Two-time timber champion Doc Cebu will confront the stiffest challenge of his jump-racing career on Saturday when he lines up against a seasoned field of competitors in the 94th running of the $100,000 Virginia Gold Cup at Great Meadow Race Course in The Plains.
The classic four-mile race over timber fences headlines the gala Virginia Gold Cup meet, which annually attracts the largest crowd in American steeplechase racing. The nine-race program offers $435,000 in purse money and also features the $75,000 David Semmes Memorial (Gr. 2) over hurdles.
First post time is 12:30 p.m., and pari-mutuel wagering will be offered on all races.
Owned by Charles Fenwick Jr., Michael Hankin, and Charles Noell, Doc Cebu is no stranger to Great Meadow. He clinched his 2017 and 2018 timber titles with victories in the International Gold Cup.
But that October race is 3½ miles, and Doc Cebu will be asked to run an additional half-mile in the Virginia Gold Cup. He also will be coming off his first off-the-board finish in his four-year jump-racing career. He struck a fence in the My Lady’s Manor on April 13, stumbled on landing, and parted company with jockey Hadden Frost.
Trainer Jack Fisher named Frost for a return ride in the Virginia Gold Cup, and Doc Cebu very likely will be a heavy favorite in the betting.
The My Lady’s Manor winner, Upland Partners’ Mystic Strike will again line up against Doc Cebu. Trainer Todd McKenna named premier timber jockey Mark Beecher to ride.
Ballybristol Farm’s Andi’amu won the Virginia Gold Cup’s Steeplethon over mixed obstacles last year, and the French-bred successfully transitioned to timber racing with a 5¾-length victory in the Middleburg Hunt Cup on April 20. Trainer Leslie Young named Jack Doyle to a return ride.
Also coming out of the Middleburg Hunt Cup are second finisher Michael A. Smith’s Le Chevalier and Irv Naylor’s Super Saturday, who was fifth. Trainer Julie Gomena named Kieran Norris to ride Le Chevalier, who finished second in last year’s Virginia Gold Cup and third in the International Gold Cup.
Super Saturday, third in last year’s Virginia Gold Cup and second in the International Gold Cup, will be ridden by Gerard Galligan. Trainer Kathy Neilson will saddle Super Saturday and her It’s Nothing, winner of a timber allowance at the Fair Hill Races last May. Eddie Keating has the mount.
Frank A. Bonsal’s Stand Down is the only member of the Virginia Gold Cup field to have won at four miles. Trained by Joe Davies, Stand Down won the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup by 7¾ lengths over Super Saturday last November. He opened the year with a second-place finish in a My Lady’s Manor timber allowance race.
Eric Poretz, who rode Senior Senator to a third Maryland Hunt Cup victory for Davies on April 27, will be in the saddle of Irish-bred Stand Down, who was pulled up in last fall’s International Gold Cup.
Here is the field for the 94th edition of the Virginia Gold Cup in post-position order.
Andi’amu (Fr). 2010 b. g., Walk In The Park—Sainte Parfaite, by Septieme Ciel. Owner: Ballybristol Farm. Trainer: Leslie Young. Jockey: Jack Doyle. Breeder: Therese Bouche (Fr). 2019 record: 1-1-0-0, $18,000. 2018 record: 2-2-0-0, $36,000. 2017 NSA record: 6-0-1-2, $32,900. Won the 2019 Middleburg Hunt Cup by 5¾ lengths. Won Middleburg Spring’s 2018 Alfred M. Hunt steeplethon, then added Virginia Gold Cup’s Steeplethon Stakes. Finished second in 2017 Noel Laing Handicap after third in Far Hills’ Appleton ratings handicap. Opened 2017 with fifth in Tryon Block House Handicap, then was distant third in Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1). Came home eighth in 2017 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1).
Stand Down (Ire). 2012 b. g., Yeats (Ire)—Quadrennial, by Un Desperado. Owner: Frank Bonsal Jr. Trainer: Joseph G. Davies. Jockey: Eric Poretz. Breeder: Mrs. E. Costelloe (Ire). 2019 record: 1-0-1-0, $1,800. 2018 record: 5-3-0-1, $45,000. Finished second in 2019 John D. Schapiro timber allowance at My Lady’s Manor. Won 2018 Pennsylvania Hunt Cup. Sustained first career defeat when third in 2018 Genesee Valley Hunt Cup, then was pulled up in International Gold Cup. Won first two career starts by open lengths, beginning with 2018 Grand National timber allowance and then Willowdale allowance timber.
Mystic Strike. 2009 b. h., Smart Strike—Mystic Rhythms, by Citidancer. Owner: Upland Partners. Trainer: Todd McKenna. Jockey: Mark Beecher. Breeder: Peter Vegso Racing (Fla.). 2019 record: 1-1-0-0, $30,000. 2018 record: 4-0-2-1, $17,600. 2017 record: 2-2-0-0, $27,000. Won the 2019 My Lady’s Manor. Finished fifth in 2018 New Jersey Hunt Cup. Finished second in 2018 Radnor Hunt Cup and Winterthur Bowl after third in My Lady’s Manor. Barely beaten and then placed first in 2017 Radnor Hunt Cup.
Super Saturday. 2009 gr. or ro. g., Any Given Saturday—Lady Aloma, by Cozzene. Owner: Irvin S. Naylor. Trainer: Kathy Neilson. Jockey: Gerard Galligan. Breeder: Walton Breeders (Ky.) 2019 record: 1-0-0-0, $1,200. 2018 record: 6-1-2-1, $51,800. 2017 record: 6-0-1-1, $13,400. Finished fifth in Middleburg Hunt Cup. Finished second in 2018 International Gold Cup and Pennsylvania Hunt Cup after fifth in National Sporting Library & Museum Cup. Won 2018 Middleburg Hunt Cup, then was third in the Virginia Gold Cup and fourth in Radnor Hunt Cup.
Doc Cebu. 2010 b. g., Hard Spun—Berga, by Jade Hunter. Owners: Charles C. Fenwick Jr., Michael Hankin, and Charles Noell. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Jockey: Hadden Frost. Breeder: Graceville Breeding (Ky.) 2019 record: 1-0-0-0, $0. 2018 record: 5-4-0-1, $102,000. 2017 record: 5-4-1-0, $96,600. Timber champion, 2017, 2018. Knocked down second-to-last fence and lost rider in 2019 My Lady’s Manor. Won International Gold Cup for a second time to lock up 2018 timber title. Also won Shawan Downs’ 2018 Brown Advisory Legacy Chase by 3 1/2 lengths and scored a second victory in the Genesee Valley Hunt Cup by seven lengths. Won Willowdale Steeplechase for a second straight year in 2018 after third in Middleburg Hunt Cup. Clinched 2017 timber championship with 11-length victory in International Gold Cup.
Le Chevalier. 2009 g. or ro. g., Broken Vow—Orellana, by With Approval. Owner: Michael A. Smith. Trainer: Julie Gomena. Jockey: Kieran Norris. Breeder: Haras du Mezeray (Ky.) 2019 record: 1-0-1-0, $5,400. 2018 record: 4-1-2-1, $54,900. 2017 record: 1-0-0-1, $3,000. Finished second in 2019 Middleburg Hunt Cup. Won 2018 National Sporting Library & Museum Cup, then was third in International Gold Cup. Finished second in Virginia Gold Cup and Middleburg Hunt Cup. Won the 2016 New Jersey Hunt Cup.
It’s Nothing. 2013 b. g., Congrats—Quies, by Quiet American. Owner-trainer: Kathy Neilson. Jockey: Eddie Keating. Breeder: Mr. and Mrs. Roy Jackson (Ky.) 2019 record: No starts. 2018 record: 6-1-1-1, $20,800. Won maiden timber victory at Fair Hill Races in May 2018. Completed 2018 season with fourth in Pennsylvania Hunt Cup allowance race. Year-younger half-brother to timber allowance winner Aquies.