Holston Hall’s Hot Rize took the lead before the final fence of the $75,000 Virginia Gold Cup and fought off a determined challenge by Organisateur to win by three-quarters of a length before a capacity crowd at Great Meadow Race Course in The Plains, Va., on Saturday, May 3.
Kinross Farm’s Old Timer finished third in Virginia’s richest race, and 2013 winner Grinding Speed took the fourth spot in the 89th running of the four-mile timber classic. Hot Rize ran the distance in 9:20.80 on ground rated as good.
For the second year, the Virginia Gold Cup offered pari-mutuel wagering on its races, and Hot Rize paid $23.40 to win. That payoff approximated his program-line odds of 10-1, largely based on his winless record over the year since his sixth-place finish behind Grinding Speed last year.
Still, Hot Rize had been close to the winner’s circle. He was caught at the finish line in the Radnor Hunt Cup and finished second by a nose. He finished third, beaten 1 3/4 lengths, in the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup. Holston Hall owner Russell Haynes took over the training of the 10-year-old Sultry Song gelding this year and rode him to a sixth-place finish in the Grand National at Butler, Md., on April 19.
For the Virginia Gold Cup, Haynes placed Hot Rize in the hands of the sport’s current hot jockey, McCarthy, and the payoff was the biggest victory of the veteran campaigner’s career. In fact, he had never hit the board in five starts on the Great Meadow course.
McCarthy placed Hot Rize in midpack as Irv Naylor’s Chess Board set the early pace under Ross Geraghty. Chess Board began to tire after three miles, however, and fell at the 20th fence. Chess Board was uninjured.
Hot Rize started his move a half-mile from the finish, and he jumped to the lead before the final fence. But Organisateur, owned by Rose Hill and trained by Ivan Dowling, also had made a move on the final turn and engaged Hot Rize in the stretch. The two leaders battled to the finish line, with Hot Rize maintaining the advantage by less than a week.
Irish-bred Organisateur had made the transition from hurdles to timber with an 11 1/4-length score in the first division of the John Rush Streett maiden timber race at My Lady’s Manor in Monkton, Md., on April 12.
The result denied Organisateur’s jockey, Jody Petty, a rare double in the Maryland Hunt Cup and Virginia Gold Cup. The former champion jockey, now riding as an amateur, had won the Maryland timber classic a week earlier aboard Guts For Garters.