Five major stakes winners and a jumper knocking at the door of his first stakes victory will clash Saturday, June 2, in the $50,000 David L. “Zeke” Ferguson Memorial (Gr. 3), the steeplechase feature race as Colonial Downs kicks off its 2012 season in New Kent, Va.
Five steeplechase races are on the program, and the first one will open the festivities at 12:55 p.m. The Ferguson Memorial at 2 1/4 miles over 10 National Fences will be the ninth race on the card.
Irvin S. Naylor, the National Steeplechase Association’s record-smashing leading owner in 2011, entered Irish-bred Via Galilei, who launched his American career with a victory in the Temple Gwathmey (Gr. 3) at the Middleburg Spring Races on April 21.
Trained by J. W. Delozier, the seven-year-old Galileo gelding proved unable to duplicate that effort in the $75,000 Marcellus Frost (Gr. 2) at Nashville’s Iroquois Steeplechase and finished third on May 12. Naylor’s first-call jockey, Ross Geraghty, will ride.
Two National Steeplechase Association champions also will be trying to regain their top form in the Ferguson Memorial. Arcadia Stable’s All Together, the 2010 novice champion, finished fifth in the Marcellus Frost, a two-mile race over National Fences. Jack Fisher trains the Danzig gelding, who won of last year’s Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes at Saratoga Race Course.
Jacqueline Ohrstrom’s Demonstrative reigned as the three-year-old champion in 2010 and won the William Entenmann Novice Stakes at Belmont Park last July. Trained by Richard Valentine, he lost his rider in his only 2012 jump start, the Queen’s Cup MPC ‘Chase in North Carolina on April 28. Robbie Walsh will again be aboard the Elusive Quality gelding.
Mary Ann Houghland’s Pierrot Lunaire will be in fresh hands for the Ferguson after previous trainer Bruce Miller passed the reins to his daughter, former champion steeplechase jockey Blythe Miller Davies. Pierrot Lunaire won the Iroquois in 2009 and finished fifth this year. Bernie Dalton will ride.
Virginia-based trainer Jimmy Day will saddle Randleston Farm’s Spy in the Sky, who upset the 2009 New York Turf Writers Cup Handicap (Gr. 1) at Saratoga. Darren Nagle rides Spy in the Sky, who most recently finished fourth in the Marcellus Frost.
Trying to break through in this tough group is Gustavian, owned by Virginia’s historic Hickory Tree Stable. Trained by Leslie Young, the Giant’s Causeway gelding finished second by a half-length in the Queen’s Cup and then just missed by a nose in the $50,000 National Hunt Cup at the Radnor Hunt Races in Malvern, Pa., on May 19. Brian Crowley will take over the mount.