Bill Pape’s Divine Fortune, narrowly defeated in the spring’s richest steeplechase race, heads a strong group of 15 nominees to the $50,000 David L. “Zeke” Ferguson Memorial, the featured race as Colonial Downs opens its 2013 Thoroughbred racing season on Saturday, June 8.
Also nominated to the 2 1/4-mile Ferguson were 2010 Eclipse Award winner Slip Away, reigning steeplechase filly-and-mare champion Cat Feathers, 2012 Grade 1 winner Spy in the Sky, and two-time 2013 Grade 3 winner Decoy Daddy.
A two-time winner of Grade 2 hurdle races, Divine Fortune ran a gallant race in the $150,000 Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1) at Nashville on May 11 and came up just a neck short to Demonstrative.
Trained by Racing Hall Fame member Jonathan Sheppard, Divine Fortune opened the year with a victory in the Sandhills Cup allowance hurdle at the Stoneybrook Steeplechase on April 6. He was assigned the 160-pound highweight in the handicap prepared by National Steeplechase Association Director of Racing Bill Gallo Jr.
Second in the weights at 158 pounds is Decoy Daddy, who heads an impressive contingent of nominees for champion owner Irv Naylor. After finishing third to Divine Fortune in the Sandhills Cup, Decoy Daddy reeled off victories in the Temple Gwathmey (Gr. 3) at the Middleburg Spring Races on April 20 and Radnor’s National Hunt Cup (Gr. 3) on May 18.
Brianne Slater, who trains Decoy Daddy, also nominated three other horses owned by Naylor. Black Quartz finished second in the Marcellus Frost Stakes for novices at Iroquois after winning the Queen’s Cup MPC ‘Chase for novices near Charlotte, N.C., on April 27. Charminster was fifth in the National Hunt Cup after winning an optional allowance at Middleburg. Sacred Soul won his maiden victory at Middleburg and then scored an impressive victory in a Virginia Gold Cup allowance hurdle on May 4.
Two major Grade 1 winners, Slip Away and Spy in the Sky, are attempting to regain their best form. Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Slip Away, the 2010 Eclipse champion for trainer Tom Voss, most recently finished a well-beaten fourth in the Calvin Houghland Iroquois after a second behind Divine Fortune in the Sandhills Cup.
Randleston Farm’s Spy in the Sky, trained by Jimmy Day, won last summer’s A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1) at Saratoga Race Course. He opened his 2013 campaign with a seventh-place finish in the National Hunt Cup. Slip Away would carry 152 pounds in the handicap, and Spy in the Sky is right behind him at 150 pounds.
Jack Fisher, the reigning champion trainer, nominated Gil Johnston’s Mr. Hot Stuff, who turned up the heat in the novice division with his 2 1/2-length victory in the Marcellus Frost. Also nominated to the Ferguson from the Frost were Gene Weymouth’s Wild for Gold, fifth, and Meritage Racing’s Inti, sixth.
Owner-trainer Kate Dalton’s Cat Feathers would be making her first hurdles start of the year. She claimed the 2012 Life’s Illusion Filly and Mare Championship with an upset score in Saratoga Race Course’s Mrs. Ogden Phipps and a good second in Saratoga’s Mrs. Walter M. Jeffords Jr. Stakes last August. She was unplaced in an Iroquois flat race to open her 2013 campaign.
Trainer Richard Valentine nominated Augustin Stables’ Rainiero, who most recently won a Virginia Gold Cup starter stakes after finishing fourth behind Decoy Daddy in the Gwathmey.
Here are the nominees to the $50,000 David L. “Zeke” Ferguson Memorial (Gr. 3).
Ballet Boy (Ire). 2004 b. g., Sadler’s Wells–Happy Landing, by Homing. Owner: Merriefield arm. Trainer: Tom Voss. 2013 record: 1-0-0-0, $0. 2012 record: 1-1-0-0, $30,000. 2011 record: 3-1-1-0, $22,500. Pulled up before final fence in Radnor Hunt Cup’s National Hunt Cup (Gr. 3) on May 18. In only hurdle start last year, won the National Hunt Cup when it was restricted to novices. In 2011, won Radnor’s Vita C. Thompson Memorial.
Black Quartz (Fr). 2007 b. g., Danehill Dancer—Mirina, by Pursuit of Love. Owner: Irvin S. Naylor. Trainer: Brianne Slater. 2013 record: 1-1-0-0, $30,000. 2012 record: 5-2-0-0, $27,000. 2011 NSA record: 1-0-0-1, $2,500. Finished second in Iroquois Steeplechase’s Marcellus Frost Novice Stakes on May 11. Won $50,000 Queen’s Cup MPC ‘Chase by 2 3/4 lengths in first 2013 start. Won $15,000 maiden hurdle at Foxfield Spring Races and $30,000 optional allowance at Radnor Hunt Races last year. Pulled up in two Saratoga novice stakes, the Jonathan Kiser and the Michael G. Walsh.
Cat Feathers. 2008 dk. b. or br. f., Catienus—Mistress Hemming, by Quiet American. Owner-trainer: Kate Dalton. 2013 record: 1-0-0-0, $0. 2012 record: 4-1-1-0, $58,500. 2011 record: 2-1-0-0, $6,000. 2013 Life’s Illusion Filly and Mare Champion. Upset Saratoga’s Mrs. Ogden Phipps Stakes at 23.30-1 over top field, then finished close second in Mrs. Walter M. Jeffords Jr. Stakes last August. Started 2013 season with unplaced finish in Iroquois flat race.
Charminster (Ire). 2006 b. g., Broadway Flyer—Monteleena, by Montelimar. Owner: Irvin S. Naylor. Trainer: Brianne Slater. 2013 record: 2-1-0-0, $14,000. 2012 NSA record: 3-0-1-1, $52,000. Finished fifth in Radnor’s National Hunt Cup (Gr. 3) on May 18. Pulled away to a nine-length win in a Middleburg Spring optional allowance on April 20. Pressed pace in the 2012 Grand National (Gr. 1) and faded to fifth at Far Hills, N.J. In first U.S. start, ran a strong race in Saratoga Race Course’s New York Turf Writers Cup Handicap (Gr. 1) and finished second, a length back. Later ran third in the Lonesome Glory Stakes (Gr. 1) at Belmont Park on Sept. 27.
Complete Zen. 2006 gr. or ro. g., Cozzene–Complete Number, by Polish Numbers. Owner: Why Not Racing. Trainer: Lilith Boucher. 2013 record: 5-0-1-2, $12,100. 2012 record: 2-0-1-0, $2,850. 2011 record: 6-2-1-0, $77,750. Finished fifth in Fair Hill’s Valentine Memorial starter stakes on May 25. Distant sixth in Daniel Van Clief Memorial optional allowance claimer at Foxfield Spring on April 27. Began 2013 with fourth in an Aiken Spring optional allowance before taking second money in a claiming race, beaten a length, at Colonial Downs’ Dogwood Classic on April 6. Finished distant sixth in Montpelier’s 2012 Noel Laing Handicap after second in International Fegentri World Cup flat race at the International Gold Cup at The Plains, Va.
Decoy Daddy (Ire). 2002 ch. g., Lord of Appeal–Young Bebe, by M. Double M. Owner: Irvin S. Naylor. Trainer: Brianne Slater. 2013 record: 3-2-0-1, $62,500. 2012 record: 6-1-1-0, $34,300. 2011 record: 7-3-2-0, $124,100. Came back late to notch half-length victory in Radnor’s National Hunt Cup (Gr. 3) on May 18. Drew away to an 8 1/2-length win in the Temple Gwathmey (Gr. 3) at Middleburg Spring Races on April 20. Chased early speed and finished third in Stoneybrook Steeplechase’s Sandhills Cup open allowance on April 6. Finished fourth in 2012 Colonial Cup (Gr. 1) after a second when bidding for third straight win in Montpelier’s Noel Laing. Finished fourth in both Grade 1 races at Saratoga Race Course, A. P. Smithwick Memorial Stakes and New York Turf Writers Cup Handicap. Finished sixth in Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1) his first 2012 start. Won International Fegentri World Cup flat race at International Gold Cup on Oct. 20.
Divine Fortune. 2003 ch. g., Royal Anthem–My Tombola, by Northern Fling. Owner: William Pape. Trainer: Jonathan Sheppard. 2013 record: 2-1-1-0, $42,000. 2012 record: 7-1-3-0, $113,500. 2011 record: 4-1-1-0, $64,000. Finished second for second consecutive year in the $150,000 Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1) on May 11. Cruised to a convincing victory in the Sandhills Cup in North Carolina on April 6. Took lead at last fence of 2012 Colonial Cup (Gr. 1) and held on well for second, beaten a length. Set pace in Grand National (Gr. 1) and finished good second at Far Hills, N.J. on Oct. 20.
Inti (Uru). 2005 gr. or ro. g., Dubai Dust-Rigolina (Uru), by Ritz (Arg). Owner: Meritage Racing. Trainer: Cyril Murphy. 2013 record: 2-0-0-0, $3,500. 2012 record: 2-1-1-0, $20,400. Finished fifth in Iroquois Steeplechase’s Marcellus Frost Stakes for novices. Finished fourth in his first 2013 start, $25,000 Sandhills Cup at Stoneybrook Steeplechase on April 6. Won optional allowance at Colonial Downs last June.
Mr. Hot Stuff. 2006 dk. b. or br. g., Tiznow—Sweet Damsel, by Turkoman. Owner: Gil Johnston. Trainer: Jack Fisher. 2013 record: 2-1-0-1, $50,000. 2012 record: No starts. 2011 record: 4-2-0-0, $35,000. Won Iroquois Steeplechase’s $75,000 Marcellus Frost for novices by 2 1/2 lengths on May 11. Began 2013 campaign with a third, beaten 3 3/4 lengths, in the Queen’s Cup MPC ‘Chase on April 27. Missed all of 2012 season after wins in Fair Hill maiden hurdle and Penn National Race Course optional allowance in 2011. Maiden flat winner finished third in 2006 Santa Anita Derby (Gr. 1), 15th in the Kentucky Derby (Gr. 1), and fifth in the Belmont Stakes (Gr. 1).
Orebanks. 2005 dk. b. or br. g., Aptitude—Dyna Two, by Dynaformer. Owner: Beverly R. Steinman. Trainer: Doug Fout. 2013 record: 2-0-2-0, $9,000. 2011 record: 4-0-1-0, $4,800. Finished second to Sacred Soul in Virginia Gold Cup’s $30,000 allowance hurdle after second to Charminster in Middleburg Spring allowance hurdle.
Rainiero (Chi). 2002 b. g., African Dancer—Ultramar, by El Morgon. Owner: Augustin Stables. Trainer: Richard Valentine. 2013 record: 2-1-0-0, $23,500. 2012 record: 4-2-1-1, $43,100. 2011 record: 3-3-0-0, $18,000. Won starter allowance at Iroquois Steeplechase on May 11 after fourth in Temple Gwathmey (Gr. 3) at Middleburg Spring on April 20. Won 2012 Noel Laing at Montpelier finishing second in Colonial Cup starter allowance race. Won feature race at 2012 High Hope for fourth straight victory but streak ended with third in Saratoga optional allowance.
Sacred Soul. 2007 b. g., Perfect Soul (Ire)—Scarab Bracelet, by Riverman. Owner: Irvin S. Naylor. Trainer: Brianne Slater. 2013 record: 3-2-1-0, $34,500. 2012 record: No NSA starts. Won $30,000 allowance hurdle by 9 3/4 lengths at Virginia Gold Cup on May 4 after maiden score at Middleburg Spring Races on April 20.
Slip Away. 2003 gr. or ro. g., Slip Away–Aurora Slew, by Slew’s Royalty. Owner: Ken and Sarah Ramsey. Trainer: Tom Voss. 2013 record: 2-0-1-0, $12,000. 2012 record: 2-0-0-0, $1,750. 2011 record: 2-0-1-0, $31,500. Finished well-beaten fourth in Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1) on May 4. Began 2013 season with second to Divine Fortune in the Sandhills Cup on April 6. Eclipse champion and Colonial Cup winner in 2010 recorded a fourth-place finish in the 2012 Noel Laing Handicap at Montpelier and a seventh in Colonial Cup (Gr. 1) after setting pace.
Spy in the Sky. 2004 ch. g., Thunder Gulch—Monaassabaat, by Zilzal. Owner: Randleston Farm. Trainer: Jimmy Day. 2013 record: 1-0-0-0, $0. 2012 record: 6-1-1-1, $111,250. 2011 record: 6-0-0-3, $12,000. Finished seventh in Radnor’s National Hunt Cup in seasonal debut on May 18. Ended 2012 season with a sixth in the Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup (Gr. 1). Missed by a nose in Lonesome Glory Stakes (Gr. 1) at Belmont Park on Sept. 27. Upset A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1) at 25-1 on Aug. 2 and then was a respectable third in the New York Turf Writers Cup Handicap (Gr. 1). Finished fourth in last year’s David L. “Zeke” Ferguson Memorial (Gr. 3) at Colonial Downs. Won the 2009 New York Turf Writers.
Wild for Gold. 2003 ch. g., Wild Rush–After the Glitter, by Screen King. Owner: Eugene Weymouth. Trainer: Janet Elliot. 2013 record: 2-0-1-0, $12,000. 2012 record: 4-1-0-0, $25,200. 2011 record: 4-1-1-2, $24,300. Finished fifth in Marcellus Frost for novices at Iroquois Steeplechase on May 11. Kicked off 2013 campaign with second in $50,000 Queen’s Cup MPC ‘Chase on April 27. Wpm Parx Racing optional allowance in June 2012 before a seventh-place finish in Saratoga’s Jonathan Kiser Novice and a fall in Belmont Park’s William Entenmann Memorial Novice Stakes on Sept. 27. Unplaced in Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup (Gr. 1) to close 2012 season.