A highly competitive field of steeplechasing newcomers will face off in the $25,000 Budweiser Holiday Cup, the feature race of the 21st annual Aiken Fall Steeplechase at Ford Conger Field on Saturday, Oct. 27. First post time for the five-race program is 1 p.m.
Trainer Leslie Young will play a strong hand in the 2 1/4-mile allowance hurdle with Silverton Hill’s pairing of Darkwatch and Bluegrass Chat. Stakes-placed at three last year, Darkwatch won a maiden hurdle by 3 1/2 lengths at the Virginia Fall Races in Middleburg on Oct. 6. Bernie Dalton has a return call on the Royal Academy gelding.
The trainer’s husband, reigning champion jockey Paddy Young, will be aboard Bluegrass Chat. The Bluegrass Cat gelding also broke into the win column with a maiden-claimer victory at Virginia Fall.
Dogwood Stable’s Trippo has been competing in higher level races and will return to the allowance ranks for the Budweiser Holiday Cup. Pulled up in the $75,000 Michael G. Walsh Novice Stakes at Saratoga Race Course on Aug. 16, the Trippi gelding had finished third in the Queen’s Cup MPC ‘Chase in North Carolina on April 28. Trainer Arch Kingsley named Willie McCarthy to ride.
Racing Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard will saddle Magalen O. Bryant’s Air Maggy, who was third in an Aiken Spring allowance race on March 24 in his only 2012 start. The Sky Mesa gelding closed out his 2011 season with a narrow defeat in the Charleston Cup optional allowance. Brian Crowley has the mount.
Entering the Budweiser Holiday Cup off maiden claiming victories are Over Creek Stables’ Arrakis, and Athene Noctura Stables’ Hold You Course. Trained by Julie Gomena, Arrakis scored his win at the Foxfield Fall Races in Virginia on Sept. 30, and Allison White-trained Hold Your Course notched a 9 1/4-length score at Aiken Spring. Roddy Mackenzie rides Arrakis, and Darren Nagle will be aboard Hold Your Course.
Completing the field is Westerly Farm’s Class Classic, who fell in his only 2012 start, an optional allowance at Virginia Fall. Richard Boucher will ride the Brahms gelding for his wife, trainer Lilith Boucher.