A well-matched field will line up Saturday for the $20,000 Budweiser Holiday Cup, the featured ratings handicap of the 26th annual Aiken Fall Steeplechase at the Aiken Horse Park. The 2 1/4-mile contest caps a five-race program with a 1 p.m. first post time.
In a ratings handicap, weights are determined by the horses’ National Steeplechase Association ratings, determined by a three-member committee overseen by NSA Director of Racing Bill Gallo Jr. Four members of the field have the top rating.
One of the horses carrying the 158-pound highweight is PathFinder Racing’s Cognashene, trained by Neil Morris. A claiming winner in May, the 10-year-old Dynaformer gelding most recently finished third in Virginia Fall’s Randolph D. Rouse Memorial Handicap on Oct. 14. Bernie Dalton will ride.
Shane Crimin will be aboard Indy’s Legacy, owned by Thistledown Farm and trained by Desmond Fogarty. By champion sire A.P. Indy, Indy’s Legacy won a High Hope handicap in May and was third in a similar race at Shawan Downs in Maryland on Sept. 23.
Irv Naylor’s River Rush also will carry the top weight assignment. Trained by Cyril Murphy, the Orientate gelding finished fifth in High Hope’s featured optional claiming hurdle in May and was seventh in a Parx Racing handicap in July. English jockey Graham Watters has the mount.
Naylor also will be represented by Kathy Neilson-trained Borderlinedecision, a newcomer to American racing who won a handicap n England in September. Gerard Galligan rides the Irish-bred, who carries 157 pounds.
Also at 158 pounds is Sharon E. Sheppard’s Comanchero, trained by Leslie Young and ridden by Tom Garner. A maiden winner in 2015, he will be making his first start of the year after finishing sixth in a Parx Racing allowance hurdle in July 2016.
Here is the field for the $20,000 Budweiser Holiday Cup. The horses’ weight assignments are in parentheses at the end of their profiles.
Comanchero (Ire). 2011 b. g., Comacho—Trempjane, by Lujain. Owner: Sharon Sheppard. Trainer: Leslie Young. Jockey: Tom Garner. Breeder: Yeomantown Stud (Ire). 2017 record: No starts. 2016 record: 3-0-0-0, $1,400. 2015 record: 1-1-0-0, $12,000. Finished fifth in 2016 Georgia Cup optional allowance hurdle, then lost rider in High Hope’s optional allowance hurdle. Finished sixth in Parx Ratings Handicap. In first start over fences, won a $20,000 maiden hurdle at 2015 Shawan Downs meet. (158)
River Rush. 2009 b. g., Orientate—Sweet Tart, by Lemon Drop Kid. Owner: Irvin S. Naylor. Trainer: Cyril Murphy. Jockey: Graham Watters. Breeder: Adena Springs (Ont.) 2017 record: 2-0-0-0, $1,200. 2016 record: 2-1-0-0, $13,000. Finished fifth in High Hope optional allowance hurdle after opening 2017 campaign with seventh in Virginia Gold Cup’s Secretariat Stakes on the flat. No factor when seventh in Parx handicap. Scored maiden hurdle win at 2016 Aiken Fall and was fifth in tough Colonial Cup ratings handicap. Won 2012 Plate Trial in Ontario. (158)
Needle in the Hay. 2012 b. g., Malibu Moon—Cleopatra’s Needle, by Sky Classic. Owner: Morningstar Farm. Trainer: Ricky Hendriks. Jockey: Ross Geraghty. Breeder: Sam-Son Farm (Ont.) 2017 record: 5-1-1-0, $12,600. Won a 2017 Foxfield Spring maiden claiming hurdle and was second in High Hope handicap. Finished 11th in Virginia Fall handicap. (151)
Show King. 2011 b. g., Fantasticat—Straight Blues, by Straight Man. Owner: Shannon Hill Farm. Trainer: Jimmy Day. Jockey: Declan Queally. Breeder: Eric J. Meyer (N.Y.) 2017 record: 7-1-0-0, $12,940. Won 2017 Foxfield Fall maiden claiming hurdle and was fifth in Virginia Fall handicap. (152)
Cognashene. 2007 dk. b. or br. g., Dynaformer—Catch the Ring, by Seeking the Gold. Owner: PathFinder Racing. Trainer: Neil Morris. Jockey: Bernie Dalton. Breeder: Sam-Son Farm (Ont.) 2017 record: 7-1-2-2, $24,050. 2016 record: 4-0-0-1, $3,000. In busy 2017 season, easily won a Willowdale claiming hurdle and finished third in Virginia Fall’s Randolph D. Rouse Memorial. (158)
Indy’s Legacy. 2011 b. g., A.P. Indy—Coral Sea, by Rubiano. Owner: Thistledown Farm. Trainer: Desmond Fogarty. Jockey: Shane Crimin. Breeders: Farish, Hudson, and Kilroy (Ky.) 2017 record: 4-2-0-1. $24,750. 2016 record: 4-0-0-0, $2,100. Won 2017 Aiken Spring maiden claiming hurdle and also High Hope handicap. Finished third in 2017 Shawan Downs handicap hurdle. (158)
Borderlinedecision (Ire). 2012 b. g., King’s Theatre—Dani California, by Beat All. Owner: Irvin S. Naylor. Trainer: Kathy Neilson. Jockey: Gerard Galligan. Breeder: Kevin McCarthy (Ire). 2017 NSA record: No starts. Making first U.S. start since running in handicap races in England. Most recently won a Uttoxeter handicap, his second career win. (157)
Fort Collins. 2000 b. g., Not For Love—Fostoria, by Tiznow. Owner: KMSN Stable. Trainer: Jonathan Sheppard. Jockey: Open. Breeder: Spirit Lake Enterprises (Pa.) 2017 record: 4-1-0-0, $11,150. Won a maiden claiming hurdle at 2017 Steeplechase of Charleston finished fifth in Virginia Fall’s Randolph D. Rouse Memorial Stakes. (150)