Grinding Speed closes strong spring at Gold Cup

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When Alicia Murphy first thought about running timber horse Grinding Speed without the anti-bleeding medication Lasix, she worried. Two years later, not so much.

That’s what happens when you produce stakes wins the way Bryce Harper hits home runs. Grinding Speed bashed out another one May 2, collecting the $90,000 Virginia Gold Cup at Great Meadow in The Plains, Va. Setting a tepid pace, Grinding Speed led throughout and turned aside repeated parries from Dakota Slew to win by a length and improve to 2-for-2 on the year.

Since Murphy stopped using Lasix at the start of the 2013 season, the Maryland-bred has won two Virginia Gold Cups, and International Gold Cup and a My Lady’s Manor. Owned by Michael Wharton, Grinding Speed has won three in a row and leads all 2015 timber horses with $72,000 earned.

Bleeding is no longer an issue, or so it seems.

“He’s a light horse, a worrier,” said Murphy. “I just felt like that might be one thing that takes away the reserves he has. My vet believes that at distances over a mile Lasix isn’t called for. It just seems to be working and I haven’t seen any reason to put him back on it.”

Murphy’s thinking was also practical. The National Steeplechase Association moved to third-party Lasix administration, meaning all horses must be on the race grounds four hours before they run. That can make for a long and complex day considering that all horses ship to the races and that travel times can vary from a few minutes to overnight.

“The four-hour rule is part of it,” said Murphy, who under old rules was allowed (like all trainers) to treat horses with Lasix herself or use a private veterinarian. Grinding Speed has run at My Lady’s Manor, a short drive from Murphy’s base, in each of the last four years. Without Lasix, he can stay in his home stall far longer.

The move apparently agrees with the 9-year-old son of Grindstone, who closed 2014 with an International Gold Cup win and opened 2015 with back-to-back triumphs. In the latest, he clobbered five rivals in the Gold Cup – waiting for jockey Mark Beecher’s cues. Nobody went to the front, so Grinding Speed did. Dakota Slew got closest, but was no match late. Straight To It wound up third.

“They crawled around there, but as Mark said until somebody was going to take him on he was going to stay there and keep it slow,” said Murphy. “If they’d have taken him on, he’d have probably let them go early on. Then he got his last couple fences just the way he needed to.”

Bred by Alan, Mark, Mitchell and Madline Kline, Grinding Speed won for the seventh time over timber, and pocketed $54,000. Lasix, or the need for it, is ancient history.

“It’s been long enough with him that I can’t remember,” Murphy said. “I worried a little bit and I remember thinking I was going to look pretty dumb if he came back gushing. The days that have come up awfully hot, I’ve been glad I did it.”

Grinding Speed heads to weeks of turnout for the rest of the spring/summer and a fall campaign.

“He’s busy making a  pond out of the swamp,” Murphy said of the gray’s daily routine. “He comes in every day covered in mud and water. He’s extremely happy.”

The Rest of the Story
– Grinding Speed wasn’t the only Gold Cup Day stakes winner as Hudson River Farm’s Parker’s Project won a battle with Dr. Skip in the inaugural David Semmes Memorial over hurdles. The 2 1/8-mile stakes attracted six runners, all carrying 148 pounds, but wound up a two-horse race late.

Dr. Skip, who took over the pace chores from Sporty, stayed up front until the stretch, when challenged by Parker’s Project who prevailed by a neck with All Together third. Willie McCarthy rode the winner, whose previous three starts had come in Grade. 1 company.

The slight class relief paid off with the 9-year-old’s first win since the 2012 Marcellus Frost at the Iroquois. Bred by trainer Jonathan Sheppard, the winner further showcased the diversity of his sire Parker’s Storm Cat, far better known as the sire of turf-sprinting star Ben’s Cat.

– Tubal took full advantage of the purse enhancements for Virginia-breds with a win in the opener, a $40,000 maiden hurdle, for Irv Naylor and trainer Kevin Tobin. The 5-year-old Shakespeare gelding won by 5 lengths over Alwaary with Gun Point third. Tubal, bred by Lady Olivia at North Cliff, earned $24,000.

– Schoolhouse Woods won the $40,000 Steeplethon around the cross-country course – ousting division rival and fellow course specialist by 2 1/4 lengths. They were 68 lengths ahead of the rest.

– Woodslane Farm’s Sharp Numbers prevailed in a classy $45,000 allowance hurdle for trainer Jack Fisher and jockey Sean McDermott. Plated finished second with Wantan third.

– Flat races went to a mixed group including owner/trainer Ricky Hendriks’ Elusive Evening in a $30,000 maiden going 7 furlongs; Peggy Steinman’s Penn Square, trained by Doug Fout, in another 7-furlong maiden; Willow Oaks Stable’s Iconic Artist in a 1 1/8-mile allowance for trainer Elizabeth Voss; and Sara Collette’s homebred Wahoo in a 1 1/4-mile Virginia-bred allowance for trainer Neil Morris.

– The Gold Cup again hosted pari-mutuel wagering with $142,018 sent through the windows in on-site betting only.