
As the pandemic-shortened spring 2020 season wrapped up on Saturday at the Virginia Gold Cup, Bruton Street-US leads the owner ranks, while Fisher and Mitchell had four wins apiece at Great Meadow to grab the top spots on their leader boards. Both also lead by earnings.
Coast-to-coast lockdowns to limit the spread of the new coronavirus and the COVID-19 disease that it causes went into effect shortly before the 2020 NSA season opened and forced the cancellation of all but two meets, Middleburg Spring and the Virginia Gold Cup, which were postponed to June from their respective dates in April and May.
Those Virginia meets were offered without spectators and under strict health and safety guidelines. In all, 21 races were offered to provide purse money for steeplechase horsemen after a most difficult spring.
Bruton Street had two wins, and they occurred in the two principal hurdle races, Middleburg’s Temple Gwathmey Handicap (Gr. 1) with Moscato on June 13 and Snap Decision in the Virginia Gold Cup’s David Semmes Memorial on Saturday.
The two novice champions—Moscato in 2017 and Snap Decision last year—were impressive in their victories. Moscato won off by 11½ lengths for his second straight Temple Gwathmey victory. Snap Decision, making his first start in an open stakes race, made a clever late move to draw clear by 4½ lengths after the last fence. Bruton Street’s 2020 spring earnings total $56,000.
The Bruton Street-US ownership team of Charles Fenwick Jr., Mike Hankin, and Charles Noell also had a significant victory in their own names when Doc Cebu jumped superbly and pranced away late to a dominant 12¼-length score in the Virginia Gold Cup over timber.
Originally owned by Fenwick and offered to his partners before the 2018 season, Doc Cebu was the timber champion in 2017 and 2018. The Hard Spun gelding had finished second in the Middleburg Hunt Cup to 2019 champion Andi’amu, who went off course in the Virginia Gold Cup. Doc Cebu leads the year’s timber standings.
Fisher trained both Snap Decision and Doc Cebu to their Gold Cup victories, and he added another score in the following race, a maiden hurdle for four-year-olds, with Fast Car for prominent flat owner Robert LaPenta.
The Maryland-based horseman wrapped up his Virginia Gold Cup splurge with a nose victory by DASH Stable’s Shark du Berlais in a division of the waiver maiden claiming hurdle. He had had two wins at Middleburg, including Moscato in the Temple Gwathmey. He leads the trainer standings by purses with $120,500.
Second by wins and purses is Racing Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard, who has four wins. He had three scores at Middleburg and added another in a Gold Cup ratings handicap when Eve Ledyard’s Go Get the Basil swept to a one-length victory.
Leslie Young had two wins on the Virginia Gold Cup card to supplement Andi’amu’s victory in the Middleburg Hunt Cup two weeks earlier. She began the afternoon with a half-length victory by Gill Johnston’s Emerald Rocket in a maiden-hurdle division, and Ballybristol Farm’s Mercoeur drew off to win the Steeplethon by 6¼ lengths.
Mitchell kicked off his Virginia Gold Cup superfecta with a victory aboard Riverdee Stable’s Lonely Weekend in the second division of the maiden hurdle for trainer Todd Wyatt. He then partnered with Fisher for victories by Doc Cebu, Fast Car, and Shark du Berlais. In all, he has five wins and $105,600 in purse earnings.
Second in the jockey standings is Gerard Galligan, who had a triple at Middleburg and added a win on Go Get the Basil at the Virginia Gold Cup.