Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Slip Away, the reigning Eclipse Award-winning steeplechase horse, kicks off his 2011 season on Saturday, April 23, in the $50,000 Temple Gwathmey Handicap (Gr. 3) at the Middleburg Spring Races in Virginia. Slip Away, who launched his championship season with a Gwathmey victory, will meet a competitive field of six opponents in the 2 1/2-mile race over National Fences.
On the busiest weekend of the National Steeplechase Association season, the winners of the 2010 Grand National and Maryland Hunt Cup will meet in the $30,000 Grand National over timber fences in Butler, Md., and a highly competitive field of seven drew into the $25,000 Carolina First Block House at the 65th annual Block House Races in Tryon, N.C.
Trainer Tom Voss named Slip Away’s regular jockey, champion Paddy Young, to ride the champion. National Steeplechase Association Director of Racing Bill Gallo Jr. assigned Slip Away the 154-pound highweight.
Slip Away secured the 2010 Eclipse Award and the NSA’s Lonesome Glory Champions Award with a runaway 25 3/4-length victory in the Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup (Gr. 1) on the last day of the season. Competitive in major races throughout the year, the eight-year-old Skip Away gelding won the 2010 Gwathmey by nine lengths after setting all the pace.
The 2009 Eclipse winner, Bill Pape’s Mixed Up, shares the 150-pound second level in the handicap weights. Trained by Racing Hall of Fame member Jonathan Sheppard and ridden by Danielle Hodsdon, Mixed Up is looking for his first victory since the 2009 Colonial Cup. The 12-year-old veteran finished third in the $45,000 Budweiser Imperial Cup at Aiken, S.C., on March 26.
Also at 150 pounds is another Grade 1 winner, Mary Ann Houghland’s Pierrot Lunaire, who scored in the 2009 Iroquois in Nashville. The War Chant gelding, trained by Bruce Miller, was on the sidelines all of last year after an unplaced finish behind Mixed Up in the 2009 Colonial Cup. Xavier Aizpuru has the mount.
Randleston Farm’s Spy in the Sky, assigned 146 pounds, enters the Gwathmey from a third-place finish behind front-running Sunshine Numbers in the $50,000 Carolina First Carolina Cup (Gr. 3) on April 2. The seven-year-old Thunder Gulch gelding, trained by Jimmy Day, had won the 2010 Carolina Cup. A year earlier, he collected his only Grade 1 victory in the New York Turf Writers Handicap at Saratoga Race Course in New York. Matt McCarron will ride.
Irvin S. Naylor’s Decoy Daddy is scheduled to carry 144 pounds in the handicap. The nine-year-old Irish-bred set the pace in the Imperial Cup at Aiken and finished second. In his second American start, the pacesetter won the Noel Laing by 25 1/2 lengths at the Montpelier Hunt Races in Virginia. Trainer Tom Foley named Darren Nagle to ride.
Paired at 140 pounds are Beverly R. Steinman’s Call You in Ten and Riverdee Stable’s Dictina’s Boy, both of whom will be making their first 2011 starts. Trained by Doug Fout, Call You in Ten finished second in the Metcalf Memorial at Monmouth Park and third in the Foxbrook Champion Hurdle at the Far Hills Races in New Jersey. Dictina’s Boy, also trained by Voss, was second to Decoy Daddy in the Laing.
Grand National clash
Holbrook Hollow Farm’s Across the Sky, brilliant winner of last year’s Grand National timber steeplechase, will meet the reigning Maryland Hunt Cup winner, Lucy A. Goelet’s Twill Do, in the $30,000 Grand National, featured race of the historic race meet in Butler, Md., on Saturday, April 23. First post time is 3:15 p.m. for the three races, all of which attracted full fields.
Across the Sky, trained by Jack Fisher, will be making his first start since refusing the 20th fence on the Maryland Hunt Cup course while on the lead. In last year’s Grand National, the Valley Crossing gelding opened a yawning lead and won by 20 lengths. Fritz Boniface will again be in the saddle.
Twill Do prevailed by five lengths in the Maryland Hunt Cup after finishing fourth in the Grand National but was pulled up in his only other start, in the Genesee Valley Hunt Cup in New York on Oct. 9. Trainer William Meister named Twill Do’s Maryland Hunt Cup jockey, James Stierhoff, to ride.
Meister also entered Irvin S. Naylor’s Gorgeous Charger, who started his 2011 season with a fifth-place finish in the C. P. and Edith Wills DeBose Cup, an allowance timber race at the Carolina Cup Races in Camden, S.C., on April 2. Michael Traurig has the mount on Gorgeous Charger, who won his maiden victory over timber fences at Maryland’s Shawan Downs last September.
Sportsmans Hall’s Private Attack, second finisher in last year’s Grand National and Maryland Hunt Cup, will launch his new season with an attack on the Grand National. In a subsequent start, he was pulled up in the Mason Houghland Memorial timber stakes at Nashville. Trainer Alicia Murphy named Blythe Miller Davies, the National Steeplechase Association’s champion jockey by wins in 1994 and 1995, to ride the Private Interview horse.
Robert A. Kinsley’s Incomplete will again shoot for a Grand National victory. Trained by Ann D. Stewart, the Press Card gelding fell while contending in the 2010 Grand National and then was third in the Mason Houghland Memorial. Charles Fenwick III has the mount on the 2009 My Lady’s Manor.
Entering the Grand National from the My Lady’s Manor, first leg of the Maryland timber triple, is Armata Stables’ Haddix, who finished fifth to winner Bon Caddo on April 16.
Carolina First Block House clash
Heading the field of seven for the $25,000 Carolina First Block House is Bill Pape’s Lead Us Not, the National Steeplechase Association’s reigning claiming champion. Trained by Racing Hall of Fame member Jonathan Sheppard, the Royal Anthem gelding won an optional allowance race at Saratoga Race Course, finished second in another, and then took third in the $250,000 Grand National (Gr. 1) at Far Hills, N.J. Brian Crowley will be in the saddle for Lead Us Not’s first 2011 start.
Move Up Stable’s Quiet Approval also will be making his 2011 debut in the Carolina First Block House. The Quiet American gelding easily won an allowance race at the Saratoga Open House in July and then finished fourth in the $100,000 Helen Haskell Sampson (Gr. 1) at Monmouth Park last September. Trainer Kathy McKenna named Carl Rafter to ride.
Canardly had his best year ever in 2010, winning an optional starter allowance at the International Gold Cup in Virginia last fall after being claimed by trainer Edward Mulligan for owner Karen Eyles. Liam McVicar has the mount in the Carolina First Block House.
Also making their season debuts are Julia Thieriot’s Fantastic Foe, winner of an optional allowance on the Virginia Gold Cup program last May, and Northern Bay, who won his only 2011 start, a Philadelphia Park optional allowance, in June. Northern Bay races for the estate of Cary W. Jackson.
Owner-trainer Dave Washer is making a quick turnaround with Junood, who started his 2011 season with a third-place finish in a $15,000 claiming race at the Atlanta Steeplechase on April 16.
Randleston Farm’s Spy in the Sky, entered for the Carolina First Block House as well as the Temple Gwathmey (Gr. 3) at the Middleburg Spring Races in Virginia, started his 2011 season with a third-place finish in the Carolina First Carolina Cup (Gr. 3) in Camden, S.C., on April 2.