Charles C. Fenwick Jr.’s Doc Cebu marked himself as a premier timber horse Saturday when he surged past front-running Grand Manan and drew clear easily to an 11 3/4-length victory in the $75,000 International Gold Cup.
Armata Stables’ Grand Manan, the defending winner of the 3 1/2-mile International Gold Cup, overcame some near-mishaps to finish second, 21 1/4 lengths ahead of Kiplin Hall’s Rodriguez.
The International Gold Cup, the fall’s richest timber race, was the co-feature of the International Gold Cup meet at Great Meadow Race Course in The Plains. Stonelea Stables’ Balance the Budget, a multiple stakes winner, wired the $75,000 David L. “Zeke” Ferguson Memorial (Gr. 2) over hurdles.
The International Gold Cup was another big day for champion trainer Jack Fisher, who continued to add to his National Steeplechase Association record purses with Doc Cebu’s win and a victory by Bruton Street-US’s Preseli Rock in the $40,000 Steeplethon Stakes. Fisher had established a record exceeding $1.2-million when Mr. Hot Stuff won the Grand National (Gr. 1) a week earlier.
Hadden Frost rode both winners for Fisher.
The International Gold Cup, contested on a lush course rated as good, shaped up as expected on a bright, breezy afternoon in northern Virginia. Grand Manan is a front-runner, and Doc Cebu possesses sufficient speed to set the pace or to lay off it.
Grand Manan went to the front, with seven-year-old Doc Cebu close behind him. The front-runner gave jockey Darren Nagle a few anxious fences, though, as the eight-year-old banged some fences and broke away at least two top rails.
On the second circuit of the Great Meadow course, Rodriguez made his move under Jack Doyle and briefly seized the lead, but Doc Cebu was in control at the last fence and drew away under a hand ride. He ran the 3 1/2 miles in 6:57 2/5.
The International Gold Cup was the Hard Spun gelding’s fourth win of the year from five starts over timber—he finished second at the Queen’s Cup in April in his only other start. He won the Willowdale Steeplechase in May and the Genesee Valley Hunt Cup on Oct. 14, both by multiple lengths.
The International Gold Cup’s $45,000 first-place purse raised Doc Cebu’s 2017 purses to $96,600, and he now sits comfortably atop the timber leader board. He made his first timber start, a maiden win at My Lady’s Manor, on April 15.
“He’s so consistent,” said owner Fenwick, a champion timber jockey who rode Ben Nevis to victory in the Grand National at Aintree in 1980 and to a plaque in America’s Racing Hall of Fame.
Balance the Budget wires Ferguson
Balance the Budget and jockey Mark Watts went to the lead early in the 2 1/4-mile Ferguson and dared his four opponents to catch him if they could. They could not.
Julie Gomena-trained Balance the Budget swaggered off to a gaping early lead of roughly 30 lengths and let his pursuers get within five lengths near the final fences. But the eight-year-old Bellamy Road gelding laughed off the challenge from Irv Naylor’s Charminster and drew away again to win by 9 1/4 lengths.
Charminster, ridden by Carol-Ann Sloan, finished second, 1 1/4 lengths ahead of S. Rebecca Shepherd’s Curve of Stones. Schoodic, winner of the Virginia Gold Cup’s David Semmes Memorial (Gr. 2) in the spring, finished fourth.
Preseli Rock’s Steeplethon
Fisher kicked off yet another big October afternoon when Preseli Rock fought past Boogie Biz to win the three-mile Steeplethon by seven lengths. Boogie Biz was second, and Steeplethon specialist Saluda Sam finished third, another five lengths back. Irish-bred Preseli Rock ran the Steeplethon distance in 5:55 flat.