An outstanding field that includes Eclipse Award champions Scorpiancer and Zanjabeel as well as novice champions Snap Decision and Iranistan will line up Saturday, June 27, for the $35,000 David Semmes Memorial, the featured hurdle race of the 95th Virginia Gold Cup.
Postponed from its traditional first Saturday in May date by the new coronavirus pandemic, the Virginia Gold Cup will be run without spectators at Great Meadow Race Course in The Plains, and livestreaming video coverage will be provided beginning at 12:15 a.m. The Virginia Gold Cup also is hosting virtual tailgating, hat, and trivia contests.
The meet’s timber-racing feature will be the $40,000 Virginia Gold Cup, which attracted champions Andi’amu and Doc Cebu.
The Semmes at 2 1/8 miles also boasts a top-tier field. Bruton Street-US’s Scorpiancer, the 2017 Eclipse champion, will be making his first start since a second-place finish in Far Hills’ Grand National (Gr. 1) last October.
After missing the 2018 season, the Irish-bred returned to win the Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1) for a second time in May 2019.
Trained by Jack Fisher, he was scratched from the Temple Gwathmey Handicap (Gr. 3) on June 13. Bruton Street’s Moscato, the 2017 novice champion, won the Temple Gwathmey easily and now is awaiting a summer campaign.
Sean McDermott, Scorpiancer’s regular jockey, was named to ride.
Zanjabeel, owned by Rosbrian Farm and Meadow Run Farm, won the 2018 Eclipse Award and made one start last year, a fourth-place finish in the International Gold Cup’s David L. “Zeke” Ferguson Memorial (Gr. 2) on the Great Meadow course in late October.
The Aussie Rules seven-year-old opened the 2020 season in the Temple Gwathmey and was pulled up. Trainer Ricky Hendriks named Darren Nagle to ride.
Bruton Street’s Snap Decision, a product of Phipps family bloodlines, took a while to learn the game, but trainer Fisher got the job done by early July. The Hard Spun gelding rolled through four straight wins, concluding with Far Hills’ Foxbrook Champion Hurdle, to claim the novice mantle. McDermott has a second call.
Fisher also will saddle Riverdee Stable’s Gibralfaro, the Ferguson winner. Michael Mitchell has the mount.
Hudson River Farms’ Iranistan won the 2018 novice title but had a 2019 campaign limited to two starts. He was pulled up in the Grand National and finished fourth in the Steeplechase at Callaway’s Aflac Supreme Hurdle for novices.
He began 2020 with a fourth-place finish in the Temple Gwathmey after setting the early pace. Gerard Galligan again rides for Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard. Each had three wins at the Middleburg Spring meet and lead their respective categories.
Trainer Leslie Young will send out Sharon Sheppard’s Redicean, who finished fifth in the Grand National after winning Saratoga Race Course’s Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes. The six-year-old will be ridden by Thomas Garner.
Four Semmes contenders tuned up in Middleburg Spring’s training flat race. Irv Naylor’s Chief Justice won easily for trainer Cyril Murphy and again will be ridden by Graham Watters.
Gill Johnston’s Mutasaawy finished third, Stonelea Stable’s Grade 1-winning speedster Balance the Budget was fifth, and Mark W. Buyck Jr.’s Grade 1 winner Show Court was sixth in a large field.
Trainer Neil Morris named Barry Foley aboard Mutasaawy, Ross Geraghty rides Balance the Budget for trainer Julie Gomena, and trainer Arch Kingsley Jr. named Tom Foley aboard Show Court.
Completing the field is Jacqueline Ohrstrom’s Winner Massagot, who won the 2018 Noel Laing Handicap. Kieran Norris will ride for trainer Richard Valentine.
Here is the field for the David Semmes Memorial in post-position order. The horses’ National Steeplechase Association ratings are in parentheses after their profiles.
Winner Massagot (Fr). 2011 ch. g., Muhaymin—Winnor (Fr), by Lesotho. Owner: Jacqueline Ohrstrom. Trainer: Richard Valentine. Jockey: Kieran Norris. Breeders: Christian Ballet and Jean Luc Terrieres (Fr). 2019 record: 1-0-0-0, $0. 2018 NSA record: 2-1-1-0, $33,000. Pulled up in 2019 Temple Gwathmey Handicap (Gr. 2). Won Montpelier’s 2018 Noel Laing Handicap impressively after second in Far Hills ratings handicap, his U.S. debut. Won lower-level handicap at England’s Fontwell Park before export. (133)
Snap Decision. 2014 b. g., Hard Spun—Salute, by Unbridled. Owner: Bruton Street-US. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Jockey: Sean McDermott. Breeder: Phipps Stable (Ky.) 2019 record: 6-4-2-0, $176,400. Won Belmont Park’s 2019 William Entenmann Memorial Novice Stakes as odds-on favorite, the won Far Hills’ Foxbrook Champion Hurdle impressively. Drew away impressively to win Saratoga allowance hurdle by 38½ lengths. Secured maiden win at Monmouth Park in July 2019 after second-place finishes at Queen’s Cup and Iroquois. Previously trained by Shug McGaughey and had two wins on the flat. (145)
Zanjabeel (GB). 2013 b. g., Aussie Rules—Grain Only, by Machiavellian. Owners: Rosbrian Farm and Meadow Run Farm. Trainer: Ricky Hendriks. Jockey: Darren Nagle. Breeder: Kirsten Rausing (GB). 2020 record: 1-0-0-0, $0. 2019 record: 1-0-0-0, $3,750. 2018 record: 4-2-2-0, $265,500. 2017 NSA record: 2-2-0-0, $120,000. Eclipse Award winner 2018. Pulled up in 2020 Temple Gwathmey Handicap (Gr. 3). In comeback race, finished fourth in 2019 David L. “Zeke” Ferguson Memorial Handicap (Gr. 2). Won 2018 Eclipse Award with victories in Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1) and Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1). Finished second in Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup (Gr. 1) and Temple Gwathmey Handicap (Gr. 2). Won Far Hills’ 2017 Foxbrook Champion Hurdle, his U.S. debut for former owners and trainer Gordon Elliott. For new owners, won Steeplechase at Callaway’s 2017 Aflac Supreme Hurdle. (150)
Balance the Budget. 2009 ch. g., Bellamy Road—Every Day Is Good, by El Corredor. Owner: Stonelea Stable. Trainer: Julie Gomena. Jockey: Ross Geraghty. Breeder: Liberation Farm & Oratis (Ky.). 2019 record: 1-0-0-0, $2,250. 2018 record: 2-1-0-1, $97,500. Finished sixth in David L. “Zeke” Ferguson Memorial (Gr. 2) in his only 2019 start. Won 2018 Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup (Gr. 1) and finished third in Virginia Gold Cup’s David Semmes Memorial (Gr. 2). Won International Gold Cup’s 2017 David L. “Zeke” Ferguson Memorial (Gr. 2) by nine lengths after setting all the pace. (136)
Show Court (Ire). 2009 b. g., Vinnie Roe—Sparking Gem, by Revoque. Owner: Mark W. Buyck Jr. Trainer: Arch Kingsley Jr. Jockey: Tom Foley. Breeder: Grange Stud (Ire). 2019 NSA record: 4-0-0-0, $3,500. 2018 record: 6-2-0-0, $122,000. Pulled up in Steeplechase at Callaway ratings handicap after 11th in Far Hills’ 2019 New Jersey Hunt Cup on flat. Eased in Saratoga’s A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1), which he won in 2018. Opened 2019 with sixth in Carolina Cup Handicap, then was pulled up in Temple Gwathmey Handicap (Gr. 2) and fourth in Valentine Memorial Handicap. (122)
Chief Justice (GB). 2015 b. g., Acclamation—Freedom Pass, by Gulch. Owner: Irvin S. Naylor. Trainer: Cyril Murphy. Jockey: Graham Watters. Breeder: G. B. Partnership (GB). 2019 NSA record: 3-0-0-1, $17,500. Finished third in Belmont Park’s 2019 William Entenmann Memorial Novice Stakes, then was fourth in Far Hills’ Foxbrook Champion Hurdle. In U.S. debut for former trainer Gordon Elliott, closed well to be fourth in Iroquois Steeplechase’s 2019 Marcellus Frost Novice Stakes. Won his send-off race, a quality handicap race at Aintree on Grand National day. Tested at Cheltenham in Fred Winter Handicap and finished in midpack. Won three straight races as a three-year-old in 2018. (130)
Redicean (GB). 2014 b. g., Medicean (GB)—Red Halo, by Galileo (Ire). Owner: Sharon E. Sheppard. Trainer: Leslie Young. Jockey: Thomas Garner. Breeder: Cheveley Park Stud (GB). 2019 NSA record: 3-1-0-0, $67,500. Finished fifth in 2019 Grand National (Gr. 1). Graduated from novice ranks with victory in Saratoga’s 2019 Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes, his first U.S. start after respectable career in England, then was sixth in Belmont Park’s Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1). Departed with 11th in Scottish Champion Hurdle in April. (140)
Mutasaawy. 2010 b. g., Tapit—Pretty Proud, by Mr. Greeley. Owner: Gillian Johnston. Trainer: Neil Morris. Jockey: Barry Foley. Breeder: Pretty Proud Syndicate (Ky.). 2019 record: No starts. 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. (123)
Gibralfaro. (Ire). 2012 b. g., Dalakhani (Ire)—Ronda, by Bluebird. Owner: Riverdee Stable. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Jockey: Michael Mitchell. Breeder: Sarl Darpat France (Ire). 2019 record: 5-2-1-0, $144,000. 2018 record: 5-1-3-0, $77,250. Won International Gold Cup’s 2019 David L. “Zeke” Ferguson Memorial (Gr. 2). Finished second in Saratoga’s New York Turf Writers Cup (Gr. 1) after fourth in A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1). Opened 2019 with victory in Queen’s Cup MPC ’Chase for novices, then was sixth in Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1). Finished second in Far Hills’ 2018 Foxbrook Champion Hurdle division and Aflac Supreme Hurdle. (138)
Scorpiancer (Ire). 2009 b. g., Scorpion (Ire)—Janebailey, By Silver Patriarch. Owner: Bruton Street-US. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Jockey: Sean McDermott. Breeder: Mary O’Connor (Ire). 2019 record: 4-1-1-0, $177,000. 2018 record: No starts. 2017 record: 2-2-0-0, $150,000. Eclipse Award winner 2017. Won Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1) for a second time in 2019 before fifth in Belmont Park’s Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1) and second in Grand National (Gr. 1) at Far Hills, N.J. Missed 2018 season and was pulled up in his first 2019 start, the Temple Gwathmey Handicap (Gr. 2). Claimed 2017 Eclipse Award with victories in Calvin Houghland Iroquois and Temple Gwathmey. Won Belmont Park’s 2016 Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1). (154)
Iranistan. 2014 dk. b. or br. g., Einstein (Brz)—Miss Vindictive, by Stephen Got Even. Owner: Hudson River Stables. Trainer: Jonathan Sheppard. Jockey: Gerard Galligan. Breeder: Crossed Sabres Farm (Ky.) 2020 record: 1-0-0-0, $6,500. 2019 record: 2-0-0-0, $3,750. 2018 NSA record: 5-3-1-1, $145,000. Champion novice 2018. Finished fourth in 2020 Temple Gwathmey Handicap (Gr. 3). In first 2019 start, pulled up in Grand National (Gr. 1) after leading early, then finished fourth in Aflac Supreme Hurdle for novices. Finished game second in Saratoga’s 2018 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1), then was third in New York Turf Writers Cup (Gr. 1), while favored in both. Won 2018 Marcellus Frost Champion Hurdle for novices by six lengths. (126)