Michael T. Wharton’s Grinding Speed will be shooting for a rare double triple when he starts as the likely favorite in Saturday’s $75,000 International Gold Cup at Great Meadow Race Course.
The 77th International Gold Cup, a 3 1/2-mile race over timber fences, will be the centerpiece of Virginia’s premier fall steeplechase meet. The nine-race program features large, competitive fields and pari-mutuel wagering. First post time at The Plains course is noon.
Trained by Alicia Murphy, Grinding Speed will be gunning for his third victory in Virginia’s fall timber classic. Currently leading the National Steeplechase Association’s timber standings, he won last year and in 2012.
The nine-year-old Grindstone gelding also will be attempting to win his third straight race at Great Meadow, beginning with last year’s International Gold Cup. In May, he won the $90,000 Virginia Gold Cup, the year’s richest timber race.
Mark Beecher again will ride Grinding Speed, who is looking for his first win since the Virginia Gold Cup. Fourth in Shawan Downs’ Legacy Chase on Sept. 24, he finished second in Virginia Fall’s National Sporting Library & Museum Cup on Oct. 10.
While Grinding Speed is the horse for the course, he will have plenty of competition, including Sheila Williams’ and Andre Brewster’s Straight to It, who won the National Sporting Library by seven lengths.
Trainer Jack Fisher, coming off a three-win afternoon at the Far Hills Races on Oct. 17, named Sean McDermott for a return engagement on Straight to It, who finished third in the Virginia Gold Cup.
Fisher, well on his way to his fourth consecutive training title, also entered Bruton Street-US’s Ballylifen, the fourth finisher in the Virginia Gold Cup. Connor Hankin, winner of two Far Hills races, will ride.
The Plains-based trainer Richard Valentine entered Magalen O. Bryant’s Dakota Slew, a closing second behind Grinding Speed in the Virginia Gold Cup and also second in last year’s International Gold Cup. Darren Nagle has the mount.
Mrs. Bryant also is represented by Doug Fout-trained Lea Von, the Legacy Chase winner. Kieran Norris will be in the saddle.
Holston Hall’s Hot Rize, the 2014 timber champion, returns to the races after a disappointing spring. He finished fifth in the Virginia Gold Cup and then was pulled up in the Radnor Hunt Cup two weeks later.
Here is the field for the $75,000 International Gold Cup in post-position order.
Lea Von. 2009 dk. b. or br. g., Purim—Magic Lea, by Fabuleux Dancer. Owner: Magalen O. Bryant. Trainer: Doug Fout. Jockey: Kieran Norris. Breeder: Sally Feola & M.T. Racing Stable (Ky.) 2015 record: 3-2-0-1, $25,550. 2014 record: 1-0-0-0, $0. Won Shawan Downs’ Legacy Chase over strong field after Willowdale maiden timber win in May.
Ballylifen (Ire). 2007 b. g., Brian Boru—Line Jade, by Luchiroverte. Owner: Bruton Street-US. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Jockey: Connor Hankin. Breeder: J. Mangan (Ire). 2015 record: 3-1-0-1, $17,000. 2014 NSA record: 1-0-1-0, $2,700. Finished third in Virginia Fall’s National Sporting Library & Museum Cup on Oct. 10. Finished fourth in 2015 Virginia Gold Cup after winning division of John Rush Streett maiden timber race 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: Fritz Boniface. Breeders: Tammy Barnes and John Ubelhor, D.V.M. (Ky.) 2015 record: 4-1-0-0, $9,000. 2014 record: No starts. Fell in 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.
Class Indian. 2007 gr. or ro. g., Waquoit—Class Story, by Class Secret. Owner: Waterbaby Racing. Trainer: Ted Thompson. Jockey: Gus Dahl. Breeder: Mede Cahaba Stable and Stud (Va.). 2015 record: 4-1-0-2, $14,000. 2014 record: No starts. Won maiden timber race at Shawan Downs on Sept. 26. Returned from long absence with third in Carolina Cup timber allowance. Set early pace in Queen’s Cup timber allowance but fell at last fence.
Hot Rize. 2004 dk. b. or br. g., Sultry Song—Donesia, by Desert Wine. Owner: Holston Hall. Trainer: Russell Haynes. Jockey: Open. Breeder: Anne Haynes (Ky.) 2015 record: 3-0-0-0, $5,100. 2014 record: 4-2-0-1, $79,400. Pulled up in Radnor Hunt Cup after fifth in Virginia Gold Cup. Weakened late to finish fourth in the 2015 Middleburg Hunt Cup. Clinched 2014 timber championship with half-length score in Far Hills’ New Jersey Hunt Cup. Won the 2014 Virginia Gold Cup at odds of 10.70-1.
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.) 2015 record: 4-2-1-0, $79,550. 2014 record: 5-1-1-2, $46,350. Finished second in Virginia Fall’s National Sporting Library & Museum Cup after fourth in Shawan’s Legacy Chase on Sept. 26. Won his second Virginia Gold Cup on May 2 and also won second International Gold Cup in 2014. Won 2015 My Lady’s Manor.
Wildcatter. 2008 dk. b. or br. g., Tale of the Cat—Cita My Dear, by Kris S. Owner: Armata Stables. Trainer: Elizabeth Voss. Jockey: Paddy Young. Breeder: Ramona S. Bass (Ky.) 2015 record: 2-1-0-0, $18,000. 2014 record: 3-1-0-1, $12,000. Placed first in Radnor Hunt Cup on May 16. Pulled up in 2015 Queen’s Cup timber allowance. Won maiden timber victory at 2014 Foxfield Spring.
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: 2-0-1-0, $17,700. 2014 record: 4-1-1-0, $32,600. Finished second in Virginia 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.
Certain Swagger. 2009 b. g., Arch—Comedy, by Theatrical (Ire). Owner: Jeremy Batoff. Trainer: William Dowling. Jockey: Steve Pateman. Breeders: Claiborne Farm and Arlene Dilschneider. (Ky.) 2015 record: 4-1-0-1, $17,000. 2014 record: 5-0-0-2, $27,200. Change of stable after distant sixth in Iroquois’ Mason Houghland Memorial and then finished third in Shawan’s Legacy Chase on Sept. 26. Scored 45-length victory in Queen’s Cup timber allowance. Made successful transition to timber racing in 2014 and won timber allowance at International Gold Cup meet.
Straight to It. 2006 ch. g., Giant’s Causeway—Helsinka (Fr), by Pennekamp. Owners: Sheila J. Williams and Andre Brewster. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Jockey: Sean McDermott. Breeder: Thierry Grandsir (Ky.). 2015 record: 4-1-1-1, $36,600. 2014 record: 7-1-0-3, $33,000. Won Virginia Fall’s National Sporting Library & Museum Cup by seven lengths on Oct. 10. Disqualified from victory in Radnor Hunt Cup on May 16. Finished fifth in 2015 My Lady’s Manor, then third in Virginia Gold Cup. Won the 2012 New Jersey Hunt Cup at Far Hills.