Top Striker continued his late-season push, added a second consecutive graded stakes win and spoiled Rawnaq's bid for a perfect 2016 campaign with an emphatic victory in the 47th running of the Grade 1 Colonial Cup Saturday at Springdale Race Course in Camden, S.C.
Top Striker, a 7-year-old son of Van Nistelrooy who finished fourth in the 2014 Colonial Cup, passed Rawnaq after the final fence of the 2 3/4-mile final feature of the National Steeplechase Association season and drew off to a 10 1/2-length victory. Probable Eclipse Award winner Rawnaq held second and finished 1 ¼ lengths in front of Days Of Heaven in the field of nine.
Owned by Sue Sensor and trained by Arch Kingsley Jr., a two-time winner of the Colonial Cup as a jockey, Top Striker won the Grade 2 David L. "Zeke" Ferguson Memorial Hurdle last month at Great Meadow for his first victory of 2016.
Second in two handicap races at Saratoga this summer, Top Striker also finished third in the Grade 2 David Semmes Memorial this spring at Great Meadow.
Rawnaq made all of the early running and lost for the first time in four starts this season for owner Irv Naylor and trainer Cyril Murphy. The Irish-bred son of Azamour won the Grade 1 Iroquois in the spring and Grade 1 Grand National at Far Hills this fall to solidify his championship credentials.
Top Striker's victory highlighted the final NSA meeting of the year, which also provided some drama in the jockey's race. The trio of Kieran Norris (13 wins), Paddy Young (12) and Sean McDermott (11) all came into the final card with a full slate of mounts.
Norris was able to secure the title with a victory aboard Willow U in the fourth race, a $30,000 filly and mare hurdle, after Young won the $25,000 Raymond G. Woolfe Memorial aboard Invocation. Neither won any of the remaining three races, and Norris earned the crown with 14 victories to Young's 13. McDermott finished third with 12 wins after riding Lake Champlain in the $25,000 Dale K. Thiel for Naylor and Murphy.
The other winners on the card were Maram LLC's Alcazar de Maram, by a whopping 39 ¾ lengths for jockey Darren Nagle and trainer Jonathan Sheppard, in the opening $30,000 maiden hurdle; Stephen Johnson's Strongbox for Bernie Dalton and trainer Kate Dalton in the second race, a $30,000 maiden hurdle; and Virginia Lazenby Racing's Canadian Gold for Brendan Crowley and trainer Doug Fout in the $25,000 handicap hurdle to close the card and season.
Full results of Saturday's Colonial Cup card.