Dawalan will be the name everyone remembers from Saturday's Colonial Cup, but the whole day looked like one of the season's best on paper and lived up to it on the course. Sixty-six horses started in the seven races at Springdale Race Course, with plenty of signature performances beyond the Grade 1 feature.
- From the top, Sue Sensor and Arch Kingsley continued their success on their home course when Cash Crop sprinted off the turn to win the $30,000 maiden hurdle to start the card. Australian jockey Steve Pateman was aboard for the victory by three-quarters of a length over Simply Certain, who had nearly 10 lengths on Spoiler Alert in third. Cash Crop took his time graduating - with five losses preceding the Camden try. Like the winner, Simply Certain (six prior starts) brought plenty of experience into the race as none of the others had started more than three times.
Cash Crop finished fourth at Monmouth, fifth at Parx, third at Suffolk, fifth at Virginia Fall and fourth at Aiken. All that practice set him up for Camden, apparently. He let Simply Certain set the pace, drew even at the last fence and pushed away late.
Bred in Kentucky, the 4-year-old son of Distorted Humor was claimed by Sensor at Laurel Park last November for $25,000 - a long way from his $725,000 buy-back by breeder Brushwood Stable at Keeneland September in 2012. The victory was Kingsley's seventh (and fifth for Sensor) at the Carolina Cup or Colonial Cup in the past five years.
The winner is out of Cotton Blossom, who won graded stakes on the flat for Dogwood Stable and trainer Todd Pletcher. Brushwood's Betty Moran bought the daughter of Broken Vow (in foal to Street Cry) for $2.3 million in 2009. Cotton Blossom's only foals to race are Cash Crop and the winless Police Escort, a 2-year-old of 2015 with two starts.
For Pateman, who won two races on the card, it was a perfect sendoff to his working holiday.
"That was a real satisfying win, because it was Arch and the Sensors who got me to Saratoga last year, otherwise I would have never come to America. I've been working the horse the past two weeks, he was really happy at home," Pateman said. "I'm not missing any jumping in Australia, the jump season finishes at the end of September, this has been great, people have been friendly, I got a real thrill riding over timber. I can't wait to tell everybody at home about that."
- When TIHR sent out a tweet with the results of Camden's second race, the Raymond Woolfe Memorial for 3-year-olds, a follower replied "nothing screams let's go a few miles like Pomeroy out of a Matty G mare."
Nobody told Boogie Feeva he wasn't supposed to be a steeplechaser.
The Arizona-bred, whose lineage would suggest considerably shorter races, looked like a son of Northern Baby running through the lane at Camden. Ann Jackson's newest racehorse fought past Buckrail and Giza in the stretch to win by 2 lengths for jockey Jack Doyle and trainer Todd Wyatt while going 2 miles.
Third in his jump (and career) debut at Far Hills, Boogie Feeva improved with experience.
"It's only his second run so I was trying to keep him with a bit of company," said Doyle. "When it opened up coming to the last he was a bit green and didn't quite know what I wanted him to do. All I wanted to do was get him over the last. I knew I had a lot of horse left and if I could get him over it, and land running, he'd be able to pick them up."
Bred by H&E Ranch in, yes, Arizona, Boogie Feeva never made a start on the flat after proving too difficult to handle at the starting gate. The dark bay gelding, a $10,000 Barretts January graduate in 2013, wound up with Wyatt in a roundabout way. While in Arizona to participate in a symposium on racing over the winter, TIHR's Sean Clancy met trainer Jeff Metz who told him about Boogie Feeva. Prevented from getting a gate card, the horse didn't have many options and Metz thought steeplechasing might be a last resort.
Shipped to Maryland in March, Boogie Feeva lost some training time getting over an illness, missed a planned flat race at the Fair Hill Races in May and looked like such a longterm project that the western connections decided not to continue the experiment.
All the while, Boogie Feeva progressed. Wyatt and his wife Blair wound up with the horse, and sold him to Jackson before Far Hills in October. And now the horse - as Wyatt joked - is the best Arizona-bred steeplechaser of 2015 - maybe ever.
"I rode him the first time and it helped," said Doyle. "He's very straightforward, Todd's done a great job with him. All he can do is improve. Todd's never had him off the bridle at home. He's just learning his job. He'll be very nice for next year."
- The $30,000 filly/mare allowance hurdle came down to the final strides as Ivy Mills rallied steadily in the waning stages of the 2 1/8-mile race, caught One Lucky Lady and secured the divisional championship in the process. Trained by Jack Fisher for Michael Moran, the daughter of Broken Vow won for the second time this fall and continued her steady improvement.
Moran paid $105,000 for the Virginia-bred at Fasig-Tipton Midlantic's fall yearling sale in 2011 and Ivy Mills won her second start on the flat. She couldn't get to the next step, however, and wound up with Fisher last year. Third twice over hurdles, she got back to work this fall - tuning up on the flat at Great Meadow in September, winning over hurdles at Shawan a week later, then finishing fourth behind One Lucky Lady at Far Hills and second at Montpelier.
In the latter, she gave 14 pounds to winner Wigwam Baby and was making up ground late. Jockey Paddy Young put together a similar trip at Camden and produced Ivy Mills at the second-last. Getting eight pounds from One Lucky Lady, Ivy Mills closed steadily to prevail by a half-length with Maggie Neary three-quarters of a length behind in third.
"She looked like the winner at Far Hills, she looked like the winner at Montpelier, she just didn't get it done, she just hangs," Fisher said. "She could be a nice filly. I wanted to put blinkers on her, but I thought this was the wrong place to do it. Paddy rode her really well, he just waited and waited and waited with her. I don't give him instructions."
The winner was bred by Lazy Lane Farm, who campaigned her dam Threadneedle (a winning daughter of Dynaformer) and granddam In The Till (a dam of eight winners).
- The first of two ratings handicap hurdle races produced plenty of smiles, and a few tears, as Kingdom blasted through the stretch to win by 5 3/4 lengths for The Fields Stable and Elizabeth Voss.
The win took away some of the sting from Bob Le Beau's Colonial Cup loss a race earlier, and brought back memories. Over the same course in 2013, Kingdom halted at five-race losing streak for The Fields and Voss' father Tom. A five-time champion trainer, Voss died two months later. Kingdom was Voss' last winner.
Two years later, Kingdom rode another five-race losing streak into Camden and came up big once again - almost eight months after the death of The Fields owner Betty Merck at 95 in April.
"It was so memorable," said Merck's son Laddie afterward. "It was Tom's last win, and a horse Mom knew."
Laddie Merck plans to stay in jump racing, in much the same way his mother was involved. There will be a few horses, a continued trend toward quality (he hopes) and perhaps some homebreds.
"We're going to keep it going," he said. "We'll try to get some more homebreds, either we look for a new mare or buy a mare to race but we like that part of it. The Fields Stable will keep going. We're going to keep at it. Mom loved the thrill of the competition and she loved the animals. It was just another facet of the world for her. When she was little they'd come to the Carolina Cup. She grew up with it, then got away from it, then came back to it."
Bred in Maryland by Mimi Voss, Kingdom won for the third time in 17 jump starts. The son of Louis Quatorze and hurdle winner Distant Drumroll missed the first half of 2015, and got back to work with a flat spin at Suffolk Downs in September. He finished sixth in a handicap at Far Hills in October and was fifth in the Noel Laing at Montpelier two weeks before Camden. Those losses sent his handicap rating down to 120 (from 124), and he lived up to the highest mark in the Camden race. Jack Doyle rode the winner to complete a double and pass Paddy Young for the earnings crown among jockeys.
- The second ratings handicap hurdle was much closer as Gill Johnston's Dye Fore prevailed by a neck over All That Rules. The latter led throughout for Carol Ann Sloan, and turned aside several tests from the eventual winner. In the stretch, Pateman stayed inside and drew even with All That Rules at the last fence to win the tight decision. Trained by Jack Fisher, Dye Fore won for the second time this year and completed a return from an injury at Saratoga.
"He got his foot caught in the round pen in Saratoga and cut it all up," said Fisher. "Luckily he didn't break his leg, but he got stitches and things. We had to scratch him (from a race) up there and then we just had to let it heal."
Bred by Joe Allen in Kentucky, the son of Giant's Causeway and the Dixie Union mare Homebound won once in five starts in France before selling to Johnston and joining Graham Motion's barn for two starts last year. Neither was good - a seventh at Kentucky Downs and a 12th at Keeneland - and Dye Fore became a jumper. He lost his first two starts by a combined 89 lengths, then won at Monmouth Park at 16-1 in June.
Aiming for Saratoga, he prepped in a flat race at Parx in July but wound up missing three months between races after the injury at Saratoga. The 4-year-old finished fourth in a solid allowance hurdle at Great Meadow in October, then produced at Camden.
NOTES: With two wins, Doyle won the day's leading jockey award, and a $1,000 prize from sponsor Centaur Fencing . . . Cyril Murphy took the leading trainer honor with a 1-2 finish in the Colonial Cup plus seconds with One Lucky Lady and All That Rules . . . Tom Law and Sean Clancy finished in a tie atop the TIHR fall handicapping leaderboard with 21 wins while Joe settled for third with 18. Sean picked four winners at Camden - Boogie Feeva, Dawalan, Dye Fore and Castle Hill. Tom had three - Dawalan, Dye Fore and Castle Hill. Joe had two - Boogie Feeva and Castle Hill.
NSA honors champions
The NSA crowned its seasonal champions at the annual awards dinner at the National Steeplechase Museum. Among those honored were:
- Irv Naylor's Dawalan as the Lonesome Glory Award winner for leading earner. The French-bred, British-raced import made just three starts in the U.S. in 2015, but won two of the year's most important races - the $300,000 Grand National and $100,000 Colonial Cup. Trained by Cyril Murphy and ridden by Ross Geraghty, the 5-year-old earned $255,000 to lead all steeplechasers and earn the prize by a little less than $35,000 over Bob Le Beau. Dawalan is also the likely Eclipse Award winner as champion steeplechaser.
- Michael Wharton's Grinding Speed as champion timber horse. The Maryland-bred son of Grindstone won three of five starts, taking the My Lady's Manor, Virginia Gold Cup and International Gold Cup for trainer Alicia Murphy.
- Michael Moran's Ivy Mills as champion filly or mare. She won twice in four jump starts and earned $37,000 this year for trainer Jack Fisher. She just edged One Lucky Lady, who earned $35,400 in two starts.
- Gary Barber's African Oil as champion novice hurdler. The first-year horse won three times in four starts and earned $93,000 for trainer Kate Dalton. African Oil missed the fall season with an injury but should return late in 2016.
- Dash Stable's Ice It as champion 3-year-old hurdler. Trained by Jack Fisher, the son of Tapit had a win and a second in his first two starts over jumps. His season ended on the turn in Camden, when he slipped and fell on the flat.
- Paddy Young as champion jockey for the fifth time. Young won 24 races, 10 more than runner-up Jack Doyle, to tie Jerry Fishback and Paddy Smithwick for the second most championships of all-time. Only Dooley Adams and Joe Aitcheson (seven) won more. Doyle led the earnings table with $625,450.
- Jack Fisher as champion trainer for the ninth time. He trails only Mikey Smithwick (10) and Jonathan Sheppard (25) on the career list. Fisher won 28 races, 18 more than runner-up Leslie Young, and trained divisional leaders Ivy Mills and Ice It. Fisher's horses earned $1,047,600, led by Overwhelming, Choral Society and Syros who all cracked the top 10.
- Irv Naylor as champion owner. His horses won 15 races and earned a record $778,650, led by Dawalan, Rawnaq, One Lucky Lady and others.
- Unversity of Virginia student Connor Hankin won the aprentice jockey crown while Mark Beecher was the top amateur jockey.