Gil Johnston’s En Fuego will start his 2015 jump-racing season as the horse to watch in the $35,000 Georgia Cup, the featured optional allowance hurdle as the Atlanta Steeplechase marks its golden anniversary on Saturday. First post time for the five-race program at Kingston Downs in Kingston, Ga., is 1:30 p.m.
Under the care of reigning champion trainer Jack Fisher, En Fuego won an optional allowance hurdle at the Montpelier Hunt Races in Virginia last November and then finished second in a Colonial Cup starter handicap in Camden, S.C. Danny Mullins has the mount.
Champion jockey Willie McCarthy will ride Magalen O. Bryant’s Kings Giant for Racing Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard. In his first start over fences last fall, the Giant’s Causeway gelding won a maiden hurdle at the Charleston Cup in South Carolina.
Mrs. Bryant also will be represented by Plated, a Tiznow gelding who won his first career start over fences at the International Gold Cup in Virginia last October. Danielle Hodsdon will ride for trainer Jimmy Day.
Irv Naylor’s Nearby returns to the Georgia race course after finishing second in an optional allowance hurdle last year. Trainer Cyril Murphy named Bernie Dalton to ride the British-bred gelding, who will race for a $25,000 claiming price in the Georgia Cup.
Move-Up Stable’s Casual Creeper will be looking to move up after a fourth-place finish in a starter handicap at the Aiken Spring Steeplechase on March 21. Completing the field is Dr. John K. Griggs’ homebred Blue Blade, who finished fourth in a starter handicap at the Stoneybrook Steeplechase in North Carolina on April 4. Mark Watts will ride for trainer Desmond Fogarty.
Here is the field for the $35,000 Georgia Cup optional allowance hurdle in post-position order:
En Fuego. 2006 gr. or ro. g., El Prado (Ire)—Meridiana, by Lomitas (GB). Owner: Mrs. S. K. Johnston Jr. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Jockey: Danny Mullins. Breeders: Jon and Sarah Kelly (Ky.) 2014 record: 4-1-1-0, $20,700. Finished second in 2014 Colonial Cup starter handicap after winning an optional allowance hurdle at the Steeplechase at Callaway.
Kings Giant. 2010 ch. g., Giant’s Causeway—Myhrr, by Mr. Prospector. Owner: Magalen O. Bryant. Trainer: Willie McCarthy. Jockey: Willie McCarthy. Breeder: Colts Neck Stables (Ky.). 2014 NSA record: 1-1-0-0, $12,000. In his inaugural start over fences, won a 2014 Charleston Cup maiden hurdle. Had one victory on the flat, in a $35,000 claimer at Presque Isle Downs.
Blue Blade. 2010 b. g., Bluegrass Cat—Well Revered, by Red Ransom. Owner: Dr. John K. Griggs. Trainer: Desmond Fogarty. Jockey: Mark Watts. Breeders: C. Kidder, John K. Griggs, and Linda Griggs (Ky.) 2015 record: 1-0-0-0, $750. 2014 record: 2-1-0-1, $14,500. Finished distant fourth in Stoneybrook starter allowance hurdle at start of 2015 season. Won maiden hurdle at 2014 Block House Steeplechase in North Carolina after third in Sport of Kings maiden hurdle at Atlanta Cup.
Plated. 2009 b. g., Tiznow—Imaginary Gold, by Mr. Prospector. Owner: Magalen O. Bryant. Trainer: Jimmy Day. Jockey: Danielle Hodsdon. Breeder: Overbrook Farm (Ky.) 2014 NSA record: 1-1-0-0, $18,000. In first start over fences, won a maiden hurdle at the 2014 International Gold Cup. Only flat victory was in a $40,000 maiden claimer at Belmont Park in July 2014.
Nearby (GB). 2004 b. g., King’s Best—Contiguous, by Danzig. Owner: Irvin S. Naylor. Trainer: Cyril Murphy. Jockey: Bernie Dalton. Breeder: Juddmonte Stables (GB). Competed in 2014 Atlanta Cup optional allowance hurdle and finished second. Subsequently finished eighth in Fair Hill’s Valentine Memorial starter stakes.
Casual Creeper (Ire). 2009 b. g., One Cool Cat—Personal Design (Ire), by Traditionally. Owner: Move-Up Stables. Trainer: Kathy Neilson. Jockey: Open. Breeder: Padraig Connolly (Ire). 2015 record: 1-0-0-0, $750. 2014 NSA record: 8-1-1-4, $25,050. Finished fourth in 2015 Aiken Spring starter handicap. In first start after claim at 2014 Montpelier Hunt Races, finished third in a Colonial Cup starter handicap hurdle. Won maiden claimer at 2014 Middleburg Spring.