Rosbrian Farm’s Optimus Prime, a Grade 1 winner in his first U.S. start last year, heads eight nominees to the $75,000 David Semmes Memorial (Gr. 2), the featured hurdle race of the 94th annual Virginia Gold Cup on Saturday, May 4.
The popular meet at Great Meadow Race Course in The Plains also features the $100,000 Virginia Gold Cup over timber fences. First post time is 12:30 p.m.
In his first visit to Great Meadow last fall, Optimus Prime romped to an 18-length victory in the International Gold Cup’s $75,000 David L. “Zeke” Ferguson Memorial (Gr. 2) for trainer Ricky Hendriks.
The French-bred, now seven, previously had won Saratoga Race Course’s New York Turf Writers Cup Handicap (Gr. 1), his U.S. debut, and was third in Belmont Park’s Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1).
Hendriks also nominated Clarcam, owned by Rosbrian and Meadow Run Farm. The French-bred veteran finished a distant sixth after setting the early pace in the Temple Gwathmey Handicap (Gr. 2) on April 20.
Leading owner Irvin S. Naylor nominated Sempre Medici, another French-bred who finished second to Optimus Prime in the Ferguson, his best showing since being imported. He missed the 2017 season and was fifth in last year’s Semmes for trainer Cyril Murphy.
Trainer Arch Kingsley Jr. nominated Mark W. Buyck Jr.’s Show Court, who would be making his third start of the season. Winner of Saratoga’s 2018 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1), he was sixth in the Carolina Cup Handicap and was pulled up in the Temple Gwathmey.
Also coming out of the Carolina Cup on March 30 are Semmes nominees Invocation, who finished second, and Sonny Via’s Hinterland, who was fifth. Straylight Racing’s Invocation, trained by Billy Santoro, won his two 2018 starts, both in ratings handicaps.
Trained by leading trainer Jack Fisher, Hinterland ran his best U.S. race last September when second to eventual Eclipse Award champion Zanjabeel in the Lonesome Glory.
The Fields Stable’s Portrade, winner of the 2016 New York Turf Writers for trainer Elizabeth Voss, was pulled up in the Temple Gwathmey in his first start in more than 20 months.
Completing the nominees is Gil Johnston’s Mutasaawy, winner of the Fair Hill Races’ Valentine Memorial Handicap last May. Trained by Neil Morris, he remains eligible for novice stakes and most recently fell in the Steeplechase at Callaway’s Aflac Supreme Hurdle in November.
Here are the eight nominees to the $75,000 David Semmes Memorial (Gr. 2). The horses’ ratings are in parentheses at the end of their profiles.
Clarcam (Fr). 2010 b. g., Califet (Fr)—Rose Beryl, by Lost World. Owner: Rosbrian Farm and Meadow Run Farm. Trainer: Ricky Hendriks. Breeder: Jean Michel & Dominique LeBreton. 2019 record: 1-0-0-0, $2,250. 2018 NSA record: 3-0-0-0, $5,250. Finished sixth in 2019 Temple Gwathmey Handicap (Gr. 2). Finished distant fourth in 2018 Noel Laing Handicap at Montpelier Hunt Races. Distanced in 2018 Grand National (Gr. 1) for trainer Gordon Elliott. Finished seventh in New York Turf Writers Cup (Gr. 1) and sixth Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1). In final overseas start, won €250,000 Galway Plate Steeplechase by six lengths at 33-to-1 odds. (132)
Hinterland (Fr). 2008 b. g., Poliglote (GB)—Queen’s Place, by Diamond Prospect. Owner: Harold A. “Sonny” Via Jr. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Breeder: Eric Aubree and Christian Bresson (Fr). 2019 record: 1-0-0-0, $2,000. 2018 record: 4-0-1-0, $63,750. 2017 record: 2-0-1-0, $36,000. Finished fifth in 2019 Carolina Cup. Finished closing second in Belmont Park’s 2018 Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1), then was fourth in Far Hills’ Grand National (Gr. 1). Opened 2018 with fourth in Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup (Gr. 1), then finished sixth in Temple Gwathmey Handicap (Gr. 2). (128)
Invocation (Fr). 2013 dk. b. g., Intense Focus—Fabiola, by Medicean. Owner: Straylight Racing. Trainer: William Santoro. Breeder: E.A.R.L. Elevage Des Loges (Fr). 2019 record: 1-0-1-0. $9,000. 2018 record: 2-2-0-0, $48,000. 2017 record: 3-2-1-0, $58,500. 2016 NSA record: 2-1-0-1, $20,000. Finished second in 2019 Carolina Cup. In two 2018 starts, won ratings handicaps at Far Hills and Charleston. Won 2017 Saratoga allowance hurdle and Radnor ratings handicap after second in Queen’s Cup ratings handicap. Won a 2016 Colonial Cup allowance hurdle by 18 lengths after third in Far Hills’ Gladstone Stakes, his U.S. debut. (132)
Mutasaawy. 2010 b. g., Tapit—Pretty Proud, by Mr. Greeley. Owner: Gillian Johnston. Trainer: Neil Morris. Breeder: Pretty Proud Syndicate (Ky.). 2018 NSA record: 7-1-1-1, $53,000. 2017 NSA record: 6-2-1-1, $66,900. Finished third in 2018 Foxbrook Champion Hurdle division, then lost rider in Steeplechase at Callaway’s Aflac Supreme Hurdle. Finished fifth in Saratoga’s Michael G. Walsh Novice Stakes. Won Fair Hill’s 2018 Valentine Memorial ratings handicap before second in Saratoga’s Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes as favorite. Finished seventh in 2018 Queen’s Cup MPC ’Chase and fell in Iroquois’ Marcellus Frost Champion Hurdle. (127)
Optimus Prime (Fr). 2012 b. g., Deportivo—Diluvienne, by Kaldoun. Owner: Rosbrian Farm. Trainer: Ricky Hendriks. Breeder: Haras de Plasence (Fr). 2018 NSA record: 3-2-0-1, $167,500. Won 2018 David L. “Zeke” Ferguson Memorial (Gr. 2) by 18 lengths. In his U.S. debut, won Saratoga Race Course’s 2018 New York Turf Writers Cup Handicap (Gr. 1), then was third in Belmont Park’s Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1). Previously trained by Dan Skelton. (157)
Portrade (Ire). 2009 b. g., Trade Fair (GB)—Portorosa, by Irish River (Fr). Owner: The Fields Stable. Trainer: Elizabeth Voss. Breeder: Keene Bloodstock (Ire). 2019 record: 1-0-0-0, $0. 2018 record: No starts. 2017 record: 3-0-1-0, $19,000. Trailed and pulled up in 2019 Temple Gwathmey Handicap (Gr. 2). Missed 2018 season after fourth in 2017 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1). Won the 2016 New York Turf Writers (Gr. 1). (127)
Sempre Medici (Fr). 2010 b. g., Medicean—Sambala, by Danehill Dancer. Owner: Irvin S. Naylor. Trainer: Cyril Murphy. Breeders: Myriam Bollack, Noel Forgeard, and E.A.R.L. du Haras de Pierrepont (Fr). 2018 record: 4-0-1-0, $24,500. 2017 NSA record: No starts. Finished second in David L. “Zeke” Ferguson Memorial (Gr. 2) after fifth-place finishes in 2018 Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1) and David Semmes Memorial (Gr. 2). Pulled up in Temple Gwathmey Handicap (Gr. 2), his first U.S. start. Competed at top level in England and Ireland for trainer Willie Mullins before being imported. Female-line descendant of foundation mare Best in Show, by Traffic Judge. (138)
Show Court (Ire). 2009 b. g., Vinnie Roe—Sparking Gem, by Revoque. Owner: Mark W. Buyck Jr. Trainer: Arch Kingsley Jr. Breeder: Grange Stud (Ire). 2019 record: 2-0-0-0, $1,500. 2018 record: 6-2-0-0, $122,000. 2017 NSA record: 5-2-1-0, $112,000. Opened 2019 with sixth in Carolina Cup Handicap, then was pulled up in Temple Gwathmey Handicap (Gr. 2). Won Saratoga’s 2018 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1), then was fourth in New York Turf Writers Cup Handicap (Gr. 1) and fell in Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1). Won Steeplechase at Callaway allowance hurdle after fourth in David L. “Zeke” Ferguson Handicap (Gr. 2) at International Gold Cup. Won 2017 Carolina Cup. (129)