A newcomer will take on some race-tested steeplechase veterans on Saturday in the $75,000 David Semmes Memorial (Gr. 2), the featured hurdle race at the 90th Virginia Gold Cup meet.
Also on the nine-race program is the $90,000 Virginia Gold Cup over timber fences. A racing tradition on the first Saturday in May, the festivities will kick off at Great Meadow Race Course in The Plains with a 12:30 p.m. first post time. Pari-mutuel wagering will be offered on all nine races.
The new race, to be run at 2 1/8 miles over National Fences, honors the memory of David Semmes, a well-known member of the Virginia steeplechasing and fox-hunting community who died Jan. 1 at his Indian Run Farm in Flint Hill at the age of 86.
The newcomer in the Semmes field is Daybreak Stables’ Diplomat, a Kentucky-bred who was repatriated by trainer Jimmy Day and began the 2015 season with a half-length victory in the $75,000 Carolina Cup for novices on March 28.
The well-measured win by the Kitten’s Joy gelding boosted him out of the novice division when combined with two victories over hurdles in Ireland in 2013. He went winless over fences and on the flat last season and was purchased by Day for his Daybreak Stables at a Doncaster sale last fall for $18,600.
Bernie Dalton, who rode Diplomat in the Carolina Cup, again will be in the saddle.
The leading veteran challenging him is All Together, who is owned by Andre Brewster and Sheila Williams. Under the care of champion trainer Jack Fisher, All Together won last October’s W. Gary Baker Stakes at the Virginia Fall meet.
The Danzig gelding began the 2015 season with a third-place finish in Middleburg Spring’s Temple Gwathmey (Gr. 3) on April 18. Sean McDermott will ride the 10-year-old.
Gregg Ryan’s Spy in the Sky has two Grade 1 victories to his credit, in the 2009 New York Turf Writers Cup and the 2012 A. P. Smithwick Memorial, both at long odds at Saratoga Race Course. Trained by Day before being claimed at Saratoga last summer, the 11-year-old began the current season with a third-place finish in a Middleburg Spring allowance hurdle. Tom Foley will ride for trainer Eva Smithwick.
Racing Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard will send out Parker’s Project, who won the Iroquois Steeplechase’s 2012 Marcellus Frost (Gr. 2) for owner Hudson River Farms before going to the sidelines for more than two years. In his return last fall, he finished third in the Grand National (Gr. 1) at Far Hills, N.J. Champion jockey Willie McCarthy has the mount.
Robbie Walsh, the regular jockey of reigning Eclipse Award champion Demonstrative, will ride Clorevia Farm’s Dr. Skip, who finished fifth in the Grand National and will be making his 2015 debut for trainer Edward Graham.
Completing the field is Rock Ford Stables’ Sporty, who is trained in Virginia by Julie Gomena. Sporty finished fifth in the Carolina Cup and will be ridden by Kieran Norris.
Here is the field for the $75,000 David Semmes Memorial in post-position order.
Parker’s Project. 2006 dk. b. or br. g., Parker’s Storm Cat–Let’s Canoodle, by Oh Say. Owner: Hudson River Farms. Trainer: Jonathan Sheppard. Jockey: Willie McCarthy. Breeder: Jonathan Sheppard (Pa.) 2014 record: 3-0-1-1, $55,000. In first start in more than two years, closed well to finish second in Belmont Park’s $150,000 Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1), then finished third in Grand National (Gr. 1) at Far Hills, N.J. Closed season with sixth in Colonial Cup (Gr. 1).
Spy in the Sky. 2004 ch. g., Thunder Gulch—Monaassabaat, by Zilzal. Owner: Gregg Ryan. Trainer: Eva Smithwick. Jockey: Tom Foley. Breeder: Gainsborough Farm (Ky.) 2015 record: 1-0-0-1, $1,500. 2014 record: 7-0-1-2, $36,100. Opened 2015 with third in Middleburg Spring’s Alfred M. Hunt allowance steeplechase. Finished second in 2014 Noel Laing Handicap. Good effort when third in Belmont Park’s $150,000 Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1) last September, then fourth in International Gold Cup’s $50,000 David L. “Zeke” Ferguson Memorial (Gr. 3). Claimed for $30,000 from Saratoga optional claimer in which he finished third. Won 2012 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1) and 2009 New York Turf Writers Cup (Gr. 1).
Diplomat. 2009 b. g., Kitten’s Joy—Waki Affair, by Miswaki. Owner: Daybreak Stables. Trainer: Jimmy Day. Jockey: Bernie Dalton. Breeders: Ken and Sarah Ramsey (Ky.) 2015 record: 1-1-0-0, $45,000. 2014 NSA record: No starts. Began 2015 season with half-length victory in $75,000 Carolina Cup for novices. Veteran competitor in Ireland for trainer Dermot Weld mixed hurdle racing with flat starts but was winless in eight outings in 2014. Best was a third on the flat in Killarney in August. Had two victories over hurdles in 2013. Bred by champion owners-breeders Ken and Sarah Ramsey and is a full brother to stakes-placed Kitten Love.
All Together. 2005 b. g., Danzig–Unify, by Farma Way. Owners: Andre W. Brewster and Sheila J. Williams. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Jockey: Sean McDermott. Breeder: Jayeff B Stables (Ky.). 2015 record: 1-0-0-1, $1,500. 2014 record: 7-1-3-0, $62,000. Opened 2015 season with third in Temple Gwathmey (Gr. 3). Won Virginia Fall’s 2014 W. Gary Baker Memorial, then finished second in International Gold Cup’s David L. “Zeke” Ferguson Memorial (Gr. 3). Finished fourth in Belmont Park’s Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1) after fourths in Saratoga’s A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1) and New York Turf Writers Cup (Gr. 1).
Dr. Skip. 2008 ch. g., Eddington—Mz. Ann, by Citidancer. Owner: Clorevia Farm. Trainer: Edward Graham. Jockey: Robbie Walsh. Breeder: Michael P. Cataneo (Md.) 2015: No starts. 2014 record: 2-0-0-1, $17,500. Finished fifth in 2014 Grand National (Gr. 1) at Far Hills, N.J. In only other 2014 start, finished third in Belmont Park’s William Entenmann Memorial Novice Stakes. Tuned with second in Middleburg Spring flat training race.
Sporty. 2007 dk. b. or br. g., Smarty Jones—Byzantine, by Quiet American. Owner: Rock Ford Stables. Trainer: Julie Gomena. Jockey: Kieran Norris. Breeder: Nursery Place (Ky.) 2015 record: 1-0-0-0, $3,000. 2014 record: 4-0-0-2, $13,500. Began 2015 with fifth in Carolina Cup for novices. Finished fourth in 2014 Carolina Cup before third in Iroquois Steeplechase’s Marcellus Frost Stakes and in Saratoga’s Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes. Fell after being bothered in Saratoga’s Michael G. Walsh Novice Stakes, his final start of the year.