On an afternoon dominated by trainer Jack Fisher, his mother Dolly’s Schoodic moved into the top rank of timber racing with a 2½-length victory over division leader Andi’amu in Saturday’s $75,000 International Gold Cup.
Fisher continued his history-making season with three victories at the Great Meadows Race Course in The Plains, Va., and added to his record earnings total with more than $100,000 in purse earnings for the day.
In addition to the International Gold Cup, he also won the $75,000 David L. “Zeke” Ferguson Memorial (Gr. 2) with Riverdee Stable’s Gibralfaro and the $40,000 Sport of Kings maiden hurdle with Gill Johnston’s Brianbakescookies.
Schoodic, a nine-year-old Tiznow gelding, was enormously talented but unpredictable over hurdles, but he has shown respect and attention over timber fences. He was a perfect gentleman over the Great Meadow course under Hadden Frost and jumped cleanly over the 3½-mile timber course.
Fresh off a one-length victory in the Genesee Valley Hunt Cup two weeks earlier, Schoodic broke on top but soon ceded the lead to Ballybristol Farm’s Andi’amu, who had extended his unbeaten record over fences with a facile victory in Virginia Fall’s National Sporting Library and Museum Cup on Oct. 12.
Jockey Jack Doyle aboard Andi’amu did his best to choke down the pace, but Frost kept Schoodic close behind him.
Andi’amu jumped fluidly over the Great Meadow timber course but Schoodic matched him jump for jump while about two or three lengths off the pace through the first three miles. Both are stakes winners over hurdles, and Schoodic showed a superior turn of foot as the field of five headed to the final turn.
Schoodic grabbed the lead with three fences remaining, and Andi’amu resisted stoutly over the last obstacles. Both Frost and Doyle drove their mounts to the finish, but it was clear in the final 50 yards that Schoodic would retain his advantage to the finish line.
Irv Naylor’s Super Saturday, who had finished second to Andi’amu in the National Sporting Library, finished third, 13 lengths farther back.
Hudson River Farms’ Codrington College, who had handed Schoodic his only defeat over timber fences in Shawan Downs’ Brown Advisory Legacy Chase on Sept. 28, finished fourth, 3 ½ lengths back and a neck ahead of Rebecca Shepherd’s Curve of Stones.
Sent to the starter at 3.20-to-1, Schoodic paid $8.40 to win after running the International Gold Cup’s 3 ½ miles in 7:15 3/5.
The International Gold Cup’s $45,000 first-place purse raised Schoodic’s 2019 earnings to $109,500. In addition to the Genesee Valley Hunt Cup, he won the Iroquois Steeplechase’s $25,000 Mason Houghland Memorial allowance timber b 16 3/4 lengths and a novice timber allowance at Fair Hill by 6 1/4, both in May.
Andi’amu remains the division leader with $115,500 in purses from four starts. Trained by Leslie Young, Andi’amu won the Virginia Gold Cup over the Great Meadow course in May after taking the Middleburg Hunt Cup in his maiden voyage over timber.
A part of Sean Clancy’s philosophy with his Riverdee Stable partnership is that he doesn’t want to overmatch his horses or run them too often. After two tough but successful starts at Saratoga Race Course, Clancy decided to skip the rich Far Hills meet with Gibralfaro and point him toward the Ferguson.
His measured approach paid off handsomely when Gibralfaro overtook front-running Balance the Budget nearing the final turn and drew clear to win the Ferguson by 3 ½ lengths.
Fisher also claimed second money with Sonny Via’s ever-reliable Hinterland, who closed well and was 10¾ lengths clear of promising new arrival Lethal Steps in third. Eclipse Award winner Zanjabeel, making his first start in more than 13 months, was prominent for two miles but tired in Great Meadow’s long stretch to finish fourth.
Bettors allowed Gibralfaro to get away at 10.20-to-1, and the Irish-bred paid $22.40 after running the Ferguson’s 2 1/8 miles in 3:57 1/5 on firm ground.
Michael Mitchell rode the winner and remained atop the jockey standings, one race ahead of Doyle, who was blanked at Great Meadow.
In his previous start, Gibralfaro had finished a solid second in Saratoga’s New York Turf Writers Cup Handicap (Gr. 1) after a fourth-place finish in Saratoga’s A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1). Clancy, a former champion jockey, believed Gibralfaro deserved a break and pointed him toward the Ferguson.
“I felt he ran hard at Saratoga,” Clancy said. “He’s such an overachiever.” Mitchell put Gibralfaro close behind Balance the Budget and moved when he sensed that the front-runner was beginning to tire.
“He finds his spots,” Clancy said. “He’s very quick over his fences.