Irv Naylor’s Ebanour will defend his 2016 victory in Saturday’s $100,000 Virginia Gold Cup against an elite field that includes an International Gold Cup victor and a Maryland Hunt Cup winner.
The four-mile timber classic is the signature race of the 92nd annual Virginia Gold Cup meet, which offers purses totaling $425,000 and annually attracts one of the largest crowds for American Steeplechase racing. First post time is 12:30 p.m. at Great Meadows Race Course in The Plains.
Trained by Cyril Murphy, Ebanour dominated last year’s Gold Cup, taking the lead before the last fence and drawing away easily to a 6 1/2-length victory. He previously had won the My Lady’s Manor by the same margin.
His path to the year’s timber champion was derailed when he fell in the Genesee Valley Hunt Cup, but he came back to win the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup. Gus Dahl again will be in the saddle for Ebanour’s first 2017 start over fences.
Donald Reuwer’s Grand Manan blazed to a seven-length score in the International Gold Cup on the Great Meadow course last October. He showed his usual early speed in the My Lady’s Manor but faded late to finish fourth on April 15. Trainer Billy Meister named Darren Nagle to ride.
Champion trainer Jack Fisher will saddle Bruton Street-US’s Lemony Bay, the My Lady’s Manor winner who has not finished worse than second in his six starts since arriving from England. Sean McDermott will ride.
Also entered for the Virginia Gold Cup was Michael A. Smith’s Le Chevalier, the 2016 New Jersey Hunt Cup winner who was third in the My Lady’s Manor. Mark Watts has the call for trainer Julie Gomena.
Raven’s Choice, who was placed first in the 2015 Maryland Hunt Cup, will carry the silks of owner Ann Jackson in the Gold Cup. He finished third in the Grand National on April 22. Mark Beecher will ride for trainer Todd Wyatt.
Holston Hall’s Hot Rize, the 2014 Virginia Gold Cup winner and timber champion, is working to get back on track. In his first start in 11 months, he finished third in the Middleburg Hunt Cup. Trainer Russell Haynes named Gerard Galligan to ride.
Completing the field is Gordonsdale Farm’s Canyon Road, the second finisher in the Middleburg Hunt Cup. Jeff Murphy has the mount for trainer Christopher Kolb.
Here is the field for the $100,000 Virginia Gold Cup in post-position order.
Le Chevalier. 2009 g. or ro. g., Broken Vow—Orellana, by With Approval. Owner: Michael Smith. Trainer: Julie Gomena. Jockey: Mark Watts. Breeder: Haras du Mezeray (Ky.) 2017 record: 1-0-0-1, $3,000. 2016 record: 5-2-1-0, $49,250. 2015 record: 2-0-1-1, $4,200. Finished third in the 2017 My Lady’s Manor. Won the 2016 New Jersey Hunt Cup by 11 lengths, then was fourth in Steeplechase at Callaway timber allowance. Broke through for a decisive victory in division of John Rush Streett Memorial maiden timber race at 2016 My Lady’s Manor, then was second in Mason Houghland Memorial at Iroquois Steeplechase.
Hot Rize. 2004 dk. b. or br. g., Sultry Song—Donesia, by Desert Wine. Owner: Holston Hall. Trainer: Russell Haynes. Jockey: Gerard Galligan. Breeder: Anne Haynes (Ky.) 2017 record: 1-0-0-0, $2,500. 2016 record: 1-0-0-1, $2,500. 2015 record: 5-0-0-0, $5,100. Opened 2017 campaign with third in Middleburg Hunt Cup. Finished well-beaten fourth in 2016 Mason Houghland Memorial at Iroquois Steeplechase. Unplaced in five 2015 starts. Clinched 2014 timber championship with half-length score in Far Hills’ New Jersey Hunt Cup after winning that year’s Virginia Gold Cup at odds of 10.70-1.
Grand Manan. 2009 b. g., Giant’s Causeway—Manoa, by Seeking the Gold. Owner: Donald Reuwer Jr. Trainer: William Meister. Jockey: Darren Nagle. Breeders: Stuart S. Janney III and Phipps Stable (Ky.). 2017 record: 1-0-0-0, $1,500. 2016 record: 4-3-0-0, $82,950. 2015 record: 3-2-0-0, $31,050. 2014 record: No starts. Finished fourth in 2017 My Lady’s Manor. Closed 2016 season with back-to-back front-running victories in the Genesee Valley Hunt Cup and International Gold Cup. Finished in dead heat for 2016 Willowdale Steeplechase win after fifth in My Lady’s Manor.
Canyon Road. 2009 ch. g., Service Stripe—Observe, by Patton. Owner: Gordonsdale Farm. Trainer: Christopher Kolb. Jockey: Jeff Murphy. Breeder: Gordonsdale Farm (W.Va.) 2017 record: 1-0-1-0, $5,400. 2016 record: 5-2-0-1, $25,250. 2015 record: No starts. Opened 2017 season with second in Middleburg Hunt Cup. Finished fourth in Virginia Fall’s National Sporting Library & Museum Cup, then won timber allowance at Pennsylvania Hunt Cup. Won Willowdale maiden hurdle in May and then was distanced in Fair Hill’s novice timber allowance.
Ebanour (Ire). 2007 ch. g., Indian Ridge—Ebadilya, by Sadler’s Wells. Owner: Irvin S. Naylor. Trainer: Cyril Murphy. Jockey: Gus Dahl. Breeders: Aga Khan’s Studs (Ire). 2016 record: 4-3-0-0, $78,000. 2015 record: 2-1-1-0, $31,800. Won 2016 Virginia Gold Cup after victory in My Lady’s Manor. Won Pennsylvania Hunt Cup after losing rider late in Genesee Valley Hunt Cup. Won 2015 New Jersey Hunt Cup.
Raven’s Choice. 2007 dk. b. or br. g., Dance With Ravens—Millashand, by Regal Intention. Owner: Ann Jackson. Trainer: Todd Wyatt. Jockey: Mark Beecher. Breeder: Cary W. Jackson (Md.) 2017 record: 1-0-0-1, $3,300. 2016 record: 2-1-0-0, $18,000. 2015 record: 2-1-0-1, $48,000. Finished third in 2017 Grand National. Won 2016 Grand National, then fell at 16th fence in Maryland Hunt Cup. Placed first in 2015 Maryland Hunt Cup after finishing close second. Began that season with third in Grand National. Won 2014 Willowdale Steeplechase.
Lemony Bay (GB). 2009 b. g., Overbury—Lemon’s Mill, by Roberto. Owner: Bruton Street-US. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Jockey: Sean McDermott. Breeder: G. R. Waters (GB). 2017 record: 1-1-0-0, $18,000. 2016 record: 5-3-2-0, $38,400. Won 2017 My Lady’s Manor. Closed 2016 season with victory in Steeplechase at Callaway timber allowance race. Won Virginia Gold Cup’s Steeplethon and Middleburg Spring’s Alfred M. Hunt steeplechase after second in division of John Rush Streett maiden timber at 2016 My Lady’s Manor. Finished second in Virginia Fall’s Steeplethon.