A highly accomplished group of young steeplechase competitors will meet in the $50,000 National Hunt Cup, co-feature of the 81st annual Radnor Hunt Races in Malvern, Pa., on Saturday, May 21. The six-race program at the W. Burling Cocks Memorial Race Course also will highlight the $40,000 Radnor Hunt Cup over timber fences. First post time is 1:30 p.m.
The National Steeplechase Association’s spring-summer pari-mutuel season kicks off with the Strawberry Hill Races at Colonial Downs in Virginia on Saturday, and steeplechase racing returns to Kentucky’s Bluegrass region with the High Hope Races at the Kentucky Horse Park on Sunday.
Radnor’s National Hunt Cup is limited to horses in their first years of competition over fences, known as novices, and this year’s edition of the Sport of Kings race attracted the cream of the crop. Seeking his second consecutive major victory is Magalen O. Bryant’s Triplekin, winner of the Queen’s Cup MPC ‘Chase for novices on April 30. Racing Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard named Brian Crowley to ride the six-year-old Makin gelding.
All Together, 2010’s novice champion, will be shooting for his first victory of the year in the 2 3/8-mile National Hunt Cup. Owned by Andre Brewster and Sheila J. Williams, the six-year-old Danzig gelding finished a closing second to pacesetter Complete Zen in the $50,000 Priority Payment Systems Georgia Cup for novices on April 16. Xavier Aizpuru will ride for trainer Jack Fisher.
Mede Cahaba Stable’s Complete Zen is the likely early front-runner for the National Hunt Cup. After his head victory over All Together in the Georgia Cup, the five-year-old Cozzene gelding finished second by 5 3/4 lengths to Triplekin in the Queen’s Cup race near Charlotte, N.C. Richard Boucher again will ride Complete Zen for his wife, trainer Lilith Boucher.
Testing the top ranks of novice competitors will be last year’s three-year-old champion, Jacqueline Ohrstrom’s Demonstrative. In his most recent start, the four-year-old Elusive Quality gelding won the Daniel Van Clief Memorial, a hurdle allowance at the Foxfield Spring Races in Virginia on April 30. Trainer Richard Valentine will put Robbie Walsh in the saddle.
In the 3 1/4-mile Radnor Hunt Cup, Merriefield Farm’s Bon Caddo will be shooting for a spring hat trick after victories in the $35,000 My Lady’s Manor in Maryland on April 16 and the $50,000 Virginia Gold Cup on May 7. Blair Wyatt, who has ridden the ten-year-old Bon Point gelding to both victories, will be in the irons for trainer Dawn Williams.
Strawberry Hill kicks off pari-mutuel season
The 79th annual Strawberry Hill Races kicks off the 2011 pari-mutuel season at Colonial Downs with lightly raced Northern Bay meeting tough veterans Percussionist and Your Sum Man in the $30,000 Strawberry Hill Classic on Saturday, May 21. First post time at the Richmond, Va.-area track is 2:30 p.m.
Northern Bay, a five-year-old owned by the estate of Maryland horseman Cary W. Jackson, enters the Strawberry Hill Classic, an allowance hurdle, from a ten-length score in the Carolina First Block House in Tryon, N.C., on April 23. In his only 2010 start, the Sligo Bay gelding upset a Philadelphia Park optional allowance at 26.70-1 odds. Roddy Mackenzie, last year’s champion apprentice jockey, will ride for trainer Todd Wyatt.
Irvin S. Naylor’s Percussionist will be making his first 2011 start. The ten-year-old Sadler’s Wells gelding shipped from Denmark to win last fall’s $250,000 Grand National (Gr. 1), but was unplaced in the $100,000 Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup (Gr. 1) for his new owner. Trained by Tom Foley, Percussionist will be ridden by Darren Nagle.
Your Sum Man, winner of the 2009 Grand National, will be making his first start in more than a year for owner The Fields Stable and trainer Tom Voss. In his only 2010 start, he was pulled up in the $150,000 Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1). Willie McCarthy has the mount.
Trainer Jimmy Day tabbed 16-year-old apprentice jockey Gus Dahl to ride Randleston Farm’s Spy in the Sky. Winner of the 2010 Carolina First Carolina Cup (Gr. 2), Spy in the Sky was pulled up in this year’s edition of the Calvin Houghland Iroquois after finishing third in both the Carolina Block House and the Carolina First Block House.
High Hope spotlights steeplechase newcomers
Steeplechasing returns to Kentucky’s Blue Grass region on Sunday, May 22, with the 44th annual High Hope Steeplechase at the Kentucky Horse Park north of Lexington. The afternoon’s feature race, a $25,000 Sport of Kings maiden hurdle, will showcase newcomers seeking their first victory over fences. First post time is 1:45 p.m. for the four sanctioned races.
High Hope long has been a Lexington-area tradition, and it went on a one-year hiatus in 2010 when the Horse Park was being prepared for the World Equestrian Games last fall.
Many of the competitors in the Sport of Kings feature are making their first starts over fences in the 2011 season, and several of them have had notable accomplishments of the flat.
Augustin Stables’ Tifone enters the High Hope contest from a third-place finish in a tough maiden race at the Carolina Cup Races in Camden, S.C., on April 2. The eight-year-old Hussonet gelding was a Group 2 winner in his native Chile at age three. Racing Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard named Danielle Hodsdon to ride.
Another accomplished flat runner is Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Church Service, who will be making his first start over fences. The eight-year-old Pulpit gelding won the 2008 Dallas Turf Cup (Gr. 3) and finished second in that year’s Breeders’ Cup Marathon. He most recently raced for $20,000 claiming tags at Gulfstream Park this past winter. Champion jockey Paddy Young will ride for trainer Tom Voss.
The Ramseys, Nicholasville residents who race a large flat stable, have had past success at High Hope. Their Slip Away won a 2009 starter allowance over fences at High Hope and went on to be last year’s Eclipse Award winner as steeplechase champion.
Arcadia Stable’s Adam Rides Again finished second in his final two flat starts at Aqueduct last fall while a member of Todd Pletcher’s powerhouse stable. The four-year-old Cozzene gelding will be ridden by Willie Dowling.
Two other High Hope entrants, The Peloton and Sharif Al Medina, were competitive at the $25,000 claiming level at Saratoga Race Course and Laurel Park, respectively.