Michael T. Wharton’s Grinding Speed returns to Great Meadow Race Course on Saturday, May 3, to defend his 2013 victory in the prestigious $75,000 Virginia Gold Cup. Standing in the way of a second straight win for trainer Alicia Murphy and jockey Mark Beecher is a strong field of opponents, including Gold Cup runner-up Straight to It.
The four-mile Virginia Gold Cup, one of the premier races on the National Steeplechase Association schedule, highlights the 89th Virginia Gold Cup Races in The Plains. First post time is 1:30 p.m. for a six-race program that features pari-mutuel betting under the supervision of the Virginia Racing Commission.
With his Virginia Gold Cup victory, Grinding Speed ended the 2013 spring season atop the NSA’s timber standing by purse earnings. He triumphed by 6 3/4 lengths over Straight to It.
Grinding Speed began his 2014 season with a third-place finish in the My Lady’s Manor at Monkton, Md., on April 12.
Jack Fisher, who shared last year’s timber trainer title, entered the pairing of Straight to It and Worried Man. Sheila J. Williams’ Straight to It opened the year with a fourth-place finish in the My Lady’s Manor. Jeff Murphy has the mount.
Sonny Via’s Worried Man, winner of last year’s Mason Houghland Memorial timber stakes at Nashville’s Iroquois Steeplechase, finished fifth in the My Lady’s Manor. Champion jockey Paddy Young will ride.
A horse to watch is Spencer Road, who upended defending timber champion Foyle by a hard-driving nose in the Grand National at Butler, Md., on April 19. Owned by Gerry Brewster, Eleanor T. Russell, and Joseph Tydings, Spencer Road is trained by Blythe Miller Davies, and Eric Poretz will ride.
Billy Meister, who shared the 2013 timber training title with Fisher, will saddle Irv Naylor’s Chess Board, winner of the New Jersey Hunt Cup timber allowance race last fall. He finished third in the Middleburg Hunt Cup on April 19.
Holston Hall’s Hot Rize, who was favored in last year’s Virginia Gold Cup and finished sixth, will take another shot at Virginia’s richest steeplechase race. Now trained by owner Russell Haynes, Hot Rize finished sixth in the Grand National.
Virginia-based horseman Neil Morris will send out Kinross Farm’s Old Timer, who finished second in the My Lady’s Manor in his first 2014 start. Jacob Roberts will ride.
Who do you like in the Virginia Gold Cup?
Organisateur (Ire). 2005 b. g., Highest Honor–Willamina, by Sadler’s Wells. Owner: Rose Hill. Trainer: Ivan Dowling. Jockey: Jody Petty. 2013 record: 4-0-1-0, $6,700. 2012 record: No starts. 2011 NSA record: 4-0-1-0, $47,800. 10-1 odds. Finished sixth in 2013 Valentine Memorial starter handicap at Fair Hill. Took lead over last fence in Radnor’s James Moran Jr. Memorial open claimer but could not hold off winner. Pulled up in $150,000 Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1) on May 11. Tracked early pace and faded to finish fourth in the Block House optional allowance at Tryon, N.C., on April 20. Missed 2012 season. Second-place finisher in 2011 Grand National (Gr. 1) finished fifth in that year’s Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup (Gr. 1) Accomplished handicap hurdler in England.
Grinding Speed. 2006 gr. or ro. g., Grindstone—Cozelia, by Cozzene. Owner: Michael T. Wharton. Trainer: Alicia Murphy. Jockey: Mark Beecher. 2014 record: 1-0-0-1, $3,000. 2013 record: 3-1-0-0, $46,200. 2012 record: 6-3-3-0, $55,350. 2011 record: 6-3-3-0, $55,350. 2-1 odds. Finished third in My Lady’s Manor on April 12. Fell while leading in 2013 My Lady’s Manor, then won the Virginia Gold Cup. Finished sixth in Radnor Hunt Cup. Had a strong 2012 season with victory in the International Gold Cup in Virginia after a good second in the National Sporting Library Chronicle Cup at Virginia Fall. Won maiden timber race at Winterthur and then scored in novice timber race at Fair Hill, Md.
Old Timer. 2006 b. g., Orientate—Chatham Hall, by Green Dancer. Owner: Kinross Farm. Trainer: Neil Morris. Jockey: Jacob Roberts. 2014 record: 1-0-1-0, $5,400. 2013 record: 6-1-1-0, $18,400. 2012 record: 4-1-0-1, $13,060. 6-1 odds. Finished second in My Lady’s Manor of April 12. In busy fall 2013 season, finished second in Virginia Fall’s National Sporting Library Chronicle Cup and Colonial Cup’s Springdale timber allowance. Lost rider in Pennsylvania Hunt Cup timber allowance. Won the first division of the John Rush Streett maiden timber race at My Lady’s Manor by 1 1/4 lengths before fourth in the Mason Houghland Memorial timber stakes at Iroquois.
Spencer Road. 2006 b. g., Slew City Slew—Snars Good Fortune, by Snars. Owner: Gerry Brewster, Eleanor T. Russell, and Joseph Tydings. Trainer: Blythe Miller Davies. Jockey: Eric Poretz. 2014 record: 1-1-0-0, $18,000. 2013 record: 2-0-0-1, $1,000. 8-1 odds. Pulled big upset when he edged timber champion Foyle in the Grand National on April 19. Finished third in 2013 John Rush Streett division at My Lady’s Manor before being disqualified from second to last for going off course in the Benjamin H. Murray Memorial at Grand National on April 20.
Worried Man. 2007 b. g., Dynaformer—Mystic Lady, by Thunder Gulch. Owner: Harold A. “Sonny” Via. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Jockey: Paddy Young. 2014 record: 1-0-0-0, $1,200. 2013 record: 6-2-1-0, $43,700. 2012 record: No starts. 10-1 odds. Finished fifth in My Lady’s Manor on April 12. Closed the 2013 season with a win in a Pennsylvania Hunt Cup timber allowance after fourth in the International Gold Cup. Upset the Mason Houghland Memorial at Nashville’s Iroquois Steeplechase before seventh in Shawan Downs’ Legacy Chase. Began timber career with fifth in My Lady’s Manor timber maiden and then was second in a timber maiden at the Foxfield Spring Races.
Straight to It. 2006 ch. g., Giant’s Causeway—Helsinka (Fr), by Pennekamp. Owners: Sheila J. Williams and Andre Brewster. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Jockey: Jeff Murphy. 2014 record: 1-0-0-0, $1,500. 2013 record: 6-1-4-1, $47,500. 2012 record: 3-2-0-1, $39,500. 2011 record: 7-1-1-0, $31,500. 4-1 odds. Finished fourth in 2014 debut in My Lady’s Manor. Gave Jack Fisher a share of trainer’s title with victory in Colonial Cup’s Springdale timber allowance. Finished second in International Gold Cup and Shawan Downs’ Legacy Chase. Finished third in Radnor Hunt Cup after second in Virginia Gold Cup. Rallied for second in My Lady’s Manor. Won the 2012 New Jersey Hunt Cup at Far Hills, N.J.
Chess Board (GB). 2003 b. g., Vettori–Cruinn a Bhord, by Inchinor (GB). Owner: Irvin S. Naylor. Trainer: William Meister. Jockey: Willie McCarthy. 2014 record: 1-0-0-1, $2,000. 2013 record: 1-1-0-0, $15,000. 2012 record: 3-0-0-0, $1,200. 2011 record: 7-1-1-0, $27,590. 15-1 odds. Finished third in the Middleburg Hunt Cup on April 19. In first 2013 start over fences, won the New Jersey Hunt Cup, a timber allowance. In previous start, finished sixth in 2012 Radnor Hunt Cup.
Illustration. 2007 ch. g., Pleasant Tap–Sabratical, by Wavering Monarch. Owner-Trainer-Jockey: Conrad Somers. 2014 record: 1-0-1-0, $1,800. 2013 NSA record: No starts. 20-1 odds. Finished second, beaten 3 3/4 lengths, in John D. Schapiro Memorial amateur apprentice timber race at My Lady’s Manor on April 12.
Hot Rize. 2004 dk. b. or br. g., Sultry Song—Donesia, by Desert Wine. Owner: Holston Hall. Trainer: Russell Haynes. Jockey: Willie McCarthy. 2014 record: 1-0-0-0, $900. 2013 record: 6-1-1-1, $27,500. 2012 record: 1-0-0-0, $1,050. 2011 record: 7-2-1-2, $23,100. 10-1 odds. Finished sixth in Grand National on April 19. Ended 2013 season with third in the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup after fourth in the National Sporting Library Chronicle Cup. Finished second by a nose in Radnor Hunt Cup after sixth in the Virginia Gold Cup as the 3.10-1 favorite. Won Middleburg Hunt Cup.