Virginia Lazenby’s Dreamin Fool (right) set the pace in the Aiken Spring Races’ $30,000 Budweiser Imperial Cup, was headed by Orchestra Leader approaching the final fence, and fought back to win Saturday’s featured optional allowance hurdle by three-quarters of a length.
Trained by Doug Fout, Dreamin Fool gave jockey Kieran Norris his third straight win in the Imperial Cup. The Imperial Cup victory also was the second in three years for Virginia-based Fout and Lazenby, a Nashville resident who is a National Steeplechase Association board member. Fout, the NSA’s vice president, and Lazenby teamed up in 2014 for a victory by Pleasant Woodman.
Dreamin Fool, an 8-year-old Woke Up Dreamin gelding, won his second straight race and his second consecutive win at Ford Conger Field, where he scored in a maiden hurdle at the 2015 Aiken Fall Races on Halloween.
Sent off in a driving rain accompanied by thunder, Dreamin Fool jumped onto the lead immediately and opened a daylight advantage over Bruce Smart Jr.’s Orchestra Leader. They held those positions until Sean McDermott sent Jimmy-Day trained Orchestra Leader after Dreamin Fool into the final fence.
Orchestra Leader took a narrow lead, jumped the last fence in front, and briefly widened his advantage. But Dreamin Fool found another gear for Norris, quickly drew abreast of Orchestra Leader, and pulled away to the finish line. Dreamin Fool ran the distance in 3:52.80 on firm turf.
“I was very happy with the way he went,” Norris said. Owner-trainer Allison Fullmer’s Odi et Amo finished third under jockey Danielle Hodsdon, and So Outspoken was fourth.
Like Pleasant Woodman, Dreamin Fool had begun his career in Louisiana with Lazenby’s brother, flat trainer David Banks, who died in December 2014. He won a $10,000 maiden claimer and a $5,000 claimer in 2012 at Evangeline Downs.
Banks advised his sister to send Dreamin Fool over fences, and he took his time getting to the winner’s circle. He rarely ran a poor race after starting his jumps career in 2013 and had plenty of seconds, but the win eluded him until his Aiken victory last October.
Scratched from the Budweiser Imperial Cup was probable favorite Harrods Creek, who is nominated to next Saturday’s $75,000 Carolina Cup at Camden, S.C.
Aiken Spring kicked off the 2016 National Steeplechase season, and the popular meet staged the year’s first Ratings Handicap. Jack Doyle, last season’s champion jockey by purse earnings, rode Check Mark Stables’ Mr. Lickety to a 6 3/4-length victory for trainer Richard Valentine.
Mr. Lickety also has a liking for Aiken and won a starter allowance at last year’s Aiken Spring meet. He then was trained by William “Winky” Cocks, who sent out Check Mark Stable’s Complete Dyno for a second-place finish in the Ratings Handicap. Mr. Lickety, second in the weights at 155 to Complete Dyno’s 158, ran the two-mile distance in 3:43.80.