For the second time this spring, the National Steeplechase Association will host two weekend meets, about 160 miles apart, in The Plains, Va. and Winterthur, Del.
On Saturday at the Virginia Gold Cup Races, first run in 1922, there’s a nine-race program worth $230,000, headlined by the $50,000 Virginia Gold Cup timber stakes and $50,000 David Semmes Memorial Grade 3 hurdle stakes. Post time is 12:30 p.m, and although spectators will be permitted to attend, ticket sales have ended and no walk-ins are permitted.
The undercard card consists of two maiden claiming hurdles, two allowance hurdles (one restricted to apprentices), a maiden hurdle, a handicap for horses rated at 110 or less, and the always-exciting steeplethon over mixed obstacles. In the latter, Straylight Racing’s Invocation, who excels in these unique races, makes his fifth appearance at Great Meadow Race Course, where he has previously finished first, second, and third in the event.
In the Gold Cup, Todd McKenna saddles Upland Partners’ Mystic Strike to his fifth start of the year. McKenna, who is coming off of a big victory in last weekend’s Carolina Cup with Noah and the Ark, has accompanied his 12-year-old timber ace to the winner’s circle twice this spring, most recently in the Radnor Hunt Cup.
Kiplin Hall’s surprise star of the season, Renegade River, has overcome physical ailments and blossomed for trainer Willie Dowling. He enters the Gold Cup off of two 2021 wins, a maiden at My Lady’s Manor and the Willowdale Steeplechase Stakes. Dolly Fisher’s Schoodic, an accomplished stakes performer over both timber and hurdles, just missed catching Renegade River at Willowdale, falling short by a neck. Charlie Fenwick’s Royal Ruse returns after a month freshening following a second in the Maryland Grand National and fourth in the Maryland Hunt Cup.
Leiper’s Fork Steeplechasers’ Tomgarrow makes his first start since breaking his maiden at Callaway Gardens last November by 14 ½ lengths, a race in which another Gold Cup hopeful, Kinross Farm’s Great Road was pulled up. In two 2021 starts, Great Road finished second and third in maiden events. Seven-year-old Flaming Sword, owned by Fat Chance Farm, has been a timber winner in two of his three career starts, all of which came in 2019. Holwood Stable’s Road to Oz broke his maiden at My Lady’s Manor this season, and followed it up with a third to Mystic Strike and Zanjabeel in the Middleburg Hunt Cup, beaten around five lengths.
In the co-featured $50,000 David Semmes Memorial, seven horses will face the starter, led by recent Queen’s Cup novice stakes winner, Gill Johnston’s Brianbakescookies. Irv Naylor and trainer Cyril Murphy have two entries in Chief Justice, who finished second in the Semmes last year and is still looking for his first victory since coming over from Europe in 2019, and Bedrock, an eight-time winner abroad, who has made just two U.S. starts, in the 2019 A.P. Smithwick and Lonesome Glory. In those two Grade 1 efforts, Bedrock was off the board.
Jack Fisher, who saddles Brianbakescookies, also has Riverdee Stable’s Gibralfaro in the field. Gibralfaro finished fourth in last year’s Semmes and second in the “Zeke” Ferguson Stakes over the same course at the 2019 International Gold Cup Races. He tuned up for the Semmes with a second to Invocation in the Steeplethon at Middleburg on May 1.
Jacqueline Ohrstrom’s Arch My Boy finished second in his first two U.S. starts in 2019, the Jonathan Kiser and William Entenmann novice stakes at Saratoga and Belmont Park, respectively. He made his first appearance since then in the Queen’s Cup, where he was a DNF.
Sherry Fenwick’s Anticipating was fourth in his 2021 bow, in the Queen’s Cup Stakes, prior to which he won a handicap over the course at the International Gold Cup Races.
Completing the field is Hudson River Farms’ Galway Kid. A winner of three of seven lifetime starts, all over jumps, Galway Kid has run against some of the sport’s best, including Snap Decision. After finishing in the money in both the Jonathan Kiser and Michael G. Walsh novice stakes at Saratoga last year, he won a handicap at Great Meadow in the fall. He made his 2021 debut in the Grade 2 Temple Gwathmey, against both Snap Decision and Footpad, where he tired and was pulled up after setting a fast pace.
And at Winterthur….
The 43rd Winterthur Point to Point, on the grounds of the estate of the Henry Francis du Pont family, returns Sunday after a two-year hiatus with its traditional card, beginning at 2 p.m. Attendance is limited. Walk-in sales are available on Thursday and Friday, 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday, 10 a.m. to noon at the Point-to-Point House, 4901 Kennett Pike (Route 52). There will be no sales on race day.
Two of the three timber races, the Isabella du Pont Sharp Memorial and Winterthur Bowl, are $15,000 maiden events. The $10,000 Vicmead Plate, to be run in honor of the late Louis “Paddy” Neilson, is an allowance contest limited to apprentice riders, as is the Middleton Cup, a training flat event.
If you are not attending the races in person, be sure to watch the live stream via the NSA’s website. The NSA will broadcast a recap show, Jump Racing USA, featuring replays, commentary and interviews, on its web site on Monday evening at 7 p.m. and on demand after that. The live stream is sponsored by Brown Advisory, the Temple Gwathmey Steeplechase Foundation, Charleston’s Post & Courier, and the Virginia Equine Alliance.