Racing Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard made a fast start in the new National Steeplechase Association season, and he entered three contenders for the $40,000 Life’s Illusion Stakes, the featured contest for fillies and mares at Saturday’s 86th annual Carolina Cup Races in Camden, S.C.
Post time is 1:30 p.m. for the six-race program, which will offer a record $325,000 in purses. Headlining the richest Carolina Cup meet ever will be the $150,000 Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup (Gr. 1) and the namesake $75,000 Carolina Cup for novices.
The two-mile Life’s Illusion is named for the Virginia Guest’s 1975 Eclipse Award winner, the only female to receive Thoroughbred racing’s top award in the steeplechase category.
Sheppard’s stable was ready to run at the Aiken Spring Races on March 24, and he won half of the meet’s six races. His two hurdle wins included the featured Budweiser Imperial Cup with KMSN Stable’s Able Archer.
Heading Sheppard’s line-up for the Life’s Illusion is Riverdee Stable’s Wigwam Baby, who was second in Saratoga Race Course’s Mrs. Ogden Phipps Stakes last August and then third in the Peapack Stakes at the Far Hills Races in October.
The seven-year-old, bred by Sheppard and Bill Pape, last won at the 2016 Atlanta Steeplechase. She will be ridden by champion jockey Darren Nagle, who will be making his first 2018 starts.
Sheppard also will saddle his Pram and Stalled in the Life’s Illusion. Pram, an impressive maiden winner in her most recent start in October 2016, will be ridden by Gerard Galligan.
Stalled, a blazing winner in a 2015 Carolina Cup maiden hurdle for fillies and mares, was scratched from the Imperial Cup to start in the Life’s Illusion. She will have apprentice jockey Keri Brion in the saddle.
Also looking to return to the winner’s circle is owner-trainer F. Hill Parker’s Get Ready Set Goes, who was 2016’s female and novice champion but was unplaced in two starts last year, the Carolina Cup and the Iroquois Steeplechase’s Margaret Currey Henley for fillies and mares. Regular jockey Richard Boucher will be in the saddle.
Get Ready Set Goes will share the 155-pound highweight with The Fields Stable’s Sarah Joyce, who won the Henley and finished third in the Mrs. Phipps. Trained by Elizabeth Voss, Sarah Joyce will be ridden by Jack Doyle, who jumped out to an early lead in the 2018 standings with two wins at Aiken.
Michael Mitchell will be aboard owner-trainer Amy Taylor Rowe’s Waveless, a brilliant winner in her career debut at Foxfield Fall in September, but she fell in an open allowance hurdle at the season-ending Steeplechase at Charleston last November.
Completing the field is Marilyn Ketts’ Lady Yeats, who finished fourth in both the Mrs. Phipps and the Peapack. Kieran Norris, 2016’s champion jockey, will ride for trainer Lilith Boucher.
Here are the Life’s Illusion entries in post position order. The horses’ National Steeplechase Association ratings are in parentheses at the end of their profiles.
Sarah Joyce (Ire). 2012 b. m., The Carbon Unit—The Real Thing, by Traditionally. Owner: The Fields Stable. Trainer: Elizabeth Voss. Jockey: Jack Doyle. Breeder: Thistle Bloodstock (Ire). 2017 record: 5-2-0-1, $57,250. 2016 NSA record: 3-0-1-0, $6,000. Impressive winner of 2017 Margaret Currey Henley at Iroquois Steeplechase, then fourth as even-money favorite in Fair Hill’s Irish Coggins Memorial. Finished third in Saratoga’s 2017 Mrs. Ogden Phipps and was sixth in Far Hills’ Peapack Stakes. Won 2017 debut in Queen’s Cup ratings handicap. (116)
Wigwam Baby. 2011 b. m., Langfuhr—Tepee Tot, by Waquoit. Owner: Riverdee Stable. Trainer: Jonathan Sheppard. Jockey: Darren Nagle. Breeders: Bill Pape and Jonathan Sheppard (Pa.) 2017 NSA record: 4-0-1-1, $22,250. 2016 record: 2-1-0-0, $16,500. In first start over fences since May 2016, finished second in Saratoga’s 2017 Mrs. Ogden Phipps for fillies and mares, then was third in Far Hills Races’ Peapack Stakes. Pulled up in Charleston allowance hurdle. (112)
Get Ready Set Goes. 2012 ch. f., Run Away and Hide—Ready to Goes, by Lord Avie. Owner-trainer: F. Hill Parker. Jockey: Richard Boucher. Breeder: Frances Hill Myers (Oh.). Champion, novice and female, 2016. 2017 record: 2-0-0-0, $4,500. 2016 record: 4-3-1-0, $94,500. Began 2017 with fifth in Carolina Cup, then was sixth in Margaret Currey Henley at Iroquois Steeplechase. Reigned as 2016 female champion after winning Saratoga’s Mrs. Ogden Phipps Stakes and Far Hills’ Peapack Stakes, and also seized novice title by earnings. In first starts over fences, finished second in Atlanta allowance hurdle limited to females and then won High Hope open maiden hurdle. Won on flat in Ohio-bred filly race in 2015. (117)
Pram. 2011 dk. b. or br. m., Stroll—My Papoose, by Northern Baby. Owner-Trainer: Jonathan Sheppard. Jockey: Gerard Galligan. Breeders: Jonathan Sheppard and Bill Pape (Pa.) 2017 record: No starts. 2016 NSA record: 1-1-0-0, $12,000. In only start over fences, won a 2016 Aiken Fall maiden hurdle by more than 11 lengths. (105)
Lady Yeats (GB). 2011 b. m., Yeats (Ire)—Oblique (Ire), by Giant’s Causeway. Owner: Marilyn S. Ketts. Trainer: Lilith Boucher. Jockey: Kieran Norris. Breeder: Biddestone Stud (GB). 2017 record: 3-0-0-0, $7,500. 2016 NSA record: 2-0-0-1, $3,000. Finished fourth in Far Hills’ 2017 Peapack Stakes. Lost rider in 2017 Margaret Currey Henley at Iroquois Steeplechase, then was fourth in Saratoga’s Mrs. Ogden Phipps. Won an allowance hurdle at Catterick Bridge in England to open her 2016 season. (113)
Waveless (GB). 2013 b. m., Three Valleys—Wemyss Bay, by Sadler’s Wells. Owner-Trainer: Amy Taylor Rowe. Jockey: Michael Mitchell. Breeder: Juddmonte Farms (GB). 2017 record: 2-1-0-0. $12,000. Won her career debut at Foxfield Fall, defeating stablemate and eventual female champion Lady Blanco by 2 3/4 lengths, before losing rider in a Charleston allowance hurdle. (107)
Stalled. 2011 dk. b. or br. m., Jump Start—Push My Luck, by Press Card. Owner-Trainer: Jonathan Sheppard. Jockey: Keri Brion. Breeders: Bill Pape and Jonathan Sheppard (Pa.). 2017 record: 1-0-0-0, $0. 2016 NSA record: 1-0-0-0, $1,600. Made only one start in 2017 and was pulled up in Montpelier allowance hurdle. In only 2016 start over fences, finished fifth in Suffolk Downs ratings handicap. Broke through for an 18 3/4-length victory in a 2015 Carolina Cup maiden hurdle for fillies and mares, then finished third in a Queen’s Cup ratings hurdle. (95)