Cleverly ridden by Danielle Hodsdon, Italian Wedding surged to the lead at the final fence of the $20,000 Sandhills Cup and drew away easily to a 3 1/4-length victory in the featured race of the 59th Stoneybrook Steeplechase at the Carolina Horse Park in Raeford, N.C., on Saturday, April 3.
Barracuda Stable’s Eagle Beagle finished second under 2009 champion jockey Paddy Young, and finishing third was Dave Washer’s Junood, ridden by Bernie Dalton. Whitewood Stable’s Atrium set the early pace and finished fourth with jockey Matt McCarron.
Bred, owned, and trained by Racing Hall of Fame member Jonathan Sheppard, Italian Wedding ran the Sandhills Cup’s 2 3/8 miles in 4:26 1/5 on firm turf.
The five-year-old Alphabet Soup gelding carried the 156-pound high weight under the Sandhills Cup’s conditions and found it to be no burden. Hodsdon, champion jockey in 2006 and the regular jockey of 2009 Eclipse Award champion Mixed Up, held Italian Wedding at the back of the seven-horse field before making a winning surge on the right-handed racecourse.
The Sandhills Cup was Italian Wedding’s second victory of the young National Steeplechase Association season. The Florida-bred out of the Citidancer mare Effervescent scored a narrow victory in the two-mile James W. Maloney maiden hurdle race at Aiken, S.C., on March 20, prevailing by a nose.