You know it must be a pandemic when the Virginia Gold Cup moves to the last Saturday in May from its traditional first Saturday in May date, but jump racing will take it as spectators will be allowed on site at Great Meadow and a strong lineup fills nine races. If you’re going this year, enjoy. If you’ve never been, put it on your list.
That’s Saturday. The schedule includes a Sunday stop in Delaware for the Winterthur Races just north of Wilmington. The meet filled three timber races and a training flat, and hopefully takes a step toward its traditional sellout crowd after missing last year and also pushing back to Memorial Day Weekend from early May.
And now to find some winners and dive through the races. Last week, Joe (Mini P and Ziggle Pops) and Sean (Be Somebody and Ziggle Pops) each doubled while Tom hit a single with Ziggle Pops. The season statistics read Sean and Joe 13, and Tom 11. With 13 races, this weekend could be Separation Day though the squad shares at least a few – probably incorrect – opinions.
You can watch the racing live at the National Steeplechase Association website and catch a recap show afterward.
Virginia Gold Cup at Great Meadow in The Plains, Va. Post time is 12:30 p.m. The headliners are the Gold Cup over timber and the David Semmes Memorial over hurdles.
First race. The Virginia Equine Alliance maiden hurdle. $25,000. 2 1/8 miles. 12:30. Ten in the body with one on the also-eligible list is a good sign. Breaking maidens should be the goal though as more winners mean more horses for Saratoga, Colonial Downs and beyond. Compass Zone has been second twice this year, and finished in front of Market Bubble both times. Bickley has run well every time. Ritzy A.P. (owned by Delaware beach real-estate moguls Bryce Lingo and Leslie Kopp), Turbo Drive, Perfect Tapatino, Keri’s Find, Howya Tuppence and Looktothelight all look like promising first-timers. Not sure how soft the ground will be, but that’s a factor too – especially with maidens. Cracking race as the Irish say.
Sean: Compass Zone, Perfect Tapatino, Fashion Line.
Joe: Ritzy A. P., Compass Zone, Market Bubble.
Tom: Market Bubble, Turbo Drive, Compass Zone.
Second race. The Steeplethon cross-country timber. $20,000. 2 5/8 miles. 1:00. They jump and cross just about everything on the Great Meadow course in this one, where Invocation looks to add to his already gaudy record. The timber start at Radnor didn’t go well, but he returns to his preferred style though he’s much better around Middleburg’s course. My Afleet could be a handful if he handles the jumps. Renegade River is perfect on the year. Holiday Mousse looked good at Willowdale.
Sean: Invocation, My Afleet, Duc De Meran.
Joe: Invocation, Holiday Mousse, Duc de Meran.
Tom: Renegade River, Invocation, My Afleet.
Third race. Allowance (NW2) hurdle. $30,000. 2 1/8 miles. 1:30. Seven signed on for this and four – Master Gunner, The Mean Queen and Eryx this year, Douglas Road in 2020 – come off victories. Five-year-old Irish-bred mare The Mean Queen gets in light for Keri Brion and won in April. Eryx ran really well over the course last fall and dominated at Middleburg. Lemonade Thursday (third at Middleburg) and Douglas Road (off since October) were pretty tough on the flat. Emerald Rocket beat French Light and Lemonade Thursday over the course in June. Solid race. Wish it had three more runners.
Sean: Douglas Road, Lemonade Thursday, Master Gunner.
Joe: Lemonade Thursday, Eryx, Douglas Road.
Tom: Lemonade Thursday, Eryx, Douglas Road.
Fourth race. Apprentice rider open claiming hurdle. $15,000 claiming price. $10,000 purse. 2 1/8 miles. 2:00.
Solid group of eight led by Radnor winner Sempre Medici, who makes first start off the claim for Straylight Racing, Mark Beecher and Alex Levanthal. Mighty Mark won at this level at Willowdale, holding off a late run from today’s foe Paddy’s Crown. Boss Man should improve for the run. Elmutahid won twice last year. Adjutant won last fall at Callaway and should improve in second start this year.
Sean: Elmutahid, Adjutant, Mighty Mark.
Joe: Boss Man, Sempre Medici, Mighty Mark.
Tom: Sempre Medici, Mighty Mark, Boss Man.
Fifth race. David Semmes Memorial hurdle stakes. $50,000. 2 1/8 miles. 2:30. Big names Snap Decision, Footpad, Winston C, Redicean, etc. stay in their barns which leaves a fairly wide-open group. Gibralfaro won the autumn version of this race in 2019, but then found the water pretty deep against Snap Decision, Moscato and Rashaan. Tuned up with a steeplethon spin at Middleburg. Chief Justice will also appreciate the lack of Snap Decision, but will have to improve off his last run at Charlotte. Arch My Boy fell there, but ran well in two American starts in 2019. Galway Kid has done little wrong and gets in light. Brianbakescookies surprised in what turned into a runaway win at Charlotte and won a maiden herein 2019. Bedrock gets top weight, though it’s tricky to know much about him with no starts last year. He won five over hurdles, and three on the flat, in Ireland and England.
Sean: Brianbakescookies, Chief Justice, Gibralfaro.
Joe: Gibralfaro, Chief Justice, Arch My Boy.
Tom: Brianbakescookies, Gibralfaro, Galway Kid.
Sixth race. The Virginia Gold Cup timber stakes. $50,000. 4 miles. 3:00. Here we go. Mystic Strike makes his fifth start of 2021 (though the first two barely count thanks to a slip and a broken stirrup leather), and exits back-to-back wins at Middleburg and Radnor. Schoodic looks to right his ship too, off a late-running second to Renegade River at Willowdale. Tomgarrow’s timber career includes just one NSA start, but it was a romp. Renegade River is cross-entered here off wins at the Manor and Willowdale. Royal Ruse reunited with Skylar McKenna. Jaleo is a timber maiden, but there have been bigger upset and he’ll appreciate some wet going. Flaming Sword looked like a potential star in 2019, and has run twice at point-to-points this year after missing 2020. Road To Oz won a maiden at the Manor, then checked in third behind Mystic Strike at Middleburg. Experience and jumping efficiency are the questions, but that’s about it.
Sean: Schoodic, Mystic Strike, Flaming Sword.
Joe: Mystic Strike, Royal Ruse, Flaming Sword.
Tom: Schoodic, Mystic Strike, Renegade River.
Seventh race. Maiden claiming hurdle ($25,000). $15,000. 2 1/8 miles. 3:30. This condition split into two divisions of eight, a good sign and some horses to watch because this can be a springboard to better things. Third at Willowdale, Lap Of The Gods adds blinkers and makes his first start off the claim by Leslie Young. Yankee Doodle Boy was second at Middleburg. West Newton finished ahead of Lap Of The Gods at Willowdale and was third – and claimed by Ricky Hendriks – last out at Radnor. He, too, adds blinkers.
Sean: Hail Michigan, West Newton, Lap Of The Gods.
Joe: Yankee Doodle Boy, West Newton, Choo Choo.
Tom: Yankee Doodle Boy, Hail Michigan, Lap Of The Gods.
Eighth race. Maiden claiming hurdle ($25,000). $15,000. 2 1/8 miles. 4:00. Eight more go here, led by Makkadangdang off a disqualification from a win at Radnor May 15. Lost Story got close three times in straight maiden company in 2019, missed last year and had to knock off a little rust at Middleburg. Argentic has been third and fourth in two starts this year. Scott Pond makes his hurdle debut off six flat losses, but his pedigree (Lemon Drop Kid-Honey Lake, Dynaformer) screams quality.
Sean: Lost Story, Westerland, Makkadangdang.
Joe: Lost Story, Makkadangdang, Argentic.
Tom: Makkadangdang, Air Lift, Lost Story.
Ninth race. Handicap hurdle for horses rated 110 and below. $15,000. 2 1/8 miles. And the finale. Nine line up here and three – All Out Of Aces, Tricked Up and Be Counted – share the highest mark. Animal Kingston and He’ll Do can be factors. All Out Of Aces won late last year. Embrace The Grind exits a win at Radnor. Junonia was rolling at Willowdale when he lost his jockey. Ismusbemluckyday won at Willowdale. Salty bunch at this level.
Sean: He'll Do, Embrace The Grind, Be Counted.
Joe: Be Counted, He’ll Do, Junonia.
Tom: Be Counted, He’ll Do, Ismusbemyluckyday.
Winterthur Races at Winterthur Museum and Gardens in Wilmington, Del. Sunday. Post time is 2 p.m.
First race. The Isabella du Pont Sharp Memorial maiden timber. $15,000. 3 1/4 miles. 2:00. Nine tackle the opener and there’s not a lot to go on. Rakhaa finished third at Willowdale and should step forward. First Friday ran well twice last year and makes third NSA start of 2021. Timber rookies Stooshie, So Sublime and Dream Verse get tested. Elucidation has some back class over hurdles and on the flat.
Sean: Master Seville, Rakhaa, Stooshie.
Joe: Master Seville, First Friday, Rakhaa.
Tom: Rakhaa, Stooshie, Elucidation.
Second race. The Winterthur Bowl maiden timber. $15,000. 3 1/4 miles. 2:30. Ten show up for this, and you better study. On My Wish List looks interesting for Cyril Murphy. Mr. Haire placed over hurdles and won oer timber at Middleburg Point-to-Point. Brooklyn Speights was up front for a while at Willowdale. Pincer Movement will benefit for the run at the Manor. Highway Prince was third at Willowdale.
Sean: Brooklyn Speights, Mr. Haire, On My Wish List.
Joe: Mr. Haire, Brooklyn Speights, Hafajay.
Tom: Brooklyn Speights, On My Wish List, Highway Prince.
Third race. The Vicmead Plate, in honor of Paddy Neilson apprentice rider timber. 3 1/4 miles. $10,000. 3:00. Six run here and they’re going to have to get past It’s Nothing, a two-time timber winner with loads of experience and the karma of being trained by Neislon’s daughter Kathy and ridden by her daughter Skylar McKenna. Master Seville won the novice timber at Potomac.
Sean: It's Nothing, Master Seville, Huyana.
Joe: It’s Nothing, Master Seville, Canyon Road.
Tom: It’s Nothing, Canyon Road, Huyana.
Fouth race. The Middletown Cup training flat for apprentice riders. 1 1/2 miles. 3:30. Who’s ready to win and who’s just looking to get ready to win? Get a good look at Court Ruler, Baltimore Bucko, Wightman and Nice To Meet Ya. Also nice to see Maserati return. Leslie Young runs five.
Sean: Baltimore Bucko, Court Ruler, Shootin The Breeze.
Joe: Baltimore Bucko, Shootin The Breeze, Court Ruler.
Tom: Maserati, Court Ruler, Kitten’s World.