Leading owner Irv Naylor’s Charminster thrives at Great Meadow Race Course, and the Irish-bred will go for his second straight win in Saturday’s $75,000 David Semmes Memorial (Gr. 2), the featured hurdle race of the 92nd annual Virginia Gold Cup.
First post time is 12:30 p.m. at The Plains course, and pari-mutuel wagering will be offered on all eight races.
Charminster won the 2016 Semmes Memorial by 2 1/2 lengths, and he came back in the fall to finish second in the David L. “Zeke” Ferguson Memorial (Gr. 2). The 2 1/8-mile Semmes Memorial will be his first 2017 start over fences, and trainer Cyril Murphy named Jack Doyle to ride the 11-year-old gelding.
Charminster will line up against a very evenly matched field that includes last spring’s Semmes second finisher, Edith Dixon’s Schoodic. In his start after the Semmes, Schoodic won the National Hunt Cup (Gr. 3) at the Radnor Hunt Races for trainer Jack Fisher.
In his only 2017 start, Schoodic fell early in the Temple Gwathmey Handicap (Gr. 3) on April 22. Paddy Young will ride.
Fisher, the champion trainer for the past five years, also will saddle Northwoods Stable’s and Sheila Williams’ Special Skills and Petticoats Loose Farm’s Choral Society.
Special Skills thrived in the novice ranks last year and won the Foxbrook Champion Hurdle and the Aflac Supreme Hurdle. Now racing in open company, the Bernstein gelding finished second in the Tryon Block House Handicap on April 15.
Winner Saratoga Race Course’s 2015 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1), Choral Society was eased in the Tryon Block House. Sean McDermott rides Special Skills, and Willie McCarthy will be aboard Choral Society.
Stonelea Stables’ Balance the Budget, the Tryon Block House winner, will go for his second straight win in the Semmes Memorial. Mark Watts will ride for trainer Julie Gomena.
Steeplechase racing’s two active Hall of Fame members, Jonathan Sheppard and Janet Elliot, both will be represented in the Semmes. Sheppard will saddle Buttonwood Farm’s All the Way Jose, who finished third in the Tryon Block House. Gerard Galligan rides.
Elliot entered Gregory Hawkins’ Alajmal, a 2013 Grade 1 winner on the comeback trail. He most recently finished third in the Georgia Cup optional allowance hurdle at the Atlanta Steeplechase on April 22.
Rosbrian Farm’s Simenon will be looking to get his U.S. racing career in gear at Great Meadow. A multiple winner on the flat and over hurdles, the veteran was eased in the Tryon Block House. Ross Geraghty has the mount for trainer Ricky Hendriks.
Middleburg-based Doug Fout will saddle Virginia Lazenby’s Hardrock Eleven, who finished fourth in the Tryon Block House. The reigning champion jockey, Kieran Norris, will ride.
Completing the field is Flying Elvis Stable’s Diplomat, winner of the 2015 Ferguson Memorial. Trained by Kate Dalton, Diplomat opened the 2017 season with a fourth in the Georgia Cup. Bernie Dalton has the mount.
Here is the field for the $75,000 David Semmes Memorial (Gr. 2) in post-position order. The horses’ National Steeplechase Association ratings are in parentheses at the end of their profiles.
Alajmal. 2008 b. g., First Samurai—Alattrah, by Shadeed. Owner: Gregory D. Hawkins. Trainer: Janet Elliot. Jockey: Open. Breeder: Shadwell Farm (Ky.) 2017 record: 1-0-0-1, $3,500. 2016 NSA record: No starts. 2015 record: 4-0-0-0, $6,000. Finished third in 2017 Georgia Cup optional allowance hurdle. Finished seventh in 2015 Grand National (Gr. 1) and was 10th in Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup (Gr. 1). In first race in 14 months, finished fifth in New York Turf Writers Cup (Gr. 1), then was eighth in Belmont Park’s Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1). Bookended his 2013 season with victories in the Carolina Cup and Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup (Gr. 1). (121)
Hardrock Eleven. 2010 gr. or ro. g., Rock Hard Ten—Stark Beauty, by Unbridled’s Song. Owner: Virginia Lazenby. Trainer: Doug Fout. Jockey: Kieran Norris. Breeders: Farm III Enterprises and Off the Hook Partners (Fla.) 2017 record: 1-0-0-0, $2,000. 2016 NSA record: 7-2-1-0, $105,700. 2015 record: 6-1-1-2, $53,350. Opened 2017 with fourth in Tryon Block House handicap. Won 2016 William Entenmann Memorial Novice Stakes after winning Saratoga allowance hurdle for second straight year, then finished fifth in Far Hills’ Foxbrook Champion Hurdle. Formerly trained by owner’s late brother, David P. Banks, and won an Evangeline Downs optional allowance flat race in 2014. (127)
All the Way Jose. 2010 b. g., Senor Swinger—Maternity Leave, by Northern Baby. Owner: Buttonwood Farm. Trainer: Jonathan Sheppard. Jockey: Gerard Galligan. Breeder: Jonathan Sheppard (Pa.) 2017 record: 1-0-0-1, $4,000. 2016 NSA record: 3-0-0-0, $7,500. 2015 record: 3-0-0-0, $3,750. Finished third in Tryon Block House handicap. Finished sixth in David L. “Zeke” Ferguson Memorial (Gr. 2) at 2016 International Gold Cup. Started season with fifth in David Semmes Memorial (Gr. 2) at Virginia Gold Cup, then fourth in Fair Hill’s Valentine Memorial Ratings Handicap. Clinched 2014 novice championship with Foxbrook Champion Hurdle victory. (125)
Choral Society. 2009 gr. or ro. g., Holy Bull—Star Singer, by Awesome Again. Owner: Petticoats Loose Farm. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Jockey: Willie McCarthy. Breeder: Mayo West Farm and Liam Benson (Fla.) 2017 record: 1-0-0-0, $0. 2016 record: No starts. 2015 record: 4-1-0-1, $82,500. Pulled up in 2017 Tryon Block House handicap. Scored a 16.20-to-1 upset in 2015 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1), then was pulled up in the Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1). (131)
Diplomat. 2009 b. g., Kitten’s Joy—Waki Affair, by Miswaki. Owner: Flying Elvis Stable. Trainer: Kate Dalton. Jockey: Bernie Dalton. Breeders: Ken and Sarah Ramsey (Ky.) 2017 record: 1-0-0-0, $1,750. 2016 record: 2-0-0-0, $3,000. 2015 record: 7-3-0-0, $126,750. Began 2017 with fourth in Georgia Cup optional allowance hurdle. In 2016 debut, finished fifth in International Gold Cup’s David L. “Zeke” Ferguson Memorial (Gr. 2), then fell in Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup (Gr. 1). Won 2015 International Gold Cup’s Ferguson Memorial (Gr. 3) before sixth in Colonial Cup. Bred by champion owners-breeders Ken and Sarah Ramsey and is a full brother to stakes-placed Kitten Love. (126)
Special Skills. 2010 dk. b. or br. g., Bernstein—Kentucky Whisper, by Southern Halo. Owner: Sheila Williams and Northwoods Stable. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Jockey: Sean McDermott. Breeder: Sierra Farm (Ky.) 2017 record: 1-0-1-0, $7,200. 2016 record: 8-3-1-2, $178,750. 2015 record: 3-2-0-0, $45,000. Finished second in 2017 Tryon Block House handicap. Won Far Hills’ 2016 Foxbrook Champion Hurdle and Steeplechase at Callaway’s Aflac Supreme Hurdle. Sandwiched win in 2016 handicap between thirds in similar race and Belmont’s William Entenmann Memorial Novice Stakes. Finished second in Carolina Cup, then fourth in Queen’s Cup MPC ’Chase. (136)
Balance the Budget. 2009 ch. g., Bellamy Road—Every Day Is Good, by El Corredor. Owner: Stonelea Stable. Trainer: Julie Gomena. Jockey: Mark Watts. Breeder: Liberation Farm & Oratis (Ky.). 2017 record: 1-1-0-0, $24,000. 2016 record: 4-1-1-0, $51,600. 2015 record: 7-1-1-0, $37,250. Won 2017 Tryon Block House handicap after setting most of the pace. Kicked off 2016 season with victory in $75,000 Carolina Cup, a novice stakes, then was seventh in Saratoga’s A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1) and sixth in Saratoga handicap. Finished second in Shawan Downs Ratings Handicap. Kicked away powerfully to win Aiken Spring’s 2015 Budweiser Imperial Cup (Gr. 3) by 21 lengths. (128).
Simenon (Ire). 2007 b. g., Marju (Ire)—Epistoliere, by Alzao. Owner: Rosbrian Farm. Trainer: Ricky Hendriks. Jockey: Ross Geraghty. Breeder: Max Morris (Ire). 2017 record: 1-0-0-0, $0. 2016 NSA record: No starts. In first U.S. start, was eased in 2017 Tryon Block House. Had two wins last summer in England, one on the flat and the other over hurdles. Has world-class speed over a distance and has a second and two fourth-place finishes in Ascot Gold Cup (Eng-Gr. 1) at 2 1/2 miles. (140)
Charminster (Ire). 2006 b. g., Broadway Flyer—Monteleena, by Montelimar. Owner: Irvin S. Naylor. Trainer: Cyril Murphy. Jockey: Jack Doyle. Breeder: Raymond Cahalane (Ire). 2016 record: 6-1-2-1, $93,000. 2015 record: 5-1-0-1, $63,500. 2014 record: 2-0-1-0, $11,700. Finished second in the 2016 David L. “Zeke” Ferguson Memorial (Gr. 2) at the International Gold Cup, then was sixth in Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup (Gr. 1). Charged to 3 3/4-length win in 2016 David Semmes Memorial (Gr. 2) at Virginia Gold Cup, then was second in Radnor’s National Hunt Cup (Gr. 3). Faded to fifth in New York Turf Writers Cup Handicap (Gr. 1). Finished third in 2016 Lonesome Glory (Gr. 1). (133)
Schoodic. 2010 b. g., Tiznow—Aunt Henny, by Hennessy. Owner: Edith R. Dixon. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Jockey: Paddy Young. Breeder: Edith R. Dixon (Ky.) 2017 record: 1-0-0-0, $0. 2016 record: 7-1-2-0, $60,150. 2015 record: 4-0-2-2, $58,000. 2014 record: 6-2-0-1, $67,500. Fell early in 2017 Temple Gwathmey (Gr. 3). Won Radnor’s 2016 National Hunt Cup (Gr. 3), then was sixth in Saratoga’s A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1) and fourth in New York Turf Writers Cup (Gr. 1). Eased in Belmont’s Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1), then was seventh in David L. “Zeke” Ferguson Memorial (Gr. 1). Finished second in 2016 David Semmes Memorial (Gr. 2) and Middleburg Spring Ratings Handicap. (129)