Steeplechase racing returned to Colonial Downs on a pleasantly warm Saturday evening, and jockey Thomas Garner continued his red-hot summer with a 7 ¼-length victory with Sharon Sheppard’s Moorland in the Virginia track’s $25,000 ratings handicap.
At the end of its opening week, the Richmond-area track drew a sizable crowd—at the rail, in the outdoor seating areas, and in the indoor gaming area featuring machine pari-mutuel wagering. The Saturday program had a festive air, and racing regulars rubbed shoulders with new fans both young and old.
Moorland gave the bettors a solid value at 8.90-to-1 in the field of 11 on Colonial’s Secretariat Turf Course. Trained by Leslie Young, Irish-bred Moorland was kept toward the back of the field as Oakwood Stable’s Kensington Court laid down the pace under Kieran Norris.
Keeping Kensington Court company toward the front end were Mark Buyck Jr.’s Aydoun and Pick Em, half of a 9-to-10 Woodslane Farm entry trained by Jack Fisher.
Moorland advanced on the final run down Colonial’s spacious backstretch and then exploded through the turn. He reached the final fence with a seven-length lead and powered to an overwhelming victory. A six-year-old by Teofilo, the Darley-bred ran the 2 ¼-mile distance in 3:58.69 and paid $19.80 for a $2 win ticket.
Beverly Steinman’s First Friday battled past Pick Em to finish second under Barry Foley. The homebred is trained by Doug Fout, who sent out Steinman’s Market Alley and Foley to win Saratoga Race Course’s Mrs. Ogden Phipps Stakes on Wednesday.
Pik Em, ridden by Willie McCarthy, finished third, 1 ¼ lengths behind First Friday and a length and a half ahead of Kensington Court.
Moorland was making his first start since finishing third in a Radnor Hunt Races ratings handicap on May 18.
Garner kicked off his Saratoga spree with a victory aboard Sheppard’s Redicean, also trained by Young, on July 24. The following day, he won the $150,000 A. P. Smithwick Memorial aboard Hudson River Farms’ Winston C for trainer Jonathan Sheppard.
The Racing Hall of Fame horseman won the first pari-mutuel steeplechase race at Colonial in six years with his Hepcat, who scored in the $30,000 Sport of Kings maiden hurdle that opened the Saturday program.
Ridden by Gerard Galligan, Hepcat was always well placed, moved to the lead just before entering the stretch, led by a length at the furlong pole, and fought off Riverdee Stable’s game Gostisbehere to win by three-quarters of a length. Why Not Racing’s Jump Ship finished third.
The 3.90-to-1 third betting choice behind 2.60-to-1 favorite Gostisbehere, Hepcat paid $9.80 to win after running the 2 1/4-mile distance in 4:04.24.
Bred in West Virginia by the Daybreak Farm of Emily and Jimmy Day, Hepcat is a four-year-old by Bluegrass Cat. He came into the Colonial race from a second-place finish in a maiden hurdle at Monmouth Park on July 4.