Michael Wharton’s Grinding Speed continued his dominance of the Great Meadow Course when he drew clear in the stretch to a 6 3/4-length victory over Straight to It in the 88th running of the $75,000 Virginia Gold Cup on Saturday, May. 4. Magalen O. Bryant’s Dakota Slew finished third, 5 3/4 lengths farther back, and Merriefield Farm’s Foyle claimed fourth money.
Trained by Alicia Murphy and again ridden by Mark Beecher, Grinding Speed had won last fall’s International Gold Cup on Great Meadows’ timber course. The seven-year-old Maryland-bred Grindstone gelding ran the Virginia Gold Cup’s four miles in 8:50.80 on firm turf.
Irv Naylor’s Herons Well set the early pace, and Straight to It, owned by Sheila J. Williams and Andre Brewster, took over on the final circuit under Willie Dowling. Beecher kept Grinding Speed in midpack through the first two miles and gradually worked his way through the field to challenge Straight to It at the next to last fence. Grinding Speed took a clear lead going into the final fence and pulled away to the finish line. Dowling claimed foul against Grinding Speed, but the Gold Cup stewards disallowed the claim.
The Virginia Gold Cup proved a disappointment for the winners of the first two Maryland timber classics. Moonsox, the My Lady’s Manor winner on April 13, was fifth, and Naylor’s Alfa Beat, the Grand National winner on April 20, was last of seven finishers. Herons Well was pulled up at the final fence.
Peace Fire, owned by trainer Jack Fisher’s Kingfisher Farm, drew away to a 6 1/2-length victory in the $20,000 Winterthur Bowl, the featured race of the Winterthur Point-to-Point in Delaware on Sunday, May 5. Ridden by Sean Flanagan, Peace Fire was reserved early, made his move on the last circuit of the Winterthur course, jumped the final fence in front, and widened his advantage to the finish line.
The six-year-old Peace Rules gelding made his first start since finishing third in a Saratoga Race Course optional allowance hurdle in August 2011. In his maiden start over timber fences, he ran the Winterthur Bowl’s 3 1/4 miles in 6:46 on firm turf. Armata Stables’ Embarrassed finished second, and Irv Naylor’s Ebanour was third. Merriefield Farm’s Imperial Way, who had attended the early pace of Triple Dip, finished fourth. Daybreak Stables’ Triple Dip finished last of five starters.