Irvin S. Naylor’s Black Jack Blues, the reigning Eclipse Award winner as champion steeplechase horse, heads a talent-laden group of eight nominees to the $50,000 Carolina Cup (Gr. 3), the featured race of the 80th annual Carolina Cup Races on March 31 at the Springdale Course in Camden, S.C.
The Carolina Cup annually attracts the largest attendance of any steeplechase meet, and its crowd of 60,000 or more is one of the biggest for any horse race in North America. First post time is 1:30 p.m. for the six-race program.
A minor respiratory infection kept Black Jack Blues from Camden’s fall steeplechase classic, the $100,000 Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup (Gr. 1) on Nov. 19, but he sealed his Eclipse Award with two October victories, in the $35,000 Dorothy Fred Smithwick Memorial at the Virginia Fall Races and the $250,000 Grand National (Gr. 1) at Far Hills, N.J. He was the year’s leading earner with $171,000 in National Steeplechase Association purses.
Trainer Joseph W. Delozier III also nominated Naylor’s recent import Nearby, who finished second three times in ten starts in England last year. He was most recently fifth in a hurdle race at Wincanton on Feb. 18.
Black Jack Blues is one of six stakes winners among the Carolina Cup nominees. Arcadia Stable’s All Together, the 2010 novice champion, is trained by Jack Fisher and won the Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes at Saratoga Race Course last summer. He finished the season with a second-place finish in the AFLAC Supreme Hurdle for novices at the Steeplechase at Callaway in Georgia on Nov. 5.
Bill Pape’s Sermon of Love won the 2010 Kiser and then notched the biggest victory of his career, the $100,000 New York Turf Writers Cup Handicap (Gr. 1) four weeks later. He fell over another horse in the 2011 New York Turf Writers and then finished a good second in the Noel Laing Hurdle at Montpelier, Va., before an unplaced finish in the Colonial Cup.
Sermon of Love is trained by Jonathan Sheppard, who also nominated his Italian Wedding and Pape’s Dugan to the Carolina Cup, which is sponsored by Carolina First. Italian Wedding won Saratoga’s Michael G. Walsh Novice Stakes last August and finished a closing fifth in the Colonial Cup.
Dugan had the distinction of putting Sheppard over the $20-million mark in NSA purses when he won a claiming race at the Aiken Fall Races. The Forest Wildcat gelding finished fourth in the Hobkirk Hill starter allowance at last year’s Colonial Cup meet.
Trainer Julie Gomena nominated Oakwood Stable’s Country Cousin, winner of Colonial Downs’ $50,000 David L. “Zeke” Ferguson Memorial (Gr. 3) on June 26, which was his final start of the year. He started 2011 with a victory in Aiken Spring’s Budweiser Imperial Cup and then finished third in the $75,000 Marcellus Frost (Gr. 2) at the Iroquois Steeplechase in Nashville on May 14.
Gregory D. Hawkins’ Red Letter Day is seeking his first victory since the 2009 Lonesome Glory (Gr. 1) at Belmont Park. He had two fourth-place finishes last fall and ended the year with a sixth-place finish in the Hobkirk Hill.
Here are capsule descriptions of the Carolina Cup nominees in alphabetical order.
All Together. 2005 b. g., Danzig–Unify, by Farma Way. Owners: Andre W. Brewster and Sheila J. Williams. Trainer: Jack Fisher. 2011 record: 7-1-3-2, $85,800. Completed season with a second-place finish in the AFLAC Supreme Hurdle at the Steeplechase at Callaway on Nov. 5. Did not handle yielding Far Hills course well and was pulled up in the Foxbrook Champion Hurdle on Oct. 22. Bracketed win in Jonathan Kiser Novice at Saratoga on July 28 with third-place finishes in William Entenmann Novice and Michael G. Walsh Novice. Secured 2010 novice championship with victory in AFLAC Supreme Hurdle.
Black Jack Blues (Ire). 2003 b. g., Definite Article (GB)–Melody Maid, by Strong Gale. Owner: Irvin S. Naylor. Trainer: Joseph Delozier III. 2011 NSA record: 2-2-0-0, $171,000. Eclipse Award champion and Lonesome Glory Champions Award winner as leading earner of 2011. Three-time winner in novice stakes in England and Wales was unbeaten in the U.S. with a commanding seven-length win in the $250,000 Grand National (Gr. 1) on Oct. 22 after an uncontested 4 1/4-length victory in Dorothy Fred Smithwick Stakes at Virginia Fall on Oct. 1.
Country Cousin. 2003 dk. b. or br. g., Lear Fan–Stony Lonesome, by Apalachee. Owner: Oakwood Stable (Nicole H. Perry). Trainer: Julie Gomena. 2011 record: 3-2-0-1, $64,500. Won the David L. “Zeke” Ferguson Memorial at Colonial Downs on June 26. Started the 2011 season with a victory in the $45,000 Budweiser Imperial Cup at Aiken Spring on March 26. Finished third in the Marcellus Frost (Gr. 2) at Iroquois on May 14.
Dugan. 2004 ch. g., Forest Wildcat–Ratings, by Caveat. Owner: William L. Pape. Trainer: Jonathan Sheppard. 2011 NSA record: 6-1-1-0, $16,600. Put trainer over $20-million mark in NSA purses with a victory in an Aiken Fall claimer before finishing fourth in the Colonial Cup’s Hobkirk Hill, a starter allowance. Started 2011 season with a fifth-place finish in the Carolina Cup’s Woodward-Kirkover optional allowance before a second in an Atlanta Steeplechase claimer.
Italian Wedding. 2005 b. g., Alphabet Soup–Effervescent, by Citidancer. Owner-trainer: Jonathan Sheppard. 2011 record: 6-1-0-0, $55,200. Won Michael G. Walsh Novice at Saratoga and was fifth in the Colonial Cup (Gr. 1) after being pulled up in the $250,000 Grand National (Gr. 1). Previously finished fourth in Saratoga’s Jonathan Kiser Novice, Radnor’s National Hunt Cup, and Atlanta’s Georgia Cup.
Nearby (GB). 2004 b. g., King’s Best–Contiguous, by Danzig. Owner: Irvin S. Naylor. Trainer: Joseph W. Delozier III. 2011 NSA record: No starts. Three-time winner in England in 2010 went winless last year. Finished second in a Kempton hurdle race in October in which he was favored at 8-5. Made two unplaced hurdle starts early this year at Cheltenham and Wincanton.
Red Letter Day. 2003 b. g., Red Ransom–Western Wind, by Gone West. Owner: Gregory D. Hawkins. Trainer: Janet Elliot. 2011 record: 5-0-0-0. $4,900. Looking to rediscover form that carried him to victory in 2009 Lonesome Glory Stakes (Gr. 1) and a second in the Colonial Cup (Gr. 1) later that year. Fourth in the 2011 Budweiser Imperial Cup at Aiken Spring and had two fourth-place finishes in fall campaign before finishing sixth in the in the Hobkirk Hill starter allowance at the Colonial Cup meet.
Sermon of Love. 2003 b. g., Pulpit–Plenty of Sugar, by Ascot Knight. Owner: William L. Pape. Trainer: Jonathan Sheppard. 2011 record: 4-0-1-0, $8,200. Had a hard-luck 2011 season after winning the New York Turf Writers Cup Handicap (Gr. 1) and Jonathan Kiser Novice at Saratoga in 2010. Gave way in the 2011 Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1) and was taken down by a fallen horse in the New York Turf Writers. Finished second in the Noel Laing at Montpelier in Virginia before 11th-place finish in the Colonial Cup.