Colonial Cup: Taking a first look

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Thirteen entries. Twelve runners. Eleven stakes winners. Six Grade 1 winners. A first look at Saturday’s Colonial Cup draws one reaction – wow.

On paper, the 2 3/4-mile steeplechase finale at Springdale Race Course in Camden, S.C. is as good as any race anywhere. The field includes last year’s Eclipse Award winner, last year’s Cup winner, two ageless warriors, a pretty much any other angle you care to produce. Last year’s race might have been the best ever, and this one attracted the first four finishers.

In post position order (with owner, trainer jockey), the day’s fourth race includes:

  1. The Grey Express (Greg Hawkins, Janet Elliot, Ross Geraghty).
  2. Sir Dynamite (Dale Thiel, Britt Graham, Mark Watts).
  3. Pierrot Lunaire (Mary Ann Houghland, Bruce Miller, Willie McCarthy).
  4. Divine Fortune (Bill Pape, Jonathan Sheppard, Darren Nagle).
  5. Changing Times (Irv Naylor, Kathy Neilson, James Slater).
  6. Gustavian (Maggie Bryant, Leslie Young, Paddy Young).
  7. Italian Wedding (Sheppard, Sheppard, Bernie Dalton).
  8. Demonstrative (Jacqueline Ohrstrom, Richard Valentine, Robbie Walsh).
  9. Martini Brother (Pape, Sheppard, Nagle).
  10. Alajmal (Hawkins, Elliot, Mark Beecher).
  11. Spy In The Sky (Randleston Farm, Jimmy Day, Danielle Hodsdon).
  12. Barnstorming (Sheppard, Sheppard, Sean Flanagan).
  13. Decoy Daddy (Naylor, Cyril Murphy, Carol Ann Sloan).

Last year, Matt McCarron dragged a keen Demonstrative back to last, then emerged as a challenger while touching down over the last fence. He caught everyone, including a game Divine Fortune in the final yards to win by a length. Divine Fortune ran a huge race, as did Alajmal (third) and Decoy Daddy (fourth) and pretty much everybody. The only negative to that race was the absence of Pierrot Lunaire, who won the Grand National and stayed in the barn for the Colonial Cup. The strategy paid off as he won the Eclipse Award in a tight vote over Demonstrative.

This time, the championship will be decided on the race course as 2013 Grade 1 winners Divine Fortune (Grand National), Gustavian (Lonesome Glory), Italian Wedding (New York Turf Writers Cup) and Demonstrative (Iroquois) are in the field. If one of them wins Saturday, he’s the champion. Decoy Daddy, who leads the jumpers with three stakes wins this year, could also claim the crown with a victory.

Look for Divine Fortune and Decoy Daddy to be up front early, Gustavian to be stalking, Demonstrative and Italian Wedding to be closing. The Cup is a unique test of stamina (2 3/4 miles will do that to you) and speed (thanks to a flat, fast, demanding course).

Divine Fortune is the preferred Pape/Sheppard runner, with Martini Brother only entered as insurance.

First run in 1970, the race has been crowning champions since the beginning. Saturday, it’s p art of a seven-race card that starts at 12:15  p.m. The Cup is the fourth race on the day. Big fields ruled the day. The maiden hurdle over-filled with 16 entries (10 will run). The Raymond Woolfe 3-year-old stakes drew 11 runners. The timber attracted a dozen. Two allowance hurdle races showed real depth with 13 eyeing the starter  going 2 5/16 and 14 aimed for the non-winners of three going 2 1/8 miles. All Together and Prime Prospector headline the former while stakes winner Where’s The Beef, recently sold to Irv Naylor, and Powerofone look tough in the latter. A training flat race, with 10, closes the day.

Jockeys’ Race

Darren Nagle and Paddy Young enter the day tied atop the jockeys’ standings with 15 wins apiece. They have mounts in every race, though Nagle is on the also-eligible list in the maiden hurdle.

Nagle’s rides:

  • Tropic Sea in the maiden hurdle. He’s buried on the also-eligible list so the jockey might be trying to pick up something else.
  • Codrington College in the Woolfe Stakes for 3-year-olds. Sheppard trains the Irish import, who was fourth over hurdles at Roscommon in August.
  • Nationbuilder in the timber. Old pro returns in a tough spot, but lots of class.
  • Divine Fortune in the Colonial Cup. Definite player. Favorite in many corners.
  • El Season in the starter allowance. Came to life with win at Charleston (his 15th start of 2013).
  • Powerofone in the allowance. Another with a big shot. Gets a little class relief after tackling novice and open stakes company in last five.

Young’s rides:

  • Artie’s Jasper in the maiden. Third in debut at Charleston. Certainly one of the contenders.
  • Cry Vengeance in the 2-year-old. Has run twice and finished second twice. Should factor again.
  • Snow Secret Gin in the timber. Comes off a maiden win at the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup, but faces experienced group.
  • Gustavian in the Colonial Cup. Consistently right there, but needs to step forward after second to Divine Fortune at Far Hills. 
  • Absolum in the starter allowance. Pretty good effort when fourth in novice at Far Hills. Going to need strong effort here.
  • Kingdom in the allowance. Needs return to form, but capable on best day.

Scratches and any late changes are today, then it’s on to the races. Thisishorseracing will be back with more previews today and tomorrow and live-tweeting from the race course Saturday. Follow @joeclancy65 and @saratogaspecial on Twitter to keep up.