And still the champ – Good Night Shirt wins Colonial Cup

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In a stretch battle royal, Good Night Shirt denied Preemptive Strike an upset in the Grade I stakes.
Good Night Shirt completed a perfect season with a gutsy victory in the $150,000 Colonial Cup (Gr. I) at Springdale Race Course Sunday, running down Preemptive Strike in deep stretch to score by a neck.

Owned by Sonny Via and trained by Jack Fisher, the winner jumped the last fence a length behind the front-running Preemptive Strike but rallied in the final yards to prevail in a slugfest. Best Attack finished 6 1/2 lengths back in third after 2 3/4 miles in 5:17 4/5. Willie Dowling rode the winner, who completed 2008 with five wins in as many starts (all Grade I stakes). The 7-year-old started his year with a win at Atlanta in April and made that success stand up all year – winning at Nashville in May, Belmont Park in September, Far Hills in October and now a repeat win in the Colonial Cup.

Not that it was easy.

“Preemptive Strike really took it to me,” said Dowling. “Today proves that he’s a fighter too when they throw it to him. It’s a long run from that last fence, but I was glad to have that today. I’m so happy for the horse that he finished on a good note. He deserved to do it. Everybody wants to see a race and they saw a race today – and the champ won.”

All year long. Good Night Shirt completed the perfect season and earned $90,000 to push his already record seasonal total to $485,520. The 7-year-old son of Concern won five of the seven unrestricted Grade I steeplechase stakes run in 2008, pushing his career steeplechase earnings to $934,493 (third all-time behind only McDynamo and Lonesome Glory).

Already odds-on to repeat as the Eclipse Award winner, Good Night Shirt left no doubt Sunday.

“It means everything to us,” said Via afterward. “You go from one race to the next being nervous about him. It’s not about us although we love being a part of it. Just seeing him do his thing is so special. He really had to dig in today.”

NOTES: In other action at Springdale Sunday, Mede Cahaba Stable’s Class Bopper (Richard Boucher) won the $25,000 Raymond Woolfe Memorial for 3-year-old hurdlers, Arcadia Stable’s Bubble Economy (Xavier Aizpuru) won a $20,000 open timber for the Fisher stable, Irv Naylor’s Dubai Sunday (Darren Nagle) took a $25,000 maiden hurdle, Ken Ramsey’s Slip Away (Padge Whelan) won a $20,000 starter allowance hurdle . . . With one meet remaining on the calendar, Fisher leads the training standings 25-23 over Tom Voss and holds a commanding lead in the earnings race . . . Xavier Aizpuru won his 21st race of the season to clinch his second consecutive jockey championship . . . The schedule concludes at Palm Beach, Fla. Nov. 29.