Racing Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard will play a strong hand when he sends out Bill Pape’s well-seasoned El Season for Saturday’s $25,000 Block House optional allowance hurdle, the featured race of the 69th annual Block House Races in Tryon, N.C.
First post time is 2 p.m. at the Foothills Equestrian and Nature Center.
El Season, an eight-year-old by the late top sire El Prado, will be kicking off his 2015 campaign in the 2 3/8-mile Block House. He had a strong spring season last year with victories at the Aiken Spring and Queen’s Cup meets. He wound up the year with a fourth-place finish in a Saratoga Race Course optional allowance hurdle. Sheppard named four-time champion jockey Paddy Young to ride El Season.
Former champion jockey Danielle Hodsdon will ride Trade Winds Farm’s Ryvit for trainer Arch Kingsley Jr. The eight-year-old Tapit gelding will be making his first start in more than a year, following a maiden victory at the 2014 Carolina Cup.
Thomas E. Nugent’s homebred Murphys Covert won a maiden claimer at the Aiken Spring Steeplechase on March 21 before losing his rider in a Stoneybrook starter allowance hurdle two weeks later. Gerard Galligan rides for trainer Brian E. Murphy.
Cocodimama tired after setting the early pace in a Middleburg Spring optional allowance hurdle and finished eighth in his 2015 debut. Trainer Julie Gomena named Mark Watts to ride the six-year-old Johar gelding.
Lexington, Ky., veterinarian Dr. John K. Griggs will be represented by two horses he bred in partnerships. Blue Blade, trained by Desmond Fogarty, most recently finished fifth in an Atlanta Steeplechase optional allowance hurdle. G G Gal, the only female in the Block House, began the year with a third-place finish in an Aiken Spring starter handicap hurdle.
Here is the field for the $25,000 Block House optional allowance hurdle:
El Season. 2007 b. g., El Prado (Ire)—Spring Season, by Seeking the Gold. Owner: Bill Pape. Trainer: Jonathan Sheppard. Jockey: Paddy Young. Breeder: George Strawbridge Jr. (Pa.) 2014 record: 4-2-0-0, $28,250. Won two starter handicaps in spring 2014, at Aiken Spring by 9 1/2 lengths and at the Queen’s Cup by four. Subsequently finished fourth in High Hope’s Jay Trump starter handicap and Saratoga optional claimer.
Murphys Covert. 2006 b. g., Birdstone—Storm Kitten, by Storm Cat. Owner: Thomas E. Nugent. Trainer: Brian Murphy. Jockey: Gerard Galligan. Breeder: Thomas E. Nugent (Ky.) 2015 NSA record: 2-1-0-0, $12,000. Won his first hurdle start in a maiden claimer at Aiken Spring but lost his rider in a starter allowance at the Stoneybrook Steeplechase on April 5.
Ryvit. 2007 b. g., Tapit—Ryvnine, by Broad Brush. Owner: Trade Winds Farm. Trainer: Arch Kingsley Jr. Jockey: Danielle Hodsdon. Breeder: Denny Andrews and Blackwater Farm (Ky.) 2014 record: 2-1-0-0, $15,000. Pulled up in first start over fences at 2014 Aiken Spring, but came back a week later to win at Carolina Cup.
Cocodimama. 2009 dk. b. or br. g., Johar—Kschessinka, by Nureyev. Owner: Bon Nouvel Chasers. Trainer: Julie Gomena. Jockey: Mark Watts. Breeders: Mr. and Mrs. M. Roy Jackson (Ky.). 2015 record: 1-0-0-0, $0. 2014 record: 4-1-1-0, $21,300. Set early pace in Middleburg Spring optional allowance hurdle on April 18 before tiring to finish distant eighth. Won maiden victory by five lengths at the 2014 Middleburg meet.
Blue Blade. 2010 b. g., Bluegrass Cat—Well Revered, by Red Ransom. Owner: Dr. John K. Griggs. Trainer: Desmond Fogarty. Jockey: Open. Breeders: C. Kidder, John K. Griggs, and Linda Griggs (Ky.) 2015 record: 2-0-0-0, $2,150. 2014 record: 2-1-0-1, $14,500. Finished distant fourth in Stoneybrook starter allowance hurdle at start of 2015 season, then was fifth in Georgia Cup optional allowance hurdle. Won maiden hurdle at 2014 Block House Steeplechase in North Carolina after third in Sport of Kings maiden hurdle at Atlanta Cup.
G G Gal. 2009 ch. m., Whywhywhy—Royal G G, by Royal Academy. Owner: Dr. John K. Griggs. Trainer: Dave Washer. Jockey: Open. Breeders: John K. and Linda Griggs. 2015 record: 2-0-0-1, $1,595. 2014 record: 8-0-0-1, $4,400. Finished third in Aiken Spring starter handicap on March 21. Looking for first win since maiden victory at 2013 Carolina Cup.