The last Saturday of June will have to do. Traditionally sharing (or allowing itself to share) the first Saturday of May with another famous Thoroughbred race, the Virginia Gold Cup race meet goes to the post today as part of a delayed and depleted 2020 National Steeplechase Association spring calendar.
The Gold Cup, at Great Meadow in The Plains, Va., follows Middleburg Spring, which ran two weeks ago, with a 10-race card filled to the top with horses. An even 100 horses are in the bodies of the Gold Cup’s races, with a dozen more on the also-eligible lists. Post time is 12:30 p.m. and, like Middleburg, the Gold Cup will be run without spectators or owners. The races will be broadcast via livestream through the NSA website. The show, co-hosted by The Special’s Joe Clancy, starts at 12:15.
The handicappers from The 2020 Special and Thisishorseracing.com give it another go this week. At Middleburg, Joe (Galway Kid, Storm Team, Invocation) and Sean (Moscato, Zoom Zoom Zoe, Storm Team) had three winners each while Tom singled with Storm Team.
First race. $20,000 maiden hurdle at 2 1/8 miles. Maiden fields are capped at 10, and this one will hit that with 14 signed up. Scratch Francois, which means Drapers Guild draws in. Gold Shield and Lemonade Thursday bring the flat form. Emerald Rocket (eight placings in nine tries) brings the most jump form. Ignore the chart comment, French Light did not finish well last time. He looked like a winner until trying to pull himself up in the final stages at Middleburg. Potential winners all over the place.
Joe: French Light, Lemonade Thursday, Emerald Rocket.
Sean: French Light, Emerald Rocket, Lemonade Thursday.
Tom: Deposit, French Light, Lemonade Thursday.
Second race. $20,000 maiden hurdle at 2 1/8 miles. More maidens, but that’s the deepest division and also a key to filling races at Saratoga. Lonely Weekend was second at Middleburg. Quick Toss looked good last fall. Richard Valentine won with a first-timer at Middleburg and has Mr. Bridger here. You’re No Better has been third three times. Wide open though everybody lands on Lonely Weekend. He keeps getting closer and is obvious, but he needs to deliver.
Joe: Lonely Weekend, Quick Toss, You’re No Better.
Sean: Lonely Weekend, You’re No Better, Quick Toss.
Tom: Lonely Weekend, Pony Up, Western Crusader.
Third race. $20,000 Steeplethon cross-country at 3 miles. They jump everything here and it’s a rematch as five of the nine exit Middleburg’s Alfred Hunt. Invocation won there, but gets another 3 furlongs, trickier jumping assignments and more of a galloping course today. Dapper Dan won this in the fall. Mercoeur will be tough as usual and newcomer The Holy One might appreciate the change from hurdle stakes.
Joe: Dapper Dan, Invocation, Mercoeur.
Sean: Dapper Dan, Invocation, Mercoeur.
Tom: Invocation, Peppay Le Pugh, Mercoeur.
Fourth race. $25,000 handicap hurdle (125 rating and lower) going 2 1/8 miles. Solid group here. Family Tree and Must See The Doc give away loads of experience, but might be the most talented of the group. A son of Galileo, the former clobbered maidens at Aiken and thumped allowance horses at Callaway last fall. The latter is a 4-year-old, so gets a four-pound weight concession from his rating. He’s won three of five (with two seconds) over hurdles. Mutasaawy looked plenty ready off the bench with a good flat prep at Middleburg. No Wunder is tough if he gets some pace in front of him. Zanzi Win can win if he repeats his Far Hills effort. Skydiving won over the course in October. Fun race.
Joe: Family Tree, Must See The Doc, Skydiving.
Sean: Family Tree, Maccabee, Zanzi Win.
Tom: Must See The Doc, Family Tree, Hepcat.
Fifth race. $35,000 David Semmes Memorial hurdle stakes going 2 1/8 miles. Another strong group including 2019 novice champion Snap Decision, course winners Balance The Budget and Gibralfaro, sharp Middleburg flat winner Chief Justice and novice stakes winner Redicean. Iranistan comes out of a fourth in the Temple Gwathmey at Middleburg. Winner Massagot returns after missing 2019. Scorpiancer will scratch. Chief Justice is overdue for an American win and perhaps he’s acclimated now, but he’s 0-for-2 against Snap Decision. Joe went that way just because the others went with Snap Decision, who is difficult to get past even though he makes first start in open company.
Joe: Chief Justice, Snap Decision, Gibralfaro.
Sean: Snap Decision, Gibralfaro, Redicean.
Tom: Snap Decision, Iranistan, Gibralfaro.
Sixth race. $40,000 Virginia Gold Cup timber stakes going 4 miles. Timber horses still going in late June? Such is life in a pandemic. Andi’amu, Doc Cebu, Codrington College, Super Saturday and Schoodic return from Middleburg – and go three-quarters of a mile farther. Andi’amu won this last year and seems to get better with distance. The Leslie Young trainee also has enough gears to outkick others in the stretch. Clearly the horse to beat with a gaudy 6-for-7 mark since switching to timber and cross-country races in 2018. Doc Cebu will benefit from the Middleburg race, his first in more than a year. Schoodic was flat at Middleburg. If you were actually betting, Storm Team would be great value off one timber start (a maiden win at Middleburg). If he handles the trip, look out.
Joe: Andi’amu, Storm Team, Doc Cebu.
Sean: Doc Cebu, Andi’amu, Schoodic.
Tom: Andi’amu, Doc Cebu, Storm Team.
Seventh race. $20,000 maiden hurdle for 4-year-olds going 2 1/8 miles. Ten more maidens. Twenty Years On, Another Try, Yankee Doodle Boy, Fast Car and West Newton have some experience. The rest are first-timers. Buttonwood Farm and trainer Jonathan Sheppard unveil two with Irish point-to-point connections (via trainer Mary Doyle) in Baltimore Bucko and Leading The Light. Sheppard’s Another Try has been second twice, including to easy winner Critical Data at Middleburg. Mojave is a rare Washington-bred steeplechaser, with a 2019 win at Emerald Downs.
Joe: Twenty Years On, Baltimore Bucko, Leading The Light.
Sean: Another Try, Twenty Years On, Baltimore Bucko.
Tom: Fast Car, Another Try, Twenty Years On.
Eighth race. $20,000 handicap hurdle (115 rating and lower going 2 1/8 miles. Thirteen sign up for this. Four-year-old Global Freedom ran two solid races here last year, after winning in Ireland last summer. He gets a four-pound weight reduction for his age too. Gaye Breeze’s efforts at Saratoga last summer and Great Meadow last fall would serve him well. Court Ruler thumped maiden claimers in his only start and is dangerous. Go Get The Basil is good at this level, and Undisclosed will be better for the run at Middleburg. Solid race, and good example of the handicap system at work.
Joe: Global Freedom, Gaye Breeze, Court Ruler.
Sean: Global Freedom, Gaye Breeze, Undisclosed.
Tom: Global Freedom, Go Get The Basil, Inverness.
Ninth race. $10,000 waiver maiden claiming hurdle going 2 1/8 miles. Ten more maidens square off here. Be Somebody has had nine tries, one a distant second to Hyperlapse at Middleburg. Nobody else has more than three starts. Tricked Up once cost $500,000 (you can claim him for $10,000). Road To Oz wins the pedigree game (Quality Road-Miz Magician, Mizzen Mast), makes jump debut for trainer Mark Beecher and can use the claiming waiver.
Joe: Road To Oz, Milliner, Be Somebody.
Sean: Road To Oz, Shark Du Berlais, Vincent Van Gogo.
Tom: Shark Du Berlais, Be Somebody, Road To Oz.
10th race. $10,000 waiver maiden claiming hurdle going 2 1/8 miles. The finale of a long day. Line them up and let them go. More experience here as just one rookie makes the field of 10. Bobby The Boss and Bold Escape were third at Middleburg. Ten-year-old (wow) Street Cry gelding Elmutahid is in with a chance if he repeats Aiken effort from last fall.
Joe: Mr. Haire, Bobby The Boss, Elmutahid.
Sean: Flushed, Bobby The Boss, Bold Escape.
Tom: Bobby The Boss, Flushed, Bold Escape.