Steeplechasing returned to historic Charlottesville, Va., on Sunday for the 43rd running of the Foxfield Races, and by day’s end, six different owners, jockeys, and trainers shared in winner’s-circle glory at the new-and-improved course.
Shaka takes maiden claiming opener for the Daltons
Jeffrey Morris’ Shaka, a four-year-old son of Curlin who began his jump racing career at the Carolina Cup Races last spring, earned his first win in the $15,000 maiden claiming hurdle that kicked off the day.
Ridden by Bernie Dalton and trained by his wife, Kate, the New York-bred stalked the early leader, KMSN Stable’s Swim, and took the lead entering the stretch of the 2 1/8-mile event the second time around. Dalton gradually extended his lead, from six or seven lengths to as much as a dozen or so, with two fences to go. The duo were all alone at the last and galloped home in hand and in command, as race caller Will O’Keefe described it. The winning margin: Seven and three quarter lengths.
Kinross Farm’s Sea Mast and Barry Foley were second, while Noble Stables’ Onarock and Graham Watters were third.
The victory was the first for Shaka in 14 outings on the flat and over jumps.
Iranistan prevails in spirited stretch duel
Hudson River Farm’s Iranistan, unraced in more than a year, made his return a winning one, edging Gill Johnston’s Cite in a training-flat contest at a mile and a quarter.
With Richie Condon riding for trainer Keri Brion, the seven-year-old stakes winning son of Einstein broke swiftly and led through the stretch the first time around. Holding onto a lead of about two lengths, Iranistan maintained his slight advantage over Cite and Leslie Young’s Twentyoneguns until the field headed up the backside the final time. At that point, Cite and Graham Watters grabbed the lead. Iranistan came on again and both horses spurted clear into the final three sixteenths, with Iranistan a half-length winner, though neither horse was pushed. Mimi Voss’ Beyond the Pale, with Eddie Keating was a close third.
Bella Coola wins in debut
Mimi Voss’s Bella Coola, ridden by Eddie Keating and trained by Elizabeth Voss, broke on top and repelled a challenge by Beverly Steinman’s Investor to take the $25,000 maiden hurdle for fillies and mares.
With only four horses in the field, the four-year-old Maryland-bred daughter of Imagining took an unhurried lead as soon as the flag was dropped, and held an advantage of two lengths or less for most of the going, with Investor and Barry Foley stalking in second, and Ashwell Stable LLC’s Cup of Aiken third.
With three fences remaining, Investor moved up alongside, and the pair raced head to head to the last, when Bella Coola took charge, drawing off by four lengths. Cup of Aiken and Gerard Galligan finished third.
The start was the first over jumps for Bella Coola, who previously ran four times on the flat, at Laurel, Pimlico, and Delaware Park.
The Flasche streaks to victory in $25,000 maiden hurdle
Ballybristol Farm’s The Flasche lived up to his name in the fourth, romping home by daylight under Tom Garner for trainer Leslie Young.
It was the first win in 11 tries for the four-year-old son of Flashback, who had been knocking at the door with a second and third in maiden special weights competition at Colonial Downs over the summer. The victory also propelled Leslie Young to the lead in the trainer standings, one ahead of Jack Fisher, Neil Morris, and Keri Brion. In addition, it elevated Tom Garner to the top of jockey ranks, with 14 wins, one ahead of Graham Watters.
The Flasche broke on top in the seven-horse field and never looked back. Irv Naylor’s Turbo Drive, Holwood Stable’s Quality Choice, and Gill Johnston’s Master Plan gave chase throughout the 2 1/8-mile race, but never seriously threatened.
After the first loop of the course, The Flasche had a healthy lead of about six lengths, and extended it the second time around. He had a clear edge turning for home and won by 10 lengths. Quality Choice was second, with Turbo Drive third.
Hepcat draws clear in apprentice rider hurdle
This season has been a productive one for apprentice riders, and the National Steeplechase Association’s investment in races written exclusively for a new generation of jockeys is clearly paying dividends. Nearly 20 apprentice riders are currently active. As a group those riders won two dozen races in 2020, and another 19 this year to date. In fact, one of the apprentices, Skylar McKenna, currently ranks fourth in the overall standings, with eight victories. Her cousin, Parker Hendriks, has four.
In Sunday’s apprentice race at Foxfield — a $10,000 optional claiming allowance — Sanna Neilson and Steve Poorman’s Hepcat captured his first race since winning at Charleston nearly two years ago, with Parker Hendriks in the saddle.
For most of the 2 1/8-mile race, the five-horse field was closely bunched, within just a few lengths of one another. The lead changed hands multiple times, with Hepcat, Mr. Sarinana, Global Freedom, Shadow Seven, and Sempre Medici alternately showing the way.
With three jumps remaining, Hepcat and Ballybristol Farm’s Shadow Seven, making his second U.S. start under Teddy Davies, asserted themselves and hooked up in a duel. The six-year-old West Virginia-bred, who used to be owned and trained by now-retired Hall of Fame conditioner Jonathan Sheppard, took charge over the last fence, and exploded through the stretch to win going away by six and a half lengths.
Animal Kingston catches Decisive Triumph in $20,000 ratings handicap
William Russell’s Animal Kingston returned to the scene of his previous win to capture the finale with a thrilling rally to catch Port Lairge and Holwood Stable’s Decisive Triumph.
The handicap, for horses rated at 110 or less, began with a charging start, as all eight horses jockeyed for position. Decisive Triumph, under Stefan Tobin, eventually emerged with a slight lead, followed closely by Animal Kingston and jockey Gerard Galligan. It was another four lengths or so back to Beverly Steinman’s Eve’s City, Wendy Hendriks’ Embrace the Grind, and the rest of the pack.
With three fences to go, the two leaders continued to duke it out, with Decisive Triumph lengthening his lead to about two lengths. Animal Kingston caught his foe at the second last and drew clear by about one and a half lengths at the wire.
The Foxfield meet was the first conducted under the auspices of Foxfield Racing LLC, a new 501(c)(3) not-for-profit entity created to assume oversight of both the races and property, and help reinvigorate the event, improving the course and infrastructure, and overall fan experience.
As part of its charge, the new board of directors is committed to creating long-term partnerships to generate not only financial backing, but opportunities for Foxfield and charitable organizations to work in tandem to benefit the community as a whole. And judging by the sponsorships, the meet is well on its way to achieving its goals. Among its many sponsors were Audi, Virginia National Bank, Kubota, PBM Capital, Brown Advisory, and MarshMcLennan. The charity recipient of the event, Habitat for Humanity, was presented with a $50,000 contribution.
Full results can be found here: www.nationalsteeplechase.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/Foxfield-Results.pdf
The entire day of racing can be re-watched this week at www.nationalsteeplechase.com/jump-racing-usa/