Last year’s top three-year-old steeplechase horses, including champion More Tea Vicar, will test themselves against older competitors when they clash in the featured $25,000 allowance hurdle at the inaugural Dogwood Classic at Colonial Downs on Saturday, April 6. First post time for the five-race program at the New Kent, Va., track is 1 p.m.
More Tea Vicar, bred in Virginia by owner Kinross Farm, secured the 2012 three-year-old championship with a victory in the Raymond G. Woolfe Memorial at the Colonial Cup in Camden, S.C., on Nov. 17. The Congaree gelding previously had finished second in a Virginia Fall maiden race and the Gladstone Stakes at Far Hills, N.J.
More Tea Vicar tightened for the Dogwood Classic race with a third in a tough optional allowance at the Aiken Spring Steeplechase on March 23. Trainer Neil Morris named Jacob Roberts to ride.
More Tea Vicar will be meeting the competitors who defeated him in the 2012 races. Bruce Smart’s Orchestra Leader won the Virginia Fall race in Middleburg before finishing fifth in the Gladstone and third in the Woolfe. Danielle Hodsdon has the mount for trainer Jimmy Day.
Irv Naylor’s Irish import Top Man Michael was the top man in the Gladstone and was bidding to challenge More Tea Vicar in the Woolfe when he tumbled over the final hurdle. Brianne Slater trains the four-year-old, who had a victory over hurdles in his homeland before being imported last fall.
Naylor, the sport’s leading owner for the last three years, also will be represented by Final Straw, who completed his 2012 season with third-place finishes in optional allowances at Virginia Fall and Montpelier. He is trained by Edward Mulligan, his former owner.
Among the older competitors, Augustin Stables’ Sillium was an impressive maiden hurdle winner at Parx Racing in his only 2012 start. The six-year-old Saint Liam gelding is trained in Virginia by Richard Valentine and will be ridden by Robbie Walsh.
Woodslane Farm’s Brave Prospect finished second in the AFLAC Supreme Hurdle for novices last November after a fourth in the William Entenmann Memorial Novice Stakes at Belmont Park on Sept. 27. Sean Flanagan will ride for 2012 champion trainer Jack Fisher.
Two other starters won their maiden races last fall. Rock Ford Stables’ Sporty won at the Colonial Cup and Rebecca Shepherd’s Searubyru