Four Schools, a stakes winner in each of the last two years, will carry the 158-pound high weight in Saturday’s $45,000 Budweiser Imperial Cup, featured race of the season-opening Aiken Steeplechase in Aiken, South Carolina. The Budweiser Imperial Cup attracted a field of five for the two-mile race over National Fences.
Robbie Walsh will ride Mrs. George L. Ohrstrom Jr.’s Irish-bred Four Schools for trainer Richard Valentine. At the Monmouth Hunt Races at Monmouth Park in New Jersey last September, Four Schools and Walsh scored a 1 1/2-length victory in the $52,500 Helen Haskell Sampson Memorial Hurdle. In 2008, the gelding won the $62,000 David L. (Zeke) Ferguson Memorial Hurdle at Colonial Downs in Virginia.
Willie Dowling rides Mrs. S. K. Johnston Jr.’s Swagger Stick, who carries 150 pounds under the Budweiser Imperial Cup’s allowance conditions. At the final 2009 National Steeplechase Association race meet at Palm Beach, Florida, the Cozzene gelding won an allowance race and helped to assure Jack Fisher the year’s training title. In 2008, Swagger Stick won the Foxbrook Supreme Hurdle at Far Hills, New Jersey.
Racing Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard will saddle William L. Pape’s Sermon of Love, who will be ridden by 2006 champion jockey Danielle Hodsdon. Last summer, the Pulpit gelding finished second in the prestigious New York Turf Writers Cup at Saratoga Race Course in New York. Sermon of Love carries 146 pounds.
Rounding out the field and carrying 142 pounds each will be Torlundy and Letter Perfect. Paddy Young, 2009’s champion jockey, will ride Silverton Hill’s Torlundy for his wife, trainer Leslie Young. The Monarchos gelding was stakes-placed in his final two starts last year. Letter Perfect, a son of A.P. Indy who is trained by Virginia horseman Ernie Oare, is coming back following an impressive 2007 maiden victory over fences.
Riddle, a 2007 stakes winner who had been inactive for almost two years, was entered for the Budweiser Imperial Cup but was scratched by trainer Arch Kingsley Jr.