Reigning novice champion Alajmal and impressive novice stakes winner Fog Island will face off Saturday in the $50,000 Carolina Cup, the featured event of the 81st annual Carolina Cup. First post time is 1:30 p.m. for a program that annually attracts the largest crowd on the National Steeplechase Association circuit.
Gregory Hawkins’ Alajmal took a big step toward the 2012 novice championship when he scored a key victory in a Saratoga Race Course optional allowance in August, and he showed his liking for the Carolina Cup’s Springdale Course with a strong third-place finish in the $100,000 Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup (Gr. 1) on Nov. 17.
In the Carolina Cup, he returns to competition against other novices, the rising stars of steeplechase racing. The five-year-old First Samurai gelding is trained by Racing Hall of Fame member Janet Elliot, and he will be ridden by reigning champion jockey Ross Geraghty. Alajmal prepped for the Carolina Cup with a training flat victory at the Aiken Spring Steeplechase on March 23.
Anne Pape’s Fog Island scored a notable surprise victory in Far Hills’ Foxbrook Champion Hurdle for novices when he made a powerful run on soft ground and drew clear to a 1 1/4-length victory for trainer Richard Valentine. Robbie Walsh will ride in the Carolina Cup.
Trainer Leslie Young entered supplemental nominee Darkwatch, who most recently won the Aiken Fall meet’s $25,000 Budweiser Holiday Cup allowance race on Oct. 27. Owned by Silverton Hill, the Royal Academy gelding will be ridden by Bernie Dalton.
Fox Ridge Farm’s Ahgogo will have the riding services of Paddy Young, a three-time champion jockey. Trained by Tom Voss, Ahgogo won his maiden victory at last fall’s Charleston Cup races.
Not to be forgotten is Betsy Mead’s Forgotten Man, who finished third in the Foxbrook Champion Hurdle after taking third money in Belmont Park’s William Entenmann Memorial Novice Stakes. Trainer Doug Fout tapped Jeff Murphy to ride.
Racing Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard entered his Barnstorming, who finished fifth in the Foxbrook. Darren Nagle has the mount. Also coming out of the key Foxbrook race is Randleston Farm’s Duc de Savoie, who was sixth. Trainer Jimmy Day named Danielle Hodsdon to ride.