Morningstar Farm’s Indigo Heart, always prominent under Jack Doyle, took the lead on the second circuit of the Aiken Horse Park course and drew clear to a 4 1/2-lengh victory in the Aiken Spring Steeplechase’s featured $30,000 Budweiser Imperial Cup on Saturday.
Rosbrian Farm’s Barhanpour, the lightweight in the ratings handicap hurdle, came on to take second, a half-length ahead of third finisher Dapper Dan.
The first two finishers are trained by Ricky Hendriks, who owns Morningstar Farm and was a close second in last year’s trainer standings by both wins and earnings. Indigo Heart ran the Budweiser Imperial Cup’s two miles in 3:40 4/5 on firm turf.
Morningstar acquired Indigo Heart from Rosbrian over the winter, and Rosbrian had purchased the Heart of the Storm gelding privately before a Shawan Downs ratings handicap victory last September.
Hendriks trained him on the Unionville, Pa., farm, worked him at the Fair Hill Training Center, and then shipped him to Camden, S.C., to await the race.
“He likes the front end, and he keeps galloping,” Hendriks said.
Indigo Heart and Doyle ceded the early pace to a Irv Naylor’s fresh Bobabout, the Imperial Cup’s highweight, who went to the early lead under Graham Watters. Doyle had Indigo Heart right behind Bobabout’s pace and challenged for the lead as the field passed the finish line for the second time.
Well in control at the top of the lane the last time, Indigo Heart came home to a relatively easy victory.
Barhanpour, rank early under Ross Geraghty, ran on well for second.
The Aiken Spring meet welcomed spring to the Carolinas and kicked off the 2019 season of National Steeplechase Association racing. Under sunny skies and temperatures in the low 70s, Aiken hosted another sellout crowd for the gala spring event.
The racing action moves northeast up Interstate 20 for two Saturdays at Springdale Race Course in Camden, S.C., for the Carolina Cup on March 30, and The Cup Runneth Over meet on April 6.