Special Skills, winner two straight starts at the beginning of his steeplechase career, is among 12 well-matched nominees to the $75,000 Carolina Cup, the featured race of the 84th annual Carolina Cup Races on Saturday, April 4.
First post time is 1:30 p.m. at the Springdale Course in Camden, S.C. The Carolina Cup Races annually attract large crowds as the region welcomes the arrival of spring.
The 2 1/8-mile Carolina Cup showcases jump racing’s rising stars and is limited to novices, or horses in their first seasons of racing over fences.
Owned by Sheila Williams, Special Skills is trained by Jack Fisher, who ran away with last year’s titles by wins and earnings. A six-year-old by Bernstein, Special Skills had ability on the flat, registering three wins overall and a Grade 3 placing as a two-year-old.
He began his steeplechase career at five and fell in his first start at last year’s Queen’s Cup near Charlotte, N.C. He came back in September to win a maiden hurdle at Suffolk Downs near Boston and then defeated a talented field in an International Gold Cup allowance hurdle in Virginia on Oct. 24.
Maryland-based Fisher also nominated Gil Johnston’s Dye Fore, who won the Ratings Handicap at last November’s Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup on the Springdale Course.
Jimmy Day’s victory with Diplomat in last year’s Carolina Cup kicked off the best season of his career, and the Virginia-based trainer has another formidable contender in Bruce Smart Jr.’s Bonded, winner of a Saratoga Race Course allowance hurdle and second in the Noel Laing Handicap at Virginia’s Montpelier Hunt Races last year.
Camden-based trainer Arch Kingsley Jr. nominated Sue Sensor’s Cash Crop and Harrods Creek, who is owned by a partnership that includes prominent Louisville physician and horseman J. David Richardson.
Harrods Creek burst on the jump-racing scene in 2014 but was sidelined last season. He was poised to return to racing in Aiken Spring’s Budweiser Imperial Cup on Saturday. Cash Crop won a maiden hurdle at last fall’s Colonial Cup.
Virginia-based trainer Doug Fout nominated Virginia Lazenby’s Hardrock Eleven, an impressive winner of a Saratoga allowance hurdle last summer and third to Special Skills in the International Gold Cup allowance hurdle.
Jazz Napravnik returns to Springdale with Bau Bai Gold, who was poised to seize last year’s female championship at the Colonial Cup but had to be scratched because of a stall accident shortly before her start in the Springdale Stakes. Last spring, the six-year-old mare won Aiken’s Charles S. Bird Jr. optional allowance hurdle and then finished second in the Peapack Stakes at Far Hills, N.J., in October.
Here are the 12 nominees to the $75,000 Carolina Cup. The National Steeplechase Association initiated a Ratings Handicap program last spring, and a three-member panel assigns ratings to all winners over hurdles. Each horse’s rating is in parentheses at the end of the profile.
Albany Road. 2007 ch. g., Mr. Greeley—Jane’s the Name, by Trempolino. Owner: The Elkstone Group. Trainer: Richard Valentine. Breeder: Gainesway Thoroughbreds (Ky.) 2015 record: No starts. 2014 record: 6-0-0-3, $22,450. Coming back after a year’s absence. Finished third in Saratoga allowance hurdle to conclude 2014 season. Also finished third in Parx Racing allowance hurdle. (118)
Balance the Budget. 2009 ch. g., Bellamy Road—Every Day Is Good, by El Corredor. Owner: Stonelea Stable. Trainer: Julie Gomena. Breeder: Liberation Farm & Oratis (Ky.). 2015 record: 7-1-1-0, $37,250. 2014 record: 7-1-1-2, $27,000. Finished fourth in Colonial Cup Ratings Handicap to conclude 2015 season. Set pace in International Gold Cup’s 2015 David L. “Zeke” Ferguson Memorial (Gr. 3) and faded to finish sixth. Finished second in Shawan Downs Ratings Handicap after being pulled up in Saratoga’s Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes. Kicked away powerfully to win Aiken Spring’s 2015 Budweiser Imperial Cup (Gr. 3) by 21 lengths. (115).
Bau Bai Gold. 2010 dk. b. or br. m., Sightseeing—Lynx of Gold, by Forest Wildcat. Owner: Jennifer H. Pitts. Trainer: Jazz Napravnik. Breeder: Damchu Stables (Pa.). 2015 NSA record: 6-1-2-1, $35,500. 2014 record: 2-1-0-0, $15,000. Finished good second in Far Hills’ Peapack Stakes on Oct. 17. Won the Charles S. Bird optional allowance hurdle at Aiken Spring to open 2015 season, then lost rider in Stoneybrook’s Sandhills Cup. Finished second in Iroquois’ Margaret Currey Henley and was third in open optional allowance hurdle at Foxfield Fall. (116)
Bonded (Ire). 2007 b. g., Oasis Dream (GB)—Lovealoch, by Lomond. Owner: Bruce Smart Jr. Trainer: Jimmy Day. Breeders: Michael Woodlock and Seamus Kennedy (Ire). 2015 NSA record: 4-1-1-0, $51,200. 2014 record: No starts. Finished second in Montpelier’s Noel Laing, a Ratings Handicap. Finished fourth in Far Hills’ Foxbrook Champion Hurdle after victory in Saratoga allowance hurdle in August. Fell over another horse in the Marcellus Frost Novice Stakes at the Iroquois Steeplechase on May 9. (119)
Canaveral (GB). 2008 dk. b. or br. g., Cape Cross (Ire)–Tameem, by Zilzal. Owner: Gregory Hawkins. Trainer: Janet Elliot. Breeder: Heather Raw (GB). 2015 record: 2-0-0-0, $2,800. 2014 record: No starts. Finished fifth in International Gold Cup allowance hurdle and Colonial Cup Ratings Handicap. Won 2013 Far Hills maiden hurdle before year on sidelines. (112)
Cash Crop. 2011 b. g., Distorted Humor–Cotton Blossom, by Broken Vow. Owner: Mrs. George Sensor. Trainer: Arch Kingsley Jr. Breeder: Brushwood Stable (Ky.) 2015 record: 6-1-0-1, $24,300. Broke through for a victory on home course at the 2015 Colonial Cup in his sixth start over fences. Claimed from owner-breeder for $25,000 after modest career on flat. (116)
Dye Fore. 2011 dk. b. or br. g., Giant’s Causeway—Homebound, by Dixie Union. Owner: Mrs. S. K. Johnston Jr. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Breeder: Joseph Allen (Ky.) 2015 record: 5-2-0-0, $37,350. Concluded 2015 season with win in Colonial Cup Ratings Handicap division. Maiden winner on flat in France won Monmouth Park maiden race over hurdles. (119)
Hardrock Eleven. 2010 gr. or ro. g., Rock Hard Ten—Stark Beauty, by Unbridled’s Song. Owner: Virginia Lazenby. Trainer: Doug Fout. Breeders: Farm III Enterprises and Off the Hook Partners (Fla.) 2015 record: 6-1-1-2, $53,350. Finished third in International Gold Cup allowance hurdle. Won Saratoga allowance hurdle by 4 1/4 lengths on Sept. 3 after fourth on Aug. 13. First-year hurdler finished second in debut at Middleburg Spring and was third in Monmouth Park maiden hurdle. Formerly trained by owner’s late brother, David P. Banks, and won an Evangeline Downs optional allowance flat race. (117)
Harrods Creek. 2007 ch. g., Langfuhr–Float and Sting, by Two Punch. Owners: J. David Richardson, G. Michael Chipman, and Richard M. Knapp. Trainer: Arch Kingsley Jr. Breeders: Dr. J. David Richardson and Dr. Hiram C. Polk (Ky.). 2015 record: No starts. 2014 record: 6-1-1-1, $32,150. Missed 2015 season after 2014 maiden victory at Parx Racing and second in Saratoga allowance hurdle. Earned more than $250,000 on flat and won John’s Call Stakes. Bred by two prominent Louisville physicians who are long-time horse owners. (119)
Kwacha. 2011 gr. or ro. g., Exchange Rate–Zamba, by Theatrical (Ire) Owner: Check Mark Stables. Trainer: Richard Valentine. Breeder: Glen Hill Farm (Fla.). 2015 record: 4-1-1-1, $29,600. Won 2015 Monmouth Park maiden hurdle and then finished third in a Saratoga allowance hurdle. (116)
Special Skills. 2010 dk. b. or br. g., Bernstein—Kentucky Whisper, by Southern Halo. Owner: Sheila Williams. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Breeder: Sierra Farm (Ky.) 2015 record: 3-2-0-0, $45,000. Closed his 2015 season with two victories, a maiden win at Suffolk Downs and an allowance hurdle score at the International Gold Cup. (121)
Tubal. 2010 b. g., Shakespeare–Lady Nadine, by Alzao. Owner Irvin S. Naylor. Trainer: Kevin Tobin. Breeder: Lady Olivia of North Cliff (Va.). Won maiden hurdle impressively at 2015 Virginia Gold Cup, finished second in Fair Hill Ratings Handicap, and was fourth in a Saratoga allowance hurdle. (117)