Michael Wharton’s Grinding Speed will attempt the Virginia Gold Cup hat trick on Saturday when he meets an all-star field of timber horses in the 91st running of the timber classic, now worth $100,000 in prize money.
The Virginia Gold Cup highlights a talent-packed nine-race program that also includes the $75,000 David Semmes Memorial (Gr. 3) over hurdles and the $50,000 Secretariat Stakes on the flat. First post time is 12:30 p.m., and pari-mutuel wagering will be offered on all races.
Now 10, Grinding Speed has made a career out of winning at the Virginia Gold Cup’s Great Meadow Race Course in The Plains. He has won Virginia’s fall timber classic, the International Gold Cup, three times, and he will be shooting for his third Virginia Gold Cup victory. He also won for the first time in 2013 and again last year.
Last year, his victory in the International Gold Cup locked up the timber championship for the silvery Grindstone gelding. He started the current season with a sixth-place finish in the My Lady’s Manor in Monkton, Md., on April 16.
Trained by Alicia Murphy, Grinding Speed will again be ridden by Mark Beecher. All starters for the four-mile Virginia Gold Cup carry 165 pounds.
Among his challengers are Magalen O. Bryant’s Dakota Slew and Sheila Williams’ Straight to It, who finished second and third, respectively, in both last year’s Virginia Gold Cup and International Gold Cup.
Richard Valentine, whose training operation is based in The Plains, will saddle Dakota Slew. Darren Nagle will ride
Jack Fisher, the reigning champion trainer, has had significant success at Great Meadow, including six straight victories with Anne Stern’s Saluter from 1994 through 1999.
The Maryland-based horseman returns to Great Meadow with Straight to It and Two’s Company, owned by Bruton Street-US. Two’s Company opened the season with two victories, most recently a three-length win over Straight to It in the Middleburg Hunt Cup on April 23. Sean McDermott returns aboard Two’s Company, and Connor Hankin rides Straight to It.
The My Lady’s Manor has become a favored prep race for the Virginia Gold Cup, and the top three finishers will line up for the Virginia Gold Cup. Irv Naylor’s Ebanour triumphed by 6 1/2 lengths, and Gus Dahl again will ride for trainer Cyril Murphy.
Rose Hill’s Organisateur, second at Monkton for trainer Ivan Dowling, will be ridden by Jody Petty, and Diana Gillam will be aboard Kinross Farm’s Old Timer for trainer Chris Read.
Naylor, last year’s record-setting champion owner, also will be represented by Personal Brew, third in the Middleburg Hunt Cup. Trainer Billy Meister will put Willie McCarthy in the saddle.
Joe Davies, who saddled Senior Senator for a victory in last Saturday’s Maryland Hunt Cup, will send out Our Town, the third finisher in the Grand National on April 23 and placed second when Senior Senator was disqualified. McLane Hendriks will ride.
Here is the field for the 91st running of the $100,000 Virginia Gold Cup.
Ebanour (Ire). 2007 ch. g., Indian Ridge—Ebadilya, by Sadler’s Wells. Owner: Irvin S. Naylor. Trainer: Cyril Murphy. Jockey: Gus Dahl. Breeders: Aga Khan’s Studs (Ire). 2016 record: 1-1-0-0, $18,000. 2015 record: 2-1-1-0, $31,800. 2014 record: No starts. Burst away to 6 1/2-length victory in 2016 My Lady’s Manor. Won New Jersey Hunt Cup with a powerful late rush. After missing the 2014 season, returned with a good second in John D. Schapiro Memorial amateur apprentice timber at My Lady’s Manor.
Grinding Speed. 2006 gr. or ro. g., Grindstone—Cozelia, by Cozzene. Owner: Michael T. Wharton. Trainer: Alicia Murphy. Jockey: Mark Beecher. Breeders: Alan S., Mark T., Mitchell A., and Madeline R. Kline, et al. (Md.) 2016 record: 1-0-0-0, $900. 2015 record: 5-3-1-0, $124,550. 2014 record: 5-1-1-2, $46,350. Finished sixth in 2016 My Lady’s Manor, a race he won the previous year. Clinched 2015 timber title with stylish victory in International Gold Cup, his third win in richest fall timber race. Also won his second Virginia Gold Cup in 2015.
Straight to It. 2006 ch. g., Giant’s Causeway—Helsinka (Fr), by Pennekamp. Owner: Sheila J. Williams. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Jockey: Connor Hankin. Breeder: Thierry Grandsir (Ky.). 2016 record: 1-0-1-0, $5,400. 2015 record: 4-1-1-1, $36,600. 2014 record: 7-1-0-3, $33,000. Finished second in 2016 Middleburg Hunt Cup. Won Virginia Fall’s 2015 National Sporting Library & Museum Cup by seven lengths. Disqualified from victory in Radnor Hunt Cup. Finished fifth in 2015 My Lady’s Manor, then third in Virginia Gold Cup. Won the 2012 New Jersey Hunt Cup at Far Hills.
Old Timer. 2006 b. g., Orientate—Chatham Hall, by Green Dancer. Owner: Kinross Farm. Trainer: Christopher Read. Jockey: Diana Gillam. Breeder: Gainesway Thoroughbreds (Ky.) 2016 record: 1-0-0-1, $3,000. 2015 record: 1-0-0-0, $0. 2014 record: 2-0-1-1, $12,900. Finished third in 2016 My Lady’s Manor after setting the early pace. Fell in the National Sporting Library and Museum Cup, his only 2015 start. Finished second in 2014 My Lady’s Manor before third in Virginia Gold Cup. Finished second in 2013 National Sporting Library Chronicle Cup.
Organisateur (Ire). 2005 b. g., Highest Honor (Fr)—Willamina (Ire), by Sadler’s Wells. Owner: Rose Hill. Trainer: Ivan Dowling. Jockey: Jody Petty. Breeder: Wertheimer et Frere (Ire). 2016 record: 1-0-1-0, $5,400. 2015 record: No starts. 2014 record: 2-1-1-0, $22,500. Began 2016 with second in My Lady’s Manor. Finished second in 2014 Virginia Gold Cup after impressive win in John Rush Streett division at My Lady’s Manor.
Dakota Slew. 2007 dk. b. or br. g., Slew City Slew—Klearlee Kiera, by Allen’s Prospect. Owner: Magalen O. Bryant. Trainer: Richard Valentine. Jockey: Darren Nagle. Breeder: Larry Curtis (Ky.) 2015 record: 3-0-2-0, $31,200. 2014 record: 4-1-1-0, $32,600. Finished second in 2015 Virginia Gold Cup and International Gold Cup after fourth in My Lady’s Manor. Won 2014 National Sporting Library & Museum Cup at Virginia Fall before second in International Gold Cup and fifth in Colonial Cup’s Springdale open timber race.
Our Town. 2009 gr. or ro. g., Purim—Eurosceptic, by Cozzene. Owners: Gerry Brewster, George Tydings, and Richard F. Blue Jr. Trainer: Joseph Davies. Jockey: McLane Hendriks. Breeder: F. Bruce Miller (Pa.) 2016 record: 2-0-1-0, $4,050. 2015 record: 2-0-1-0, $2,550. Finished third and placed second in 2016 Benjamin H. Murray Memorial amateur allowance timber. Finished sixth in first division of John Rush Streett maiden timber at My Lady’s Manor.
Personal Brew. 2006 dk. b. or br. g., Milwaukee Brew—Sergeant Mimi, by Personal Flag. Owner: Irvin S. Naylor. Trainer: William Meister. Jockey: Willie McCarthy. Breeders: Tammy Barnes and John Ubelhor, D.V.M. (Ky.) 2016 record: 2-0-1-1, $6,600. 2015 record: 4-1-0-0, $9,000. 2014 record: No starts. Finished second in 2016 Carolina Cup’s C. P. and Edith Wills DuBose Cup, then third in Middleburg Hunt Cup. Fell in 2015 Genesee Valley Hunt Cup after setting early pace. Won Foxfield Spring maiden timber after unplaced finish in John Rush Streett division at My Lady’s Manor. Lost rider in Winterthur timber allowance.
Two’s Company (Ire). 2009 b. g., Soviet Star—Gaye Lady, by Pistolet Bleu (Ire). Owner: Bruton Street-U.S. Trainer Jack Fisher. Jockey: Sean McDermott. Breeders: M. W. and Mrs. M. Doran (Ire). 2016 record: 2-2-0-0, $30,000. 2015 record: 4-1-1-0, $12,600. Opened 2016 with victories in Middleburg Hunt Cup and Carolina Cup’s C. P. and Edith Wills DuBose Cup. Won his first career start in John Rush Streett division at 2015 My Lady’s Manor and fell at last of Queen’s Cup timber allowance.