Ready or not, the steeplechase season finds a higher gear this weekend with a triple header of meets – in Virginia, Maryland and North Carolina. There are races of all types and puzzlers for the fearless handicappers. Keeping score at home? Joe (10) leads the way by one over Tom with Sean third at seven wins, but it all could change Saturday.
MIDDLEBURG SPRING RACES. An eight-race card starts at 1 p.m. at Glenwood Park. The historic course always offers great sport and trappy racing with rolling hills, a short and tight final stretch and wide-open spaces across the back. Post time is 1 p.m.
First Race. Optional claiming hurdle. Mixed bag of eight going in all sorts of directions.
Second Race. Open timber. Normally a Virginia Gold Cup prep, this didn’t draw as strong a group as it can. Triple Dip is a stakes winner headed that way. Farndale could be on the improve and Jack Fisher shows up with quick convert Grand Pride.
Third Race. The featured Temple Gwathmey drew 11 runners, plenty of them contenders in a historic hurdle stakes. Wide open.
Fourth Race. Maiden hurdle with some potential players on the rise from big barns.
Fifth Race. Another maiden hurdle. Ditto.
Sixth Race. Maiden claimer. Always tricky to handicap but a decent group risked for $15,000-$10,000.
Seventh Race. The Alfred Hunt. Classic steeplechase over big brush, water, a little bit of everything. Nobody does it better than Swimming River. Can he win again? At age 11?
Eighth Race. Good thing for daylight savings. They might have to hand out miner’s hats by the time this one goes. Training flat.
BLOCK HOUSE RACES. All the way down in Tryon, N.C. (or up, it’s in the mountains). Four-race card starting at 2 p.m.
First Race. Maiden hurdle with six signed on including a Naylor import and two from Kentucky trainer Desmond Fogarty. Oh, and one from Jonathan “I always win at Tryon” Sheppard.
Second Race. Maiden claimer with seven in the field.
Third Race. Conditioned claimer with five in the lineup. Twenty-one time starter Sumo Power vs. relative newcomers.
Fourth Race. Featured optional claimer with five. Condition change kept some of the big names away, but competitive race.
GRAND NATIONAL RACES. Maryland’s second spring stop on the NSA calendar brings out the big boys with a tough timber course and a speedy 3 miles. Big question: Which race will Foyle and Guts For Garters tackle?. Post time 3:15 p.m.
First Race. The featured Grand National gives the Maryland Hunt Cup players a final tightener at 3 miles. Last year’s winner And The Eagle Flys among field of 11.
Second Race. NW2 allowance timber with a quality group
Third Race. NW $9,000 once in 2012-13 allowance timber.