Oakwood Stable’s Country Cousin collected his second stakes victory of the year when he surged through Colonial Downs’ stretch to win the $50,000 David L. “Zeke” Ferguson Memorial Hurdle (Gr. 3) by one length on Sunday, June 26. Straight to It, seeking his second straight win at the New Kent, Va., track, finished second, a length ahead of Your Sum Man.
With regular jockey Carl Rafter in the irons for trainer Julie Gomena, Country Cousin went off as the 3.10-1 third betting choice in a field of six and ran the Ferguson’s 2 1/4 miles in 4:07.17 on firm turf.
Stephen Price’s Fealing Real opened a daylight early lead under Robbie Walsh, with The Fields Stable’s Your Sum Man, favored at 2.10-1, tracking the pace in second. Fealing Real tired on the final turn of Colonial’s spacious turf course and ceded the lead to Your Sum Man and champion jockey Paddy Young.
Rafter launched his bid on the final turn and jumped the last fence in third position, 1 1/2 lengths behind Sheila Williams’ and Andre Brewster’s Straight to It. Country Cousin found his best stride inside the furlong pole and surged past Straight to It and Your Sum Man, both of whom continued gamely to the finish line.
Straight to It, winner of the Strawberry Hill Classic on the Colonial Course on May 21, was beginning to cut into Country Cousin’s winning margin through the final strides under jockey Willie Dowling.
Bill Pape’s Mixed Up, the 2009 Eclipse Award winner, finished fourth, with Fealing Real checking in fifth. Randleston Farm’s Spy in the Sky, who shared the 154-pound high weight with Country Cousin, fell at the fifth fence.
The Ferguson was the second win in three 2011 starts for Country Cousin. The eight-year-old Lear Fan gelding started the year with a victory in the Budweiser Imperial Cup at Aiken, S.C., on March 26 and then finished third in the $75,000 Marcellus Frost (Gr. 2) at the Iroquois Steeplechase in Nashville on May 14. Racing in the silks of Nicole H. Perry’s Oakwood Stable, Country Cousin had won the 2010 National Hunt Cup at the Radnor Hunt Races in Malvern, Pa.
A busy weekend of steeplechase racing kicked off on Friday, June 24, when Mr. Hot Stuff proved he really is hot stuff with a victory in a $30,000 optional allowance at Penn National Race Course in Grantville, Pa. Gil Johnston’s Mr. Hot Stuff was reserved off the early pace by jockey Willie Dowling, made his move on Penn National’s final turn, and wore down Roman Glory for the three-quarter- length victory. Trained by Jack Fisher, Mr. Hot Stuff went off as the 3.90-1 favorite in a field of nine and ran the 2 1/16 miles in 3:44.20 on firm turf. Cherry Knoll Farm’s Roman Glory held second by 1 3/4 lengths over Dumbarton Farm’s Easy Red. Magalen O. Bryant’s Air Maggy finished fourth, 1 1/2 lengths behind Easy Red.