Big names loom on the horizon

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Nominations for a quartet of important fall stakes closed Tuesday, with several major performers figuring to see action.

• The Grade I, $100,000 AFLAC U.S. Championship at Callaway Gardens Nov. 1 drew eight novice runners, headlined by Alnoff Stable's Be Certain, fresh off a big second to Good Night Shirt in the Grand National for Tom Voss. Gil Johnston's Swagger Stick, who broke through at Far Hills with a win in the Grade I Foxbrook Novice for Jack Fisher also appears, as does Bill Pape's The Price Of Love, a two-time novice-stakes winner this summer at Saratoga for Jonathan Sheppard.

• Callaway's $30,000 Crown Royal Sport of Queens Filly/Mare Hurdle Stakes attracted seven, led by The Fields Stable's Guelph, who won the 2005 running en route to a distaff championship for Voss. Sally Radcliffe's familiar duo of Dynaskill and Jellyberry, who ran well against Guelph in a pair of spring stakes for Bruce Miller, were also nominated.

• The $40,000 Noel Laing Stakes at Montpelier Nov. 1 lists some heavy hitters among the 11 nominated, including Calvin Houghland's Mon Villez, who's out to win his fourth consecutive renewal of the race for Miller. Standing in his way are Rare Bush and Preemptive Strike, the top two from Saturday's Grade III Appleton. Sheila Williams' Rare Bush finished second but was placed first in the Appleton for Fisher, an impressive feat considering he hadn't raced since finishing second in the Temple Gwathmey at Middleburg in April 2007. Polaris Stable's pacesetter Preemptive Strike, making his first start since suffering an injury after winning the Imperial Cup in March for Sanna Hendriks, was moved up from third.

• The $35,000 Pennsylvania Hunt Cup proved popular, as the Nov. 2 timber stakes took 14 nominations, led by Arcadia Stable's Bubble Economy. The Virginia Gold Cup winner added the International Gold Cup at Great Meadow to his 2008 ledger this past Saturday, all but wrapping up the 2008 timber title, an honor the Fisher trainee also took in 2004 at the ripe old age of 5. Bubble Economy  can break Irish Prince's single-season timber-earnings record of $102,000 by finishing first or second. He currently stands at $98,250. Erin Go Bragh, who won Saturday's New Jersey Hunt Cup at Far Hills for Brigadoon Stable and Doug Fout also warrants respect. So does Irv Naylor's Salmo, the 2007 Virginia Gold Cup winner, who finished a neck behind Bubble Economy in last week's International Gold Cup for Desmond Fogarty.