Closer Look at Colonial Cup field

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The Colonial Cup. It always conjures 1970, when the race was the first $100,000 steeplechase in North America, when men wore overcoats to the races and women put on rain hats, when Marion du Pont Scott played host to the everyone, when the race was a big idea nobody really knew would even make it 1970.

But here we are, the race’s 46th edition goes to the post Saturday. It’s still worth $100,000, which is depressing, but also somewhat quaint and perfect. It’s still 2 3/4 miles (though the first one was officially 2 miles, 6 1/2 furlongs and I think they just re-measured) and it’s still run over 17 fences jumped just once on the sprawling Springdale Race Course.

This year’s race attracted 11 runners, not quite the 22 of that first year but a big group and a cool group. We’ve covered several this week, and we’re still hoping to get to Bob Le Beau (jockey Jack Doyle keeps getting voice mail, and so do we; and in other news we just saw opposing trainers Richard Valentine and Elizabeth Voss strolling up Broad Street in Camden looking for antiques…), but here’s a quick rundown. In post-position order, we give you the 2015 Colonial Cup:

  1. Diplomat. B. g. 6, Kitten’s Joy-Waki Affair, Miswaki. Bred in Kentucky by Ken and Sarah Ramsey. Owner: Flying Elvis Stable. Trainer: Kate Dalton. Jockey Bernie Dalton. Exits a powerhouse stakes win in Virginia, where he rallied from seventh to first late and won going away over Gustavian and Able Deputy for third win of 2015. Also won Carolina Cup (novice) at Springdale in March and scored in Saratoga optional claimer. First jumper for Adam and Rich Newman, who dropped $40,000 claim slip at Saratoga. Bred in Kentucky, raced in Ireland with Dermot Weld (who won a flat race on the 1970 Colonial Cup card), sold at Tattersalls last fall to trainer Jimmy Day. Need to relax early and hope the leaders start to tire in the stretch.
  2. Demonstrative. B. g. 8, Elusive Quality-Loving Pride, Quiet American. Bred in Kentucky by Gainsborough Farm. Owner: Jacqueline Ohrstrom. Trainer: Richard Valentine. Jockey: Darren Nagle. Makes fourth start in the Colonial Cup after winning in 2012, finishing fifth in 2013 and third last year. Endured an inconsistent year with Grade 1 win in the Iroquois, a flat win, two defeats at Saratoga and a ninth (and last) in the Grand National. Bounced back (maybe) with training flat win at Montpelier Nov. 7. His best race probably wins this. Will he run it? Nagle aboard for first time with injury to Robbie Walsh. Little known fact: Named by Darley’s Dan Pride.
  3. The Nephew. B. g. 7, Indian River-Charlottine, Spectrum. Bred in Ireland by Nicholas Teehan. Owner: Bruton Street-US. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Jockey: Connor Hankin. Repeat after me: “A Jack Fisher horse can run the race of its life for no apparent reason.” Were there wagering, this one would be big price and you’d be wise to back him. Won American debut at Far Hills with ease. Was part of Jonjo O’Neill barn in England and raced in top-class handicaps. Won for Tony McCoy three times in 2014. Did not race on Lasix at Far Hills and gets it Saturday. Fisher said Colonial Cup after the Far Hills win and here he is. Was rated 137 over chase fences in U.K. A University of Virginia student, Hankin is the son of co-owner Mike Hankin.
  4. Bob Le Beau. Dk. b./br. g. 8, Big Bad Bob-Shine Silently, Bering. Bred in Ireland by Anamoine Ltd. Owner: The Fields Stable. Trainer: Elizabeth Voss. Jockey: Jack Doyle. All he does is win, almost. Opened 2015 with Grade 3 win over Decoy Daddy at Radnor, added a flat score at Parx in preparation for Saratoga and has won his last two – in Grade 1 company against many of Saturday’s foes. Only blemish is a fourth in the A.P. Smithwick at Saratoga. Trainer said in the summer that distance was his game and he’s proven it with wins at 2 3/8 and 2 1/2 miles. Skipped Far Hills, which looks smart as he’s the freshest horse in the field. Second to Demonstrative in flat tightener at Montpelier. Raced for Jessica Harrington in Ireland, and spent the winter of 2013 in Dubai racing on the flat. Leads 2015 steeplechasers in earnings with $216,250. Only horse to win two Grade 1 stakes over hurdles this year.
  5. All Together. B. g. 10, Danzig-Unify, Farma Way. Bred in Kentucky by Jayeff B Stable. Owner/trainer: David Jacobson. Jockey: Steven Pateman. The field’s elder is the last son or daughter of Danzig still racing and has been a soldier with 57 career starts (41 over jumps), nine wins, 14 seconds and eight thirds for $519,910. Has never won a Grade 1 over jumps, but has placed in three including a nose loss to Gustavian in 2013. Claimed by Jacobson from Jack Fisher this summer at Saratoga and makes fifth jump start for the flat trainer. Last three works were at Gulfstream Park – Nov. 11, 15 and 19 – so he’s the only runner shipping north to Camden.
  6. Dawalan. Gr. g. 5, Azamour-Daltawa, Miswaki. Bred in France by The Aga Khan’s Stud. Owner: Irv Naylor. Trainer: Cyril Murphy. Jockey: Ross Geraghty. American newcomer finished third behind Bob Le Beau in Grade 1 Lonesome Glory in September and won $300,000 Grand National in October to leap into the championship picture. Half-brother to Grade and Group 1 flat winners Daylami and Dalakhani. Purchased from barn of top trainer Nicky Henderson, who said he would not have sold horse to another English trainer for fear of losing races to the horse. Major player who could have big future in game.
  7. Rawnaq. B. g. 8, Azamour-Sharemata, Doyoun. Bred in Ireland by Jim Monaghan. Owner: Irv Naylor. Trainer: Cyril Murphy. Jockey: Sean McDermott. Third in his only American start – in the Grand National and behind stablemate Dawalan to complete an Azamour exacta. Solid record in England and Ireland including starts at Galway, Cheltenham, Aintree. Third in $134,000 race at the Cheltenham Festival in March. Closing best of all in the Grand National and missed second by a nose. Lost some momentum leaving the backside there, and was briefly seventh on the final turn. Should be better Saturday.
  8. Lune de Caro. Gr. g. 6, Cozzene-Widow’s Mite, Sadler’s Wells. Bred in Texas by La Bahia Stud. Owner: Tamara McSorley. Trainer: Jonathan Sheppard. Jockey: Mark Beecher. Pedigree, pedigree, pedigree. With Cozzene up top and Sadler’s Wells on the distaff side, he’s made for this and more. Novice hurdler who didn’t run over jumps until May gives up loads of experience. But, you really want to question Sheppard? Won three in a row over jumps before faltering to fifth at Far Hills. Gets big class test.
  9. Able Deputy. B. g. 8, Lomitas-Island Colony, Pleasant Colony. Bred in England by Charles and David Hodge. Owner: Irv Naylor. Trainer: Cyril Murphy. Jockey: Carol Ann Sloan. Third runner for powerhouse Naylor/Murphy lineup. Has only run four times in the U.S. – twice last year and twice this. Pulled up in the Noel Laing at Montpelier when he clearly didn’t care for something – ground conditions, maybe. Better than that, based on English career with four handicap wins last year, but this is by far the best field he’s ever faced.
  10. Gustavian. B. g. 9, Giant’s Causeway-Mossflower, Affirmed. Bred in Kentucky by Whitewood Stable. Owner: Maggie Bryant. Trainer: Leslie Young. Jockey: Paddy Young. Second in only start this year, behind Diplomat in the Zeke Ferguson. Will move forward off that race (his first in more than a year) and he’s as consistent as any horse in the race with 14 top-three finishes in his last 15 starts over jumps. Won Grade 1 Lonesome Glory in 2013 and second in Grade 1 Iroquois in 2014. Due for a breakthrough, coming up against a bunch of good ones. Bred by George Ohrstrom Jr.’s Whitewood Stable and sold as a yearling at Saratoga. Now owned by Ohrstrom’s sister, who bought the son of Grade 1 flat winner Mossflower privately in 2013. Will be in the mix late.
  11. Alajmal. B. g. 7, First Samurai-Alattrah, Shadeed. Bred in Kentucky by Shadwell Farm. Owner: Greg Hawkins. Trainer: Janet Elliot. Jockey: Kieran Norris. Colonial Cup and Carolina Cup winner in 2013 and plenty capable of a good effort for Hall of Famer Elliot. It’s just been awhile. Beaten double digits in three jump starts this year – at Saratoga, Belmont and Far Hills. Appeared to be sitting on a good race at Belmont, advanced into striking spot and stopped. Third in training flat at Montpelier, behind Demonstrative and Bob Le Beau which shows there’s some life in the tank. Needs to push rewind button.