Michael Wharton’s Grinding Speed recovered from a near disaster at the third from last fence in Saturday’s $60,000 International Gold Cup and charged over the final two timber fences to win by three-quarters of a length.
Magalen O. Bryant’s Dakota Slew finished second, and Sheila J. Williams’ and Andre Brewster’s Straight to It recorded his second third-place finish in a stakes race in eight days, after collecting show money in the New Jersey Hunt Cup at Far Hills. Completing the order of finish was Kinross Farm’s Schoolhouse Woods.
Trained by Alicia Murphy and ridden by Mark Beecher, Grinding Speed recorded his second International Gold Cup score, after winning in 2012, and collected his first victory since the 2013 Virginia Gold Cup. All those races were run over the Great Meadow course in The Plains, Va. He ran the International Gold Cup’s 3 1/2 miles in 7:18.40 on firm turf.
Despite a small field, the International Gold Cup featured several lead changes. Grinding Speed jumped out immediately at the start, but Schoolhouse Woods galloped on and opened a sizable lead on the first circuit of the course.
On the second lap, Schoolhouse Woods and jockey Jacob Roberts ceded the lead to Grinding Speed but soon regained the advantage. As he began to tire, Dakota Slew ended up on the lead, with Straight to It attacking.
Grinding Speed tapped the third to last fence and landed unsteadily. Beecher gathered up the eight-year-old Grindstone gelding, but they had been shuffled back to last as the charge to the finish began. Grinding Speed, who had been jumping well before the third to last fence, attacked the final two fences and gained ground on the leaders.
Beecher applied right-handed pressure, and they gained the advantage in the final sixteenth-mile. “We were coming hard the last two,” he said.
Grinding Speed finished fourth in this year’s Virginia Gold Cup and began his fall campaign with a second-place finish behind front-running Nat Grew in Shawan Downs’ Legacy Chase on Sept. 27. He was in position to win or finish second in the Genesee Valley Hunt Cup on Oct. 11 but made a minor mistake at the last and unseated Beecher. They stayed together after another minor mistake in the International Gold Cup and won the fall’s richest timber race.