Ann Taylor Rowe’s Mr. Universo, a well-traveled classic winner in his native Brazil, heads a competitive field for the $25,000 Budweiser Holiday Cup, the featured optional claiming allowance hurdle at Saturday’s 23rd annual Aiken Fall Steeplechase. First post time is 1 p.m. at the Aiken, S.C., course.
The 10-year-old gelding will be ridden by reigning champion jockey Paddy Young, who was in the saddle for Mr. Universo’s only 2014 start, a victory in a $15,000 claiming hurdle at Shawan Downs in Maryland on Sept. 27.
He won his maiden victory over fences at Parx Racing outside Philadelphia in June 2013. It was his first American score and his first victory since winning the Brazil Derby (Brz-Gr. 1) in 2004. He raced with little success in California before he was transferred to the East Coast, where he finished fourth in Aqueduct’s Red Smith Handicap (Gr. 2) in 2009.
Mr. Universo is trained by Leslie Young, who also entered Boudinot Farms’ Harmony Bay, winner of a Foxfield Spring maiden hurdle in April.
Dale Thiel’s Sir Dynamite returns to Aiken after finishing third in last year’s Budweiser Holiday Cup. Subsequently eighth in the Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup (Gr. 1), he finished third in a Carolina Cup starter hurdle on March 29 in his only start this year. Trainer Britt Graham named Danielle Hodsdon to ride Sir Dynamite, who will carry a $25,000 claiming tag.
Robbie Walsh, who guided Demonstrative to a Grand National (Gr. 1) victory on Oct. 18, will be aboard Stonelea Stable’s Balance the Budget, winner of a Shawan Downs maiden hurdle on Sept. 27. Trained by Julie Gomena, Balance the Budget previously had finished a close fourth in a tough Saratoga Race Course allowance hurdle on Aug. 6.
Completing the field is Dr. John K. Griggs’ G G Gal, a five-year-old Whywhywhy mare who most recently finished sixth in a Virginia Fall optional allowance hurdle on Oct. 4. Trainer Dave Washer named Bernie Dalton to ride.
Who do you like in the $25,000 Budweiser Holiday Cup?
G G Gal. 2009 ch. m., Whywhywhy—Royal G G, by Royal Academy. Owner: John K. Griggs. Trainer: David J. Washer. Jockey: Bernie Dalton. 2014 record: 5-0-0-0, $1,950. 2013 record: 1-1-0-0, $9,000. 8-1 odds. Finished sixth in a Virginia Fall optional allowance hurdle on Oct. 4 and being pulled up in Iroquois Steeplechase’s Margaret Currey Henley Stakes for fillies and mares on May 10. Lost rider in Aiken Spring optional allowance hurdle. Scored maiden victory at 2013 Carolina Cup, her only start that year.
Balance the Budget. 2009 ch. g., Bellamy Road—Every Day Is Good, by El Corredor. Owner: Stonelea Stable. Trainer: Julie Gomena. Jockey: Robbie Walsh. 2014 record: 6-1-1-1, $24,500. 2013 record: No NSA starts. 4-1 odds. Won Shawan Downs maiden hurdle by 5 1/2 lengths on Sept. 27 after close-up fourth in tough Saratoga Race Course allowance hurdle. Finished third in Parx Racing maiden hurdle on July 1.
Harmony Bay. 2010 dk. b. or br. g., Doneraile Court—Risky Kitten, by Formal Gold. Owner: Boudnot Farm. Trainer: Leslie Young. Jockey: Michael Mitchell. 2014 NSA record: 2-1-0-0, $12,000. 5-1 odds. In first start over fences, won a Foxfield Spring maiden hurdle on April 26 and then finished seventh in a Radnor Hunt Races allowance hurdle.
Sir Dynamite. 2005 b. g., Dynaformer—Lady Ilsley, by Trempolino. Owner: Dale Thiel. Trainer: Britt Graham. Jockey: Danielle Hodsdon. 2014 record: 1-0-0-1, $2,000. 2013 record: 5-1-1-1, $22,600. 3-1 odds. In only 2014 start, finished third in Carolina Cup starter handicap on March 29. Finished third in last year’s Budweiser Holiday Cup before eighth in Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup (Gr. 1). Running for $25,000 claiming price.
Mr. Universo (Brz). 2004 dk. b. or br. g., Roi Normand—Trephine, by Trempolino. Owner: Amy Taylor Rowe. Trainer: Leslie Young. Jockey: Paddy Young. 2014 record: 1-1-0-0, $6,000. 2013 record: 4-1-1-0, $18,550. 2-1 odds. Tuned for Budweiser Holiday Cup with Shawan Downs claiming hurdle score, his only 2014 start. Scored his maiden victory over fences at Parx Racing in June 2013. Winner of the 2007 Brazil Derby (Brz-Gr. 1).