Andi’amu and Cognashene, accomplished hurdlers who have successfully transitioned to mixed-obstacle racing, will be the horses to beat in Saturday’s $40,000 Steeplethon Stakes, one of four stakes races on the program for the 93rd Virginia Gold Cup meet.
The festivities kick off at 12:30 p.m. for the first race on an eight-race program, all with pari-mutuel wagering under the supervision of the Virginia Racing Commission. In all, the Virginia Gold Cup will pay almost $400,000 in purses, highlighted by the $100,000 Virginia Gold Cup over timber fences.
Uniquely Virginia, the Steepleton will be the first of the four stakes races. The $75,000 David Semmes Memorial (Gr. 2) will feature some of American Steeplechasing’s top hurdlers, and the meet also will offer the $50,000 Secretariat Stakes on the flat.
The Steeplethon originated in northern Virginia and presents horses and their riders with a variety of obstacles, including timber fences, hurdles, brush fences, and a water jump as well as a splash through Great Meadow’s Swan Lake.
Ballybristol Farm’s Andi’amu, trained by Leslie Young, tried the mixed obstacles for the first time in Middleburg Spring’s Alfred M. Hunt Steeplechase on April 21 and won. Jack Doyle, currently leading the jockey standings, gets a return call on the French-bred.
Andi’amu prevailed by a neck over PathFinder Racing’s Cognashene, an 11-year-old veteran who also enjoyed success over hurdles and won Aiken Fall’s Budweiser Holiday Cup rating handicap in October.
Trained by Neil Morris, Cognashene tried the three-mile Steeplethon last year and was pulled up early on soft turf at Great Meadow. Michael Mitchell has a return call for Saturday’s race.
Irv Naylor’s mixed-obstacles specialist Saluda Sam, now 13, will be ridden by Willie McCarthy. Trained by Billy Meister, Saluda Sam twice won the Alfred Hunt but was pulled up this year.
Gillian Johnston’s Dye Fore, second in last year’s Steeplethon and fourth in the Hunt, will tackle the Great Meadow course again for trainer Jack Fisher. Sean McDermott has the mount.
Boogie Biz, racing for the Happenstance and Harry Stable, was pulled up in the Middleburg race. The 10-year-old is ridden by his trainer, Mark Beecher.
Here is the field for the $40,000 Steeplethon Stakes in post-position order.
Boogie Biz. 2010 b. g., Nobiz Like Showbiz—My Dance, by Rhythm. Owner: Happenstance Stable and Harry Lebo. Trainer: Mark Beecher. Jockey: Mark Beecher. Breeder: Charles W. Walters Jr. and Elizabeth J. Volando (Md.) 2018 record: 1-0-0-0, $0. 2017 record: 3-1-2-0, $24,900. 2016 record: 2-0-1-0, $2,700. Pulled up in Middleburg Spring’s 2018 Alfred M. Hunt steeplethon. Finished second in 2017 International Gold Cup steeplethon. Won 2017 Fair Hill novice timber by 1 1/4 lengths after second in Winterthur timber maiden. Won flat maiden and had a second over hurdles.
Saluda Sam. 2005 ch. g., Adcat—Super Skirt, by Proud Truth. Owner: Irvin S. Naylor. Trainer: William Meister. Jockey: Willie McCarthy. Breeder: F. R. Bobby Nelson (S.C.) 2018 record: 1-0-0-0, $0. 2017 record: 3-1-0-1, $13,000. 2016 record: 5-1-0-2, $18,400. 2015 record: 4-3-1-0, $49,200. Pulled up in Middleburg Spring’s 2018 Alfred M. Hunt steeplethon. Won that race by 10 lengths in 2017 and then was pulled up on soft ground in the Virginia Gold Cup’s steeplethon. Finished third in International Gold Cup’s steeplethon. Won 2016 Virginia Fall’s steeplethon between third-place finishes in steeplethons at Virginia Gold Cup and International Gold Cup. Won International Gold Cup’s 2015 Steeplethon.
Andi’amu (Fr). 2010 b. g., Walk In The Park—Sainte Parfaite, by Septieme Ciel. Owner: Ballybristol Farm. Trainer: Leslie Young. Jockey: Jack Doyle. Breeder: Therese Bouche (Fr). 2018 record: 1-1-0-0, $12,000. 2017 NSA record: 6-0-1-2, $32,900. 2016 record: 6-1-2-0, $77,300. In first run over mixed obstacles, won Middleburg Spring’s Alfred M. Hunt steeplethon. Finished second in 2017 Noel Laing Handicap after third in Far Hills’ Appleton ratings handicap. Opened 2017 with fifth in Tryon Block House Handicap, then was distant third in Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1). Came home eighth in 2017 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1).
Hishi Soar. 2007 dk. b. or br. g., Theatrical (Ire)—Go On Baby, by With Approval. Owner: Estate of Randolph D. Rouse. Trainer: E. Kevin Palmer. Jockey: Gerard Galligan. Breeder: Kaleem Shah (Ky.) 1-0-0-0, $800. 2017 record: 2-0-0-1, $3,000. 2016 record: 4-1-0-0, $16,800. Finished distant fifth in Middleburg Spring’s 2018 Alfred M. Hunt steeplethon. Finished third in 2017 Daniel Van Clief Memorial at Foxfield Spring and fell in International Gold Cup’s Steeplethon. Won 2016 Van Clief to make his owner the oldest trainer at age 99 to saddle a U.S. Thoroughbred winner.
Dye Fore. 2011 dk. b. or br. g., Giant’s Causeway—Homebound, by Dixie Union. Owner: Gillian Johnston. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Jockey: Sean McDermott. Breeder: Joseph Allen (Ky.). 2018 record; 1-0-0-0, $1,000. 2017 record: 6-1-3-2, $30,600. Finished fourth in Middleburg Spring’s 2018 Alfred M. Hunt steeplethon. Broke through for maiden timber victory in 2017 Steeplechase at Callaway allowance. Had second-place finishes at High Hope and Virginia Fall sandwiched around third at Shawan Downs.
Cognashene. 2007 dk. b. or br. g., Dynaformer—Catch the Ring, by Seeking the Gold. Owner: PathFinder Racing. Trainer: Jockey: Michael Mitchell. Neil Morris. Breeder: Sam-Son Farm (Ont.) 2017 record: 9-2-2-2, $37,800. 2016 record: 4-0-0-1, $3,000. Finished close second in Middleburg Spring’s 2018 Alfred M. Hunt steeplethon. In busy 2017 season, won Aiken Fall’s Budweiser Holiday Cup ratings handicap and a Willowdale claiming hurdle. Finished third in Virginia Fall’s Randolph D. Rouse Memorial ratings handicap and fourth in Montpelier’s Noel Laing Handicap.
Triton Light. 2006 dk. b. or br. g., Vicar—Angela, by Private Terms. Owner-trainer: Nicki Valvo. Jockey: Darren Nagle. Breeder: Coleswood Farm (W.Va.) 2017 record: 2-0-0-0, $1,600. 2016 record: 2-0-0-0, $750. 2015 record: 5-0-0-1, $5,200. Went off course in Virginia Gold Cup’s 2017 Steeplethon, then was fifth in International Gold Cup Steeplethon. Made two hurdle starts in 2016, a fourth in a Middleburg Spring allowance before being pulled up in a High Hope handicap.
Pured It. 2009 b. g., Purim—Judiths Humor, by Hennessy. Owner: Sycamore Run Farms. Trainer: Kathy Neilson. Jockey: Gerard Galligan. Breeder: Ashleigh Stud, Frank Ramos, and Jackie Ramos (Ky.) 2018 record: 1-0-0-0, $750. 2016 record: 2-1-0-0, $10,200. Missed the 2017 season and returned with fourth in John D. Schapiro Memorial amateur apprentice timber allowance at 2018 My Lady’s Manor. In first timber start and first jumps start in almost two years, won High Hope’s 2016 Jay Trump maiden hurdle by 10 1/4 lengths.