Alajmal upset the $100,000 Colonial Cup Saturday, charging past Divine Fortune in the stretch and fighting off Barnstorming and Italian Wedding in the final stages of the Grade 1 steeplechase stakes at Springdale Race Course in Camden, S.C. Saturday.
Owned by New Yorker Greg Hawkins and trained by Hall of Famer Janet Elliot, the winner covered 2 3/4 miles in 5:07 3/5 and suddenly tossed his name into the steeplechase Eclipse Award discussion with a signature performance for jockey Xavier Aizpuru. Worth $60,000, the Colonial Cup score bookended a win in the Carolina Cup novice hurdle stakes at Springdale in March. Since, he labored through a string of defeats, questions marks and doubts – finishing sixth at Charlotte, sixth and fifth in maiden flat races, and 10th and sixth in novice hurdle stakes at Saratoga.
Elliot went back to basics for the season, keeping her horse in the barn through early autumn opportunities. Aiming at Camden, Alajmal won a training flat race at Aiken Oct. 26 as a prep. Saturday, the 5-year-old First Samurai gelding rated in the middle of a 12-horse field early as Divine Fortune set most of the pace, with company from Decoy Daddy and Gustavian. On the long Springdale backstretch, Divine Fortune and Gustavian slugged it out up front. Alajmal drafted into striking position and set sail. He drifted out when Aizpuru hit him left-handed, straightened up heading to the last fence and quickened again to score by 3 1/2 lengths. Barnstorming (Sean Flanagan) rallied for second with Italian Wedding (Bernie Dalton) and even later arriving third. Divine Fortune hung on for fourth as Gustavian lost jockey Paddy Young at the last.
Aizpuru picked up the ride when Mark Beecher went to the hospital with broken ribs after ralling one race earlier aboard Schoolhouse Woods.
The winner became the sixth horse to win steeplechasing’s six Grade 1 stakes this year – Demonstrative, Mr. Hot Stuff, Italian Wedding, Divine Fortune and Gustavian are the others. Elliot bought the winner, bred in Kentucky by Shadwell Farm, as a 2-year-old at Tattersalls – based on seeing him trot past for another potential buyer. Over jumps, he’s won four of 11 starts and more than $160,000.
• Camden’s card settled the 2013 jockey and trainer championships, with plenty of drama. Trainer Jack Fisher won two on the day to tie Jonathan Sheppard for the championship while jockey Paddy Young won the year’s final jump race aboard Kingdom to edge Darren Nagle 16-15. It was Young’s fourth crown.
• Sue Sensor’s Top Striker (Willie McCarthy) won the maiden hurdle to start the day for trainer Arch Kingsley. The 4-year-old was making his third start and defeated Jake’s Mandate and Cape Savannah.
• Edie Dixon’s Schoodic (Sean Flanagan) won the Raymond Woolfe Memorial Stakes for 3-year-old hurdlers. Trained by Fisher, the son of Tiznow is 2-for-2 and takes the divisional championship. All The Way Jose finished second with Cry Vengeance third.
• Fisher won the open timber with Straight To it (Flanagan) to tie Sheppard. Owned by Sheila Williams and Andre Brewster, the winner came into the race with four seconds and a third in five starts this year.
• The Elkstone Group’s Bodie Island (Kieran Norris) roared off the final turn to take the starter allowance hurdle for trainer Richard Valentine, getting a win in his seventh start of the season. All Together finished second with Rudyard K third.
• In the season’s final jump race, The Fields Stable’s Kingdom (Young) emerged from a pack late to take an allowance hurdle for trainer Tom Voss. The winner was making his 10th start of the year and outran Cat Feathers and Powerofone late.
• Irv Naylor’s Address Unknown (Carol Ann Sloan) won the training flat for trainer Cyril Murphy.