Colonial Downs awakes from its six-year slumber on Thursday evening, and two large fields of steeplechase horses will take to its Secretariat Turf Course on Saturday for a maiden hurdle and a wide-open ratings handicap. First post time is 5 p.m. for all racing programs at the Virginia track.
The $30,000 maiden hurdle will have a maximum field of 10 starters with one also-eligible. Colonial’s spacious Secretariat course permits a field of 13 for the $25,000 ratings handicap, which is limited to horses with National Steeplechase Association ratings of 115 or lower.
The large fields will bring out the sport’s top jockeys, including reigning champion Darren Nagle, five others who have led the jockey rankings by wins or earnings, and current leading jockey Michael Mitchell.
No fewer than eight horses carry the 115 rating, and seven of them will carry the 158-pound highweight in the ratings handicap. Shannon Hill Farm’s Macnicholson will be ridden by rookie jockey Bryan Cullinane and gets 10 pounds off. In his first 2019 jump start for trainer Jimmy Day, Macnicholson was pulled up in the Virginia Gold Cup’s David Semmes Memorial (Gr. 2) on May 4.
Nagle, back in action after a work-related injury kept him out of the spring races, will be aboard Irv Naylor’s Warp Factor, who will be making his first 2019 start for trainer Cyril Murphy.
Mitchell, who has a seven-win lead in the jockey standings, will be aboard Woodslane Farm’s Other Cheek for Jack Fisher, the runaway leader in this season’s trainer standings. Other Cheek finished fourth in a Radnor Hunt Races allowance hurdle on May 18 after a maiden score two weeks earlier at the Virginia Gold Cup.
Woodslane and Fisher also will be represented by Pik Em, who lost his rider late in a Radnor handicap. Willie McCarthy, the 2014 champion jockey, will ride.
Ross Geraghty, the reigning earnings champion, will be aboard Morning Star Farm’s Diplodocus for trainer Ricky Hendriks. Diplodocus finished seventh in a Middleburg Spring allowance hurdle in April and has been sharpened on the flat.
Sean McDermott, the earnings champion in 2016 and 2017, has the mount on Gill Johnston’s Set to Music for trainer Kathy Neilson. The Dynaformer gelding finished fourth in the Radnor ratings handicap.
Kieran Norris, 2016’s champion jockey, will ride Oakwood Stable’s Kensington Court for trainer Julie Gomena. Kensington Court finished sixth in the Radnor handicap.
Robert A. Kinley’s Aardwolf will be ridden by 2015 earnings champion Jack Doyle. Trained by Elizabeth Voss, Aardwolf finished sixth in a Queen’s Cup handicap on April 27.
Here is the field for the $25,000 ratings handicap in post-position order. The horses’ National Steeplechase Association ratings are in parentheses at the end of their profiles.
Moorland (Ire). 2013 b. g., Teofilo (Ire)—Emily Bronte, by Machiavellian. Owner: Sharon Sheppard. Trainer: Leslie Young. Jockey: Thomas Garner. Breeder: Darley (Ire). 2019 record: 3-1-0-2, $15,150. Maiden victory at 2019 Middleburg Spring followed by third in Radnor handicap. (110)
Pik Em. 2014 gr. or ro. g., Tapit—Seattle Smooth, by Quiet American. Owner: Woodslane Farm. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Jockey: Willie McCarthy. Breeder: Mercedes Stables (Ky.). 2019 record: 3-0-2-0, $9,000. 2018 record: 4-2-0-0, $33,500. Finished second in Cup Runneth Over and Virginia Gold Cup ratings handicaps before losing rider at Radnor in higher-level handicap. Finished fifth in division of Far Hills’ 2018 Foxbrook Champion Hurdle for novices. Won 2018 High Hope ratings handicap handily after maiden victory over fences in Radnor maiden claiming hurdle. (115)
Diplodocus. 2013 ch. g., Sky Mesa—Specialty, by Carson City. Owner: Morning Star Farm. Trainer: Ricky Hendriks. Jockey: Ross Geraghty. Breeder: Oxley TCF Stallions et al. and Robert Losey (Ky). 2019 NSA record: 2-0-0-0, $0. 2018 NSA record: 2-1-0-0, $18,000. Pulled up in 2019 Carolina Cup allowance hurdle, then was seventh in similar Middleburg Spring race. Scored maiden win over fences at 2018 Aiken Fall by 12 ¼ lengths. (115)
Kensington Court. 2012 dk. b. or br. g., Giant’s Causeway—Backseat Driver, by El Corredor. Owner: Oakwood Stable. Trainer: Julie Gomena. Jockey: Kieran Norris. Breeder: Paul Pompa Jr. (Ky.) 2019 record: 1-0-0-0, $2,100. 2018 record: No starts. Returned after missing 2018 season and finished sixth in Radnor handicap. Finished third in 2017 Aflac Supreme Hurdle at the Steeplechase at Callaway after unplaced finishes in Far Hills’ Foxbrook Champion Hurdle and Belmont Park’s William Entenmann Memorial Novice Stakes. (113)
Able Archer. 2012 dk. b. or br. g., Eskendereya—Fareena, by Point Given. Owner: KMSN Stable. Trainer: Jonathan Sheppard. Jockey: Gerard Galligan. Breeder: Spirit Lake Enterprises (Pa.) 2019 record: 2-0-0-0, $750. 2018 record: 7-1-0-2, $25,950. Tried timber in spring 2018 and had a fourth at Willowdale. Closed 2018 with second in International Gold Cup steeplethon. Opened 2018 with win in Aiken Spring’s Budweiser Imperial Cup, a ratings handicap, then was third in Georgia Steeplechase. Finished fourth in strong Iroquois handicap before eighth in Fair Hill’s Valentine Memorial ratings handicap. (114)
Set to Music. 2011b. g., Dynaformer—Pussycat Doll, by Real Quiet. Owner: Gill Johnston. Trainer: Kathy Neilson. Jockey: Sean McDermott. Breeder: Mr. and Mrs. M. Roy Jackson (Ky.). 2019 record: 2-0-0-1, $5,000. 2018 record: 5-1-2-2, $42,600. Finished third in 2019 Middleburg Spring allowance hurdle and fourth in Radnor handicap. Had third-place finishes in 2018 International Gold Cup handicap and Aflac Supreme Hurdle at Steeplechase at Callaway. After two close second-place finishes, broke through for a maiden hurdle victory at the 2018 Fair Hill Races. (115)
Paddy’s Crown. 2013 gr, or ro. G., Paddy O’Prado—Crown of Sheba, by Alysheba. Owner: Magalen O. Bryant. Trainer: Richard Valentine. Jockey: Graham Watters. Breeder: Denlea Park Ltd. (N.Y.) 2019 record: No starts. 2018 record: No starts. 2017 record: 4-1-0-0, $17,850. Coming back after missing 2018 season. Broke through for a maiden win at 2017 Virginia Fall meet and then was pulled up in International Gold Cup allowance hurdle. (112)
Aydoun (Ire). 2013 ch. g., Mastercraftsman—Alaya (Ire), by Ela-Mana-Mou (Ire). Owner: Mark W. Buyck Jr. Trainer: Arch Kingsley Jr. Jockey: Archie Macauley. Breeder: The Aga Khan’s Studs (Ire). 2019 NSA record: No starts. 2018 NSA record: 2-0-0-0, $1,200. In first U.S. start, finished seventh in 2018 International Gold Cup allowance hurdle, then was fifth in Charleston handicap. Well beaten in his final overseas start, a handicap hurdle at Galway on Aug. 1. (113)
Macnicholson (Ire). 2009 b. g., Definite Article (GB)—Heroic Performer, by Royal Applause (GB). Owner: James S. Carter. Trainer: Jimmy Day. Jockey: Bryan Cullinane. Breeder: D. Shine (Ire). 2019 NSA record: 1-0-0-0, $0. 2018: No starts. 2017 NSA record: 5-0-1-0, $20,250. Missed 2018 season and was pulled up in 2019 David Semmes Memorial (Gr. 2) at the Virginia Gold Cup. Best of rest when second in Saratoga’s 2017 Michael G. Walsh Novice Stakes at 35-1 odds, then was sixth in Far Hills’ Foxbrook Champion Hurdle and fifth in Steeplechase at Callaway’s Aflac Supreme Hurdle. Looking for first victory since August 2015. (115)
Aardwolf. 2014 dk. b. or br. g., Cape Cross (Ire)—Desert Gazelle, by Smart Strike. Owner: Robert A. Kinsley. Trainer: Elizabeth Voss. Jockey: Jack Doyle. Breeder: Darley (Ky.). 2019 record: 1-0-0-0, $900. 2018 NSA record: 1-0-0-0, $900. Finished sixth in 2019 Queen’s Cup ratings handicap. Showed little interest in U.S. debut at 2018 Charleston meet and finished sixth. Had successful run in modest-level allowance hurdles in England. Final overseas start was third in Worcester allowance hurdle. (115)
Warp Factor (Ire). 2013 b. g., The Carbon Unit—Storminateacup (Ire), by Galileo (Ire). Owner: Irvin S. Naylor. Trainer: Cyril Murphy. Jockey: Darren Nagle. Breeder: Thistle Bloodstock (Ire). 2018 NSA record: 3-1-0-0, $24,000. In U.S. debut, won a 2018 Virginia Gold Cup maiden hurdle and unseated jockey in Shawan Downs allowance hurdle. Pulled up in Charleston handicap. (115)
First Friday. 2014 b. g., Artie Schiller—Vente, by Dynaformer. Owner: Beverly R. Steinman. Trainer: Doug Fout. Jockey: Barry Foley. Breeder: Beverly R. Steinman (N.Y.) 2019 record: 3-0-1-0, $4,350. 2018 NSA record: 4-0-0-2, $15,000. Finished second in 2019 Radnor ratings handicap after unplaced finishes in two higher-level handicap. In 2018 jumps debut, finished third to upcoming novice in Saratoga allowance hurdle and also had third at Shawan Downs. (106)
Other Cheek. 2011 b. g., Smart Strike—Nice Nelly, by Seattle Slew. Owner: Woodslane Farm. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Jockey: Michael Mitchell. Breeders: Mr. and Mrs. M. Roy Jackson (Ky). 2019 NSA record: 3-1-0-0, $26,500. 2018 record: No starts. Won 2019 Virginia Gold Cup maiden hurdle, then was fourth in Radnor allowance hurdle. Pulled up at Middleburg Spring after missing the 2018 season. (115).