Jack Fisher, who ran away with last year’s trainer titles by wins and purse earnings, will send out the formidable one-two punch of Special Skills and Dye Fore for the $75,000 Carolina Cup on Saturday.
First post time is 1:30 p.m. for the 84th renewal of the Carolina Cup Races at Springdale Course in Camden, S.C. The six-race program offers a variety of races, with two on the flat, three over National Fences, and one over timber fences.
The Carolina Cup features steeplechase racing’s rising stars in the division for novices, or horses in their first seasons of competition over fences. This year’s 2 1/8-mile Carolina Cup over National Fences attracted an especially competitive group topped by the Fisher pairing.
Sheila Williams’ Special Skills won two consecutive starts to close out his 2015 campaign, including a tough allowance hurdle at the International Gold Cup on Oct. 24. His regular jockey, Sean McDermott, will be in the saddle.
Connor Hankin, last year’s champion apprentice jockey, will be aboard Gil Johnston’s Dye Fore, who concluded the 2015 season with a victory in a Ratings Handicap at the Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup on the Springdale course.
Camden-based jockey Bernie Dalton will be aboard S. Bruce Smart Jr.’s Bonded for Virginia-based trainer Jimmy Day. Bonded won a Saratoga allowance hurdle last summer and finished second in Montpelier’s Noel Laing Handicap in November. Day, who had his best season as a trainer in 2015, started his career year with a Carolina Cup win by Diplomat.
The team behind Hardrock Eleven will be looking for their second feature-race victory of the new National Steeplechase Association season. Owner Virginia Lazenby, trainer Doug Fout, and jockey Kieran Norris won Aiken Spring’s Budweiser Imperial Cup optional allowance hurdle with Dreamin Fool on March 26.
Hardrock Eleven won a Saratoga Race Course allowance hurdle impressively last summer and finished third to Special Skills in the International Gold Cup race.
Jazz Napravnik returns to the Springdale Course with Jennifer Pitts’ Bau Bai Gold, who missed a chance to win last year’s female championship at the Colonial Cup when she was scratched because of a stall accident shortly before her start in the Springdale Stakes. Last spring, the six-year-old mare won an open optional allowance hurdle at Aiken and then finished second in the Peapack Stakes at Far Hills, N.J., in October.
Stonelea Stables’ Balance the Budget, winner of last spring’s Budweiser Imperial Cup, then a Grade 3 race, will be saddled by trainer Julie Gomena and ridden by Mark Watts. Balance the Budget finished fourth to Dye Fore in the Colonial Cup Ratings Handicap.
Irv Naylor, who smashed the owner earnings record last year, will be represented by Tubal, winner of a Virginia Gold Cup maiden hurdle and most recently fourth in a Saratoga allowance hurdle. Carol-Ann Sloan will ride for trainer Kevin Tobin.
An all-Camden team of owner Sue Sensor, trainer Arch Kingsley Jr., and jockey Willie McCarthy will be represented by Cash Crop, who tuned for the Carolina Cup with a flat win at Aiken. Cash Crop won his maiden victory over fences at last November’s Colonial Cup meet.
Trainer Richard Valentine, who now winters in Camden, will saddle Check Mark Stables’ Kwacha, a maiden hurdle winner at Monmouth Park last summer and third in a Saratoga allowance hurdle. Jack Doyle, 2015’s champion jockey by purse earnings, has the mount.
Here is the field for the $75,000 Carolina Cup. The National Steeplechase Association initiated a Ratings Handicap program last spring, and a three-member panel assigns ratings to all winners over hurdles. Each horse’s rating is in parentheses at the end of the profile.
Bonded (Ire). 2007 b. g., Oasis Dream (GB)—Lovealoch, by Lomond. Owner: Bruce Smart Jr. Trainer: Jimmy Day. Jockey: Bernie Dalton. Breeders: Michael Woodlock and Seamus Kennedy (Ire). 2015 NSA record: 4-1-1-0, $51,200. 2014 record: No starts. Finished second in Montpelier’s Noel Laing, a Ratings Handicap. Finished fourth in Far Hills’ Foxbrook Champion Hurdle after victory in Saratoga allowance hurdle in August. Fell over another horse in the Marcellus Frost Novice Stakes at the Iroquois Steeplechase on May 9. (119)
Hardrock Eleven. 2010 gr. or ro. g., Rock Hard Ten—Stark Beauty, by Unbridled’s Song. Owner: Virginia Lazenby. Trainer: Doug Fout. Jockey: Kieran Norris. Breeders: Farm III Enterprises and Off the Hook Partners (Fla.) 2015 record: 6-1-1-2, $53,350. Finished third in International Gold Cup allowance hurdle. Won Saratoga allowance hurdle by 4 1/4 lengths on Sept. 3 after fourth on Aug. 13. Finished second in debut over fences at Middleburg Spring and was third in Monmouth Park maiden hurdle. Formerly trained by owner’s late brother, David P. Banks, and won an Evangeline Downs optional allowance flat race. (117)
Special Skills. 2010 dk. b. or br. g., Bernstein—Kentucky Whisper, by Southern Halo. Owner: Sheila Williams. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Jockey: Sean McDermott. Breeder: Sierra Farm (Ky.) 2015 record: 3-2-0-0, $45,000. Closed his 2015 season with two victories, a maiden win at Suffolk Downs and an allowance hurdle score at the International Gold Cup. (121)
Bau Bai Gold. 2010 dk. b. or br. m., Sightseeing—Lynx of Gold, by Forest Wildcat. Owner: Jennifer H. Pitts. Trainer: Jazz Napravnik. Jockey: Danielle Hodsdon. Breeder: Damchu Stables (Pa.). 2015 NSA record: 6-1-2-1, $35,500. 2014 record: 2-1-0-0, $15,000. Finished good second in Far Hills’ Peapack Stakes on Oct. 17. Won the Charles S. Bird optional allowance hurdle at Aiken Spring to open 2015 season, then lost rider in Stoneybrook’s Sandhills Cup. Finished second in Iroquois’ Margaret Currey Henley and was third in open optional allowance hurdle at Foxfield Fall. (116)
Cash Crop. 2011 b. g., Distorted Humor–Cotton Blossom, by Broken Vow. Owner: Mrs. George Sensor. Trainer: Arch Kingsley Jr. Jockey: Willie McCarthy. Breeder: Brushwood Stable (Ky.) 2015 record: 6-1-0-1, $24,300. Broke through for a maiden victory on home course at the 2015 Colonial Cup in his sixth start over fences. Opened 2016 with Aiken Spring training flat win. Claimed from owner-breeder for $25,000 after modest career on flat. (116)
Kwacha. 2011 gr. or ro. g., Exchange Rate–Zamba, by Theatrical (Ire) Owner: Check Mark Stables. Trainer: Richard Valentine. Jockey: Jack Doyle. Breeder: Glen Hill Farm (Fla.). 2015 record: 4-1-1-1, $29,600. Won 2015 Monmouth Park maiden hurdle and then finished third in a Saratoga allowance hurdle. (116)
Tubal. 2010 b. g., Shakespeare–Lady Nadine, by Alzao. Owner Irvin S. Naylor. Trainer: Kevin Tobin. Jockey: Carol-Ann Sloan. Breeder: Lady Olivia of North Cliff (Va.). Won maiden hurdle impressively at 2015 Virginia Gold Cup, finished second in Fair Hill Ratings Handicap, and was fourth in a Saratoga allowance hurdle. (117)
Balance the Budget. 2009 ch. g., Bellamy Road—Every Day Is Good, by El Corredor. Owner: Stonelea Stable. Trainer: Julie Gomena. Jockey: Mark Watts. Breeder: Liberation Farm & Oratis (Ky.). 2015 record: 7-1-1-0, $37,250. 2014 record: 7-1-1-2, $27,000. Finished fourth in Colonial Cup Ratings Handicap to conclude 2015 season. Set pace in International Gold Cup’s 2015 David L. “Zeke” Ferguson Memorial (Gr. 3) and faded to finish sixth. Finished second in Shawan Downs Ratings Handicap after being pulled up in Saratoga’s Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes. Kicked away powerfully to win Aiken Spring’s 2015 Budweiser Imperial Cup (Gr. 3) by 21 lengths. (115).
Dye Fore. 2011 dk. b. or br. g., Giant’s Causeway—Homebound, by Dixie Union. Owner: Mrs. S. K. Johnston Jr. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Jockey: Connor Hankin. Breeder: Joseph Allen (Ky.) 2015 record: 5-2-0-0, $37,350. Concluded 2015 season with win in Colonial Cup Ratings Handicap division. Maiden winner on flat in France won Monmouth Park maiden race over hurdles. (119)