Owner-trainer Kate Dalton’s Cat Feathers, the 2012 National Steeplechase Association filly and mare champion, will be gunning for her first hurdle win of the year when she meets a well-balanced field for the $25,000 Budweiser Holiday Cup optional allowance claiming hurdle, the feature race of the 22nd annual Aiken Fall Steeplechase on Saturday, Oct. 26. First post time is 1 p.m.
Although winless, the delicately built mare has been piling up purse money in New York stakes races. She most recently finished fourth against males in the $75,000 William Entenmann Memorial Novice Stakes at Belmont Park on Sept. 19. Before that, she notched her second straight second-place finish in Saratoga Race Course’s Mrs. Walter M. Jeffords Stakes. Bernie Dalton, the trainer’s husband and currently the third-leading jockey by 2013 purse earnings, will be in the saddle.
Darren Nagle, currently leading the jockey standings by wins, will ride Bill Pape’s Dugan, a veteran who will be racing with a $25,000 claiming tag. Trained by Racing Hall of Fame member Jonathan Sheppard, Dugan had claiming victories at Tryon, N.C., and the Radnor Hunt Races in Pennsylvania this spring.
Irv Naylor, the three-time leading owner, will have a one-two punch for the 2 1/4-mile Budweiser Holiday Cup. Paddy Young, currently leading the jockey standings by earnings, will be aboard Jamargo, who most recently won a Virginia Fall maiden claimer. The Irish-bred is trained by Leslie Young, the jockey’s wife.
Cyril Murphy, who recently took over training of a portion of Naylor’s stable, will send out Nearby, who will be making his first start since early 2012. Carol-Ann Sloan, who rides regularly for the Naylor stable, will be in the saddle.
Making return trips to the Aiken course are Dale Thiel’s Sir Dynamite, Virginia Lazenby’s Pleasant Woodman, and Mark Buyck Jr.’s Ez Mac. Sir Dynamite won an Aiken Spring optional allowance claiming hurdle by 6 3/4 lengths. Pleasant Woodman won an Aiken Spring maiden hurdle for trainer Doug Fout, and Ez Mac was second in an Aiken Spring claimer. Willie McCarthy rides Pleasant Woodman.
Completing the Budweiser Holiday Cup field is S. Bruce Smart Jr.’s Orchestra Leader, a three-year-old winner last year who has been competing well in higher level flat claiming races at Mid-Atlantic tracks. Jeff Murphy will ride for trainer Jimmy Day.
Who do you like in the $25,000 Budweiser Holiday Cup?
Pleasant Woodman. 2008 ch. g., Woodman—Pleasant Sands, by Sandpit (Brz). Owner: Virginia Lazenby. Trainer: Doug Fout. Jockey: Willie McCarthy. 2013 record: 7-1-1-1, $20,550. 2012 record: 6-0-1-1, $6,210. 6-1 odds. Won maiden hurdle at Aiken Spring and most recently was second in a Virginia Fall optional allowance hurdle.
Jamarjo (Ire). 2007 b. g., Marju (Ire)—Athlumney Lady, by Lycius. Owner: Irvin S. Naylor. Trainer: Leslie Young. Jockey: Paddy Young. 2013 record: 5-2-2-1, $23,700. 5-1 entry. Won flat allowance race at Iroquois Steeplechase on May 11 and won a Virginia Fall maiden hurdle.
Sir Dynamite. 2005 b. g., Dynaformer—Lady Isley, by Trempolino. Owner: Dale Thiel. Trainer: Britt Graham. Jockey: Mark Watts. 2013 record: 3-1-1-0, $20,100. 8-1 odds.Won Aiken Spring optional claimer by 6 3/4 lengths and most recently finished second in a Queen’s Cup starter allowance in late April.
Cat Feathers. 2008 dk. b. or br. f., Catienus—Mistress Hemming, by Quiet American. Owner-trainer: Kate Dalton. Jockey: Bernie Dalton. 2013 record: 5-0-1-1, $26,000. 2012 record: 4-1-1-0, $58,500. 2011 record: 2-1-0-0, $6,000. 3-1 odds. Was 2012 Life’s Illusion Filly and Mare Champion. Most recently finished fourth in the William Entenmann Memorial Novice Stakes at Belmont Park on Sept. 19 after good second in Saratoga’s Mrs. Walter M. Jeffords Stakes.
Orchestra Leader. 2009 b. g., Van Nistelrooy—Magic of Life, by Seattle Slew. Owner: Bruce Smart. Trainer: Jimmy Day. Jockey: Danielle Hodsdon. 2013 record: 5-0-0-1, $2,500. 2012 record: 3-1-0-1, $9,500. 10-1 odds. Took a break from jump racing and has been picking up purses in Mid-Atlantic claiming races.
Dugan. 2004 ch. g., Forest Wildcat–Ratings, by Caveat. Owner: William L. Pape. Trainer: Jonathan Sheppard. Jockey: Darren Nagle. 2013 record: 5-2-1-0, 28,250. 2012 NSA record: 2-0-0-1, $3,750. 7-2 odds. Won Radnor claimer after victory in Tryon optional claimer. Started 2013 with a second in an Aiken Spring optional allowance before finishing fourth in a claiming hurdle at Colonial Downs’ Dogwood Classic. Put trainer over $20-million mark in NSA purses with a victory in a 2011 Aiken Fall claimer.
Nearby (GB). 2004 b. g., King’s Best–Contiguous, by Danzig. Owner: Irvin S. Naylor. Trainer: Cyril Murphy. Jockey: Carol-Ann Sloan. 2013 record: No starts. 2012 NSA record: 1-0-0-0, $2,000. 5-1 entry. Making first start since unplaced finish in 2012 Carolina Cup, his U.S. debut. Three-time winner in England in 2010.
Ez Mac. 2004 dk. b. or br. g., Bianconi—Easy Weekend, by Red Ransom. Owner: Mark Buyck Jr. Trainer: Arch Kingsley Jr. Jockey: Open. 10-1 odds. 2013 record: 2-0-1-0, $2,300. Started season with a second in an Aiken Spring claimer and then was fourth in a similar race at Stoneybrook in North Carolina on April 6.