The last Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of April do funny things to hours, minutes and seconds on certain Thoroughbred farms in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia. It’s time for the Maryland Cup, North America’s oldest and most traditional steeplechase race.
Three states, three race meets, fascinating storylines in all directions. The jumpers go to North Carolina for the Queen’s Cup, headlined by a $75,000 novice hurdle stakes and the seasonal debut of Grade 1 hurdler Demonstrative; Virginia for the Foxfield Races, where the featured optional claimer drew a crack field; and Maryland for the Maryland Hunt Cup, the granddaddy of all North American jump races. Kick on.
The Kentucky Derby is just a week away as racing goes through another transition this week with shifts in venues in Kentucky and New York. Opening Night at Churchill Downs and the first Saturday of the Belmont Park spring-summer meeting highlight this weeks Saturday Special presented by Pin Oak Stud, home of Alternation, Broken Vow and Cowboy Cal.
Boyd Martin laughed at the thought. It was moments after winning the Asheville Regional Airport $75,000 Wellington Eventing Showcase on Blackfoot Mystery in February.
“I feel sorry for the jockeys who have ever ridden him,” Martin said.
There were three.
The National Museum of Racing rolled out the 2016 Hall of Fame induction class earlier this week – unfortunately the same day official word came out that the 2018 Breeders’ Cup would be at Churchill Downs – and talk about a stellar group.
Joel Rosario shook hands with well wishers four times during the short walk from the winner’s circle to the jockey’s room Wednesday at Keeneland, the grip of his black-gloved right hand firm and strong and showing no ill effects from a fracture more than three months earlier.
Rosario earned a trip to the winner’s circle aboard No Hiding Place in the featured seventh race, an allowance-optional on the main track, for his first win in his second mount of the day on his first day riding since suffering his injury Feb. 20 at Gulfstream Park.
Ignacio Correas IV showed up at Keeneland a little more than a year ago, fresh from leaving a job as a private trainer in Maryland with just two horses and a fair share of uncertainty.
Tuesday morning after training hours wrapped up, Correas reflected back on not-so-distant past and the present as he stood in the shedrow of Barn 41 up on a hill within wafting distance from the biscuits and gravy cooking inside the track kitchen.
Oh what a difference a year makes. In 2015, Raven’s Choice made his timber stakes debut in the Grand National. The Maryland-bred finished a solid third, learned plenty of lessons and earned a spot in the Maryland Hunt Cup a week later. But it was all part of a process.
Amy LoPresti spun around, looking for her husband to embrace with eyes full of tears as she stood on the lush green grass of the Keeneland paddock Saturday afternoon. Charlie LoPresti did much the same, first asking his wife if she heard track announcer Kurt Becker’s remarks in deep stretch as Dear Elaine broke her maiden before taking off down the tunnel toward the track.
A nearly full moon still in the sky at sunup and a growing number of early-rising onlookers greeted Kentucky Derby favorite Nyquist as he turned in his second bit of serious work in advance of the big day in two week’s time.
Bernie Flint lingered in the main winner’s circle for a few minutes, waiting for his horse, waiting for another winner. Eventually he got word the winner’s presentation for Friday’s Hilliard Lyons Doubledogdare Stakes at Keeneland would go down where other graded stakes presentations go down – on the turf course in front of the tote board.
Moving day. For professional golfers, it’s the third day of a four-day tournament. For the steeplechase season, it’s this Saturday where the season shifts gears and gts busy. Three meets and 15 races make up the racing lineup and there’s everything from a classy training flat race to a key Maryland Hunt Cup timber prep and the historic Temple Gwathmey hurdle stakes.