Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Slip Away, carefully managed on the lead by jockey Xavier Aizpuru, burst away from his competition before the final fence of the $50,000 Temple Gwathmey and scored an 8 3/4-length victory in the featured race of the 89th annual Middleburg Spring Races in Middleburg, Va., on Saturday, April 17.
In other National Steeplechase Association-sanctioned races that afternoon, Across the Sky wired the Grand National over timber fences in Butler, Md., and Divine Fortune took the Block House in North Carolina.
In the Temple Gwathmey, Slip Away was never in any danger of being caught. Eldon Farm Racing Stable’s Chess Board, with catch rider Paddy Young in the saddle, closed some ground through the run-in to finish second. Greg Ryan’s Dynantonia, who had shadowed Slip Away through the first two miles of the 2 1/2-mile Temple Gwathmey, held on for third.
Randleston Farm’s Spy in the Sky, winner of the Carolina First Carolina Cup on March 27, took the fourth spot but never was a serious factor. He was followed by Bill Pape’s reigning Eclipse Award champion Mixed Up, who slipped to the back of field near the race’s midpoint and never made a serious challenge under Danielle Hodsdon. Slip Away, a seven-year-old Skip Away gelding trained by Tom Voss, ran the Grade 3 Gwathmey’s 2 1/2 miles in 5:26 2/5 on firm turf.
Slip Away had reigned as the National Steeplechase Association’s claimer of the year in 2008, when he won five of eight starts. Last year, he won the David L. “Zeke” Ferguson Memorial at Colonial Downs and ended his campaign with a runaway victory in the Noel Laing at the Montpelier Races in Virginia on November 7.
Slip Away showed no signed of rust as he and Aizpuru opened an early lead, with Dynantonia right behind them. The remainder of the field trailed by as much as 20 lengths on the first circuit of the lush Middleburg course. Slip Away continued to jump well on the second round, and Aizpuru deftly harnessed his speed for a late run while allowing the closers to draw closer.
Approaching the final fence, Slip Away slipped away from Dynantonia and opened up again on his other opponents. He rammed through the last of 14 National Fences without breaking stride and galloped to the finish line unchallenged. Chess Board got up for second, as he had in the Noel Laing.
Across the Sky blazes to Grand National victory
Holbrook Hollow Farm’s Across the Sky set all the pace en route to a 20-length victory in the $35,000 Grand National and punched his ticket for the $75,000 Maryland Hunt Cup a week later in Glyndon.
Trained by Jack Fisher and ridden by Fritz Boniface, the eight-year-old Valley Crossing gelding took his usual place on the front end of the 3 1/4-mile race and flew over the timber fences on a course softened by overnight rains. Robert A. Kinsley’s Incomplete, winner of the 2009 My Lady’s Manor, challenged three fences from home but fell at the last fence with jockey Charles Fenwick III.
Across the Sky, who had fallen in the ’09 Grand National but came back to dominate the $20,000 WBTV Purse at the Queen’s Cup meet in North Carolina a week later, ran the Grand National distance in 6:05 2/5 on turf rated as good. Private Attack finished second, and Bon Caddo was third.
Simply Divine at Block House
In the afternoon’s other race meet, Bill Pape’s Divine Fortune drew away to a 14-length victory in the $25,000 Carolina First Block House, the featured rate at the 64th annual Block House Races in Tryon, N.C. Trained by Jonathan Sheppard and ridden by Richard Boucher, the seven-year-old Royal Anthem gelding had finished second to Spy in the Sky in the $75,000 Carolina First Carolina Cup. Cuse finished second in the Block House, and Indy Run was third. Bred by Pape and Sheppard, Divine Fortune ran the Carolina First Block House’s 2 1/2 miles in 4:56.