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.
- Joe: Ahgogo, Charminster, Orebanks.
- Sean: Charminster, Ahgogo, Orchestra Leader.
- Tom: Charminster, Ahgogo, Mischief.
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.
- Joe: Farndale, Grand Pride, Triple Dip.
- Sean: Triple Dip, Farndale, Almarmooq.
- Tom: Triple Dip, Farndale, Hot Rize.
Third Race. The featured Temple Gwathmey drew 11 runners, plenty of them contenders in a historic hurdle stakes. Wide open.
- Joe: Rainiero, Decoy Daddy, Gustavian.
- Sean: Rainiero, Country Cousin, All Together.
- Tom: Decoy Daddy, Country Cousin, Gustavian.
Fourth Race. Maiden hurdle with some potential players on the rise from big barns.
- Joe: Beamer, Critical Point, Puller.
- Sean: Puller, Critical Point, Annawon.
- Tom: Puller, Critical Point, Beamer.
Fifth Race. Another maiden hurdle. Ditto.
- Joe: Sacred Soul, Kingdom, Ice Bear.
- Sean: Kingdom, Sacred Soul, Ice Bear.
- Tom: Sacred Soul, Wait Outside, Kingdom.
Sixth Race. Maiden claimer. Always tricky to handicap but a decent group risked for $15,000-$10,000.
- Joe: Brace, Absolum, Prime Prospector.
- Sean: Absolum, Dax, Prime Prospector.
- Tom: Absolum, Will Kane, Prime Prospector.
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?
- Joe: Swimming River, Schoolhouse Woods, Major Malibu.
- Sean: Swimming River, Major Malibu, Saluda Sam.
- Tom: Swimming River, Saluda Sam, Major Malibu.
Eighth Race. Good thing for daylight savings. They might have to hand out miner's hats by the time this one goes. Training flat.
- Joe: Kasari, Royal Bonsai, Prized Pupil.
- Sean: Royal Bonsai, Kasari, Prized Pupil.
- Tom: Royal Bonsai, Kasari, Prized Pupil.
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.
- Joe: Radical Chic, Operation Tracer, Tennessee Bend.
- Sean: Operation Tracer, Radical Chic, Foolish Surprise.
- Tom: Radical Chic, Foolish Surprise, Tennessee Bend.
Second Race. Maiden claimer with seven in the field.
- Joe: Inauguration, Class Launch, Kissin' Candy.
- Sean: Kissin' Candy, Inauguration, Allergee.
- Tom: Inauguration, Class Launch, Kissin' Candy.
Third Race. Conditioned claimer with five in the lineup. Twenty-one time starter Sumo Power vs. relative newcomers.
- Joe: Darnlittlecash, Bold Adventure, El Season.
- Sean: El Season, Darnlittlecash, Sumo Power.
- Tom: El Season, Darnlittlecash, Bluegrass Chat.
Fourth Race. Featured optional claimer with five. Condition change kept some of the big names away, but competitive race.
- Joe: Organisateur, Complete Zen, Cuse.
- Sean: Organisateur, Complete Zen, Dugan.
- Tom: Organisateur, Complete Zen, Dugan.
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.
- Joe: Guts For Garters, Twill Do, Alfa Beat.
- Sean: Guts For Garters, And The Eagle Flys, Battle Op.
- Tom: Guts For Garters, And The Eagle Flys, Battle Op.
Second Race. NW2 allowance timber with a quality group
- Joe: Foyle, Guts For Garters, Imperial Way.
- Sean: Guts For Garters, Imperial Way, Foyle.
- Tom: Guts For Garters, Sky Count, Bug Eyed Willy.
Third Race. NW $9,000 once in 2012-13 allowance timber.
- Joe: Terko Service, Class Brahms, Written Approval.
- Sean: Idol Maker, Terko Service, Derwins Prospector.
- Tom: Idol Maker, Crossing Again, Classy Rascal.