Hot Rize and Grinding Speed, the immediate past winners of the Virginia Gold Cup, will face off on Saturday in the four-mile timber classic, which will carry a $90,000 purse for the race’s 90th running.
The Virginia Gold Cup headlines a stellar nine-race program with purses totaling a Gold Cup record of $430,000. First post time is 12:30 p.m. at Great Meadow Race Course in The Plains, and pari-mutuel wagering will be offered on all nine races.
Holston Hall’s Hot Rize won last year’s edition of the Virginia Gold Cup and went on to lock up the National Steeplechase Association’s timber championship with a score in the New Jersey Hunt Cup.
In his 2015 debut, Hot Rize finished fourth in the Middleburg Hunt Cup on April 18.Champion jockey Willie McCarthy will be aboard Hot Rize for trainer Russell Haynes.
Michael Wharton’s Grinding Speed will have the services of his regular jockey, Mark Beecher, who rode the nine-year-old Maryland-bred to victory in the My Lady’s Manor on April 11 for trainer Alicia Murphy.
Grinding Speed and Beecher certainly know their way around the Great Meadow course. They won the Virginia Gold Cup in 2013 and finished fourth last year. Grinding Speed has two victories in the International Gold Cup, in 2012 and last year, over the course.
The My Lady’s Manor kicks off the Maryland Timber Triple Crown, and the second jewel, the Grand National on April 18, was won by Welcome Here Farm’s Serene Harbor. Trainer Todd McKenna supplemented the 11-year-old Valley Crossing gelding to the Virginia Gold Cup, and Annie Yeager again will be in the saddle.
Magalen O. Bryant’s Dakota Slew will be looking to improve upon a fourth-place finish in the My Lady’s Manor. Trainer Richard Valentine named Darren Nagle to ride.
Champion trainer Jack Fisher will have a double-barreled entry for the Virginia Gold Cup, Sheila Williams’ Straight to It and Bruton Street-US’s Ballylifen. Straight to It finished fifth in the My Lady’s Manor and will be ridden by Sean McDermott. Ballylifen scored an easy victory in a division of the John Rush Streett maiden timber race at My Lady’s Manor and again will be ridden by Connor Hankin.
Here is the field for the $90,000 Virginia Gold Cup in post-position order.
Grinding Speed. 2006 gr. or ro. g., Grindstone—Cozelia, by Cozzene. Owner: Michael T. Wharton. Trainer: Alicia Murphy. Breeders: Alan S., Mark T., Mitchell A., and Madeline R. Kline, et al. (Md.) Won 2015 My Lady’s Manor by 1 1/2 lengths. Won 2014 International Gold Cup after victory in 2012. Also finished fourth in the 2014 Virginia Gold Cup after a victory the preceding year.
Serene Harbor. 2003 b. g., Valley Crossing—We Wak Harbor, by Waquoit. Owner: Welcome Here Farm. Trainer: Todd McKenna. Jockey: Annie Yeager. Breeder: Nina Gardner (Pa.). 2015 record: 1-1-0-0, $18,000. 2014 record: 3-2-0-0, $21,000. Opened 2015 season with 1 1/2-length victory in the Grand National at Butler, Md., on April 18. Closed 2014 season with a runaway victory in Genesee Valley Hunt Cup. Returned to the races after a nearly two-year break and won a Winterthur timber allowance race, then was distant seventh in Fair Hill novice timber.
Ballylifen (Ire). 2007 b. g., Brian Boru—Line Jade, by Luchiroverte. Owner: Bruton Street-US. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Breeder: J. Mangan (Ire). 2015 record: 1-1-0-0, $9,000. 2014 NSA record: 1-0-1-0, $2,700. Won division of 2015 John Rush Streett maiden timber race at My Lady’s Manor. In U.S. debut at 2014 Steeplechase at Callaway, finished second in a maiden timber race.
Dakota Slew. 2007 dk. b. or br. g., Slew City Slew—Klearlee Kiera, by Allen’s Prospect. Owner: Magalen O. Bryant. Trainer: Richard Valentine. Breeder: Larry Curtis (Ky.) 2015 record: 1-0-0-0, $1,500. 2014 record: 4-1-1-0, $32,600. Finished fourth in 2015 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.
Straight to It. 2006 ch. g., Giant’s Causeway—Helsinka (Fr), by Pennekamp. Owners: Sheila J. Williams and Andre Brewster. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Breeder: Thierry Grandsir (Ky.). 2015 record: 1-0-0-0, $1,200. 2014 record: 7-1-0-3, $33,000. Finished fifth in 2015 My Lady’s Manor. Won Colonial Cup’s Springdale open timber for second straight year to close 2014 after third-place finishes in National Sporting Library & Museum Cup, International Gold Cup, and New Jersey Hunt Cup. Finished fourth in 2014 debut in My Lady’s Manor, then was fifth in Virginia Gold Cup. Won the 2012 New Jersey Hunt Cup at Far Hills.
Hot Rize. 2004 dk. b. or br. g., Sultry Song—Donesia, by Desert Wine. Owner: Holston Hall. Trainer: Russell Haynes. Breeder: Anne Haynes (Ky.) 2015 record: 1-0-0-0, $1,500. 2014 record: 4-2-0-1, $79,400. Weakened late to finish fourth in the 2015 Middleburg Hunt Cup. Clinched timber championship with half-length score in Far Hills’ New Jersey Hunt Cup on Oct. 18. Won the Virginia Gold Cup at odds of 10.70-1. Closed season with third in the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup.