Get back on the horse. A week after Far Hills, the jumpers head to Aiken in South Carolina and the International Gold Cup at the Great Meadow Race Course in Virginia. Post time is 12:30 p.m. in Virginia and 1 p.m. at Aiken, and they’ve got some interesting races. Jack Fisher pursues the training record of 39 wins (he’s got 33) in a single season. Michael Mitchell and Jack Doyle are tied at 18 atop the jockey standings. And there’s wagering at the Gold Cup, where new timber titans Andi’amu and Schoodic square off.
At Far Hills, Sean and Tom ruled with three wins each – Global Freedom, Snap Decision and Pravalaguna. Joe, who tried to get creative after seeing everyone else’s picks, paid the price and wound up with one winner (Pravalaguna). Sean leads with 13 for the fall season, followed by Joe and Tom with 10 each.
International Gold Cup.
The Great Meadow course hosts two parties a year – the Virginia Gold Cup on Kentucky Derby Day and what is typically a standout fall card in October. Hurdle, timber and flat races are on deck. Get to the windows, and (we think) check out your XpressBet account.
First race. $40,000 maiden hurdle going 2 1/8 miles. There used to be 2 1/2-mile hurdle races at the Gold Cup and that put a premium on jumping and staying power. That’s changed a bit, but still a quality race that usually rewards experience. Brianbakescookies and Lonely Weekend exit the same race at Shawan. Royal Drumlee was second at Middleburg. Gold Shield was sixth in that race.
- Tom: Shark Du Berlais, Brianbakescookies, Lonely Weekend.
- Joe: Lonely Weekend, Brianbakescookies, Gold Shield.
- Sean: Royal Drumlee, Brianbakescookies, Shark Du Berlais.
Second race. $25,000 Handicap hurdle (115 and below) going 2 1/8 miles. They’ll be running right along here. Ebullience won impressively at Middleburg, beating today’s foe Ack Feisty among others. Hepcat, Set To Music, Other Cheek and Gaye Breeze chased Far Hills winner Pik Em around at Shawan. Undisclosed looked good in his debut win last fall, but struggled this spring and prepped on the flat at Middleburg.
- Tom: Ebullience, Hepcat, Other Cheek.
- Joe: Undisclosed, Ack Feisty, Ebullience.
- Sean: Hepcat, Ebullience, Ack Feisty.
Third race. $40,000 Steeplethon over the cross-country course going 3 miles. This is full of jumps of every type and description, and there are several capable performers here including last year’s winner Katnap (who would like some rain), Just Wait And See, May course winner Days Of Heaven and Invocation.
- Tom: Days Of Heaven, Dapper Dan, Just Wait And See.
- Joe: Days Of Heaven, Invocation, Just Wait And See.
- Sean: Days Of Heaven, Invocation, Just Wait And See.
Fourth race. $45,000 Allowance (NW2) hurdle going 2 1/8 miles. Seven runners, but a solid group led by Middleburg maiden winner bih Bend (a Grade 3 winner on the flat), English winner Full Time Party and Last Shani (the only foal of top hurdling mare Sweet Shani). Iconic Artist nearly took down Pik Em at Shawan, and won stylishly at Colonial.
- Tom: Big Bend, Last Shani, Repeat Repeat.
- Joe: Iconic Artist, Last Shani, Repeat Repeat.
- Sean: Iconic Artist, Repeat Repeat, Full Time Artist.
Fifth race. $75,000 Zeke Ferguson Memorial hurdle stakes going 2 1/8 miles. This ought to be good. Last year’s champion steeplechaser Zanjabeel makes his first start since winning the 2018 Lonesome Glory at Belmont 13 months ago. He’ll be tough to handle, but gives weight to everybody and everybody includes some capable veterans. Balance The Budget is like orange juice – best when fresh. He has won his first start of the year for four years, and this is his first start of the year. Gibralfaro was second in the Grade 1 New York Turf Writers at Saratoga. Hinterland was second in the Grade 1 Lonesome Glory at Belmont. Cool race.
- Tom: Gibralfaro, Hinterland, Zanjabeel.
- Joe: Balance The Budget, Zanjabeel, Gibralfaro.
- Sean: Zanjabeel, Gibralfaro, Hinterland.
Sixth race. $75,000 International Gold Cup timber stakes going 3 1/2 miles. Cue the spooky spaghetti western movie music, this is a showdown. Andi’amu has won five in a row over timber or cross-country courses including the 4-mile Virginia Gold Cup here in May. Schoodic has won four of five (with a second) since making the switch to timber this spring. He handled bigger fences in the Genesee Valley Hunt Cup after losing by a neck to today’s foe Codrington College at Shawan. Andi'amu probably rates a slight favorite (slight).
- Tom: Andi’amu, Schoodic, Codrington College.
- Joe: Schoodic, Andi’amu, Codrington College.
- Sean: Andi'amu, Schoodic, Codrington College.
Seventh race. $35,000 Virginia-bred or -certified flat going 1 1/4 miles. Accountable returns to the scene of his win in May and meets familiar foes in Vincent Van Gogo, Eryx and Dragonthorn Steed. Speed Gracer was disqualified from a state-bred statkes win at Colonial Downs and was beaten just 2 1/4 lengths last time.
- Tom: Accountable, Speed Gracer, Vincent Van Gogo.
- Joe: Vincent Van Gogo, Accountable, Speed Gracer.
- Sean: Vincent Van Gogo, Accountable, Speed Gracer.
Just four races at the traditional southern stop, but that’s what happens in a compressed fall schedule.
First race. $30,000 maiden hurdle going 2 1/4 miles. Eight line up, including Pennsylvania-bred takes winner Downhill Racer in his jump debut, Galileo 4-year-old Family Tree and Mr. Hot Stuff’s (and Colonel John’s) full-brother Fightinirishtabit.
- Tom: Downhill Racer, Pitching, Fightinirishtabit.
- Joe: Family Tree, Downhill Racer, Fightinirishtabit.
- Sean: Pitching, Agent Rushour, Downhill Racer.
Second race. $15,000 maiden claiming hurdle going 2 1/4 miles. Nine runners including the season’s most hard-luck maiden Naval Gazer. He won at Aiken in the spring and got disqualified for interference. He’s got two seconds and two thirds since. Is this the day?
- Tom: Naval Gazer, Argentic, Milliner.
- Joe: Camp Courage, Good And Proper, Argentic.
- Sean: Argentic, Naval Gazer, Good And Proper.
Third race. $20,000 filly/mare maiden hurdle going 2 1/4 miles. Seven here and whoever graduates gets the distinct pleasure of taking on Pravalaguna someday. Yikes. Kentucky trainer Bill Wofford is live with Choklitcoverdonut, who is overdue and towers over field with seven prior jump starts. She was second against the boys last time.
- Tom: Choklitcoverdonut, Lela’s Gift, Konstantinova.
- Joe: Choklitcoverdonut, That’s That, Lela’s Gift.
- Sean: Lela's Gift, I'd Rather Not, Konstantinova.
Fourth race. $20,000 conditioned claiming hurdle going 2 1/4 miles. A winner here in the spring and second last fall, Bite The Bit returns for the Jonathan Sheppard barn. The layoff is the question, and he’ll have to deal with course winner Diplodocus and Irish winner Aydoun.
- Tom: Bite The Bit, Diplodocus, Ocean Ready.
- Joe: Bite The Bit, Aydoun, Diplodocus
- Sean: Bite The Bit, Ocean Ready, Diplodocus.