A good, old-fashioned steeplechase double. Even if we wish they’d separate (somebody run on Sunday) it’s good to see a full weekend of American jump racing as the circuit heads to historic Glenwood Park for the Virginia Fall Races in Middleburg and goes north to western New York for the Genesee Valley Hunt Races.
Load up the horse vans and the tailgate supplies, or watch from home via the National Steeplechase Association website, there’s plenty to cover.
Start in New York. The circuit’s most northerly meet returns after missing 2020 due to Covid, and hosts its traditional NSA timber races along with a training flat as part of a full day out. In addition to the NSA-sanctioned races, there are pony races, a junior race, a Genesee Valley Hunt pace chase, a stock horse sprint, stick horse races, a heavy horse race plus events for dogs, a cow encounter, tailgate contest and who knows what else. It all starts at 11 a.m. with the first NSA race at 1 p.m.
First race. $10,000 maiden timber going 3 miles. Seven line up and cover plenty of bases while looking for their first timber wins. Corky Lemon won twice over hurdles. Shootist is meant well from a pedigree standpoint and placed twice this spring.
Joe: Shootist, Corky Lemon, Withoutmoreado.
Sean: Withoutmoreado, Shootist, Corky Lemon.
Tom: Corky Lemon, Shootist, Withoutmoreado.
Second race. $10,000 allowance timber for apprentice jockeys going 3 miles. Five face the flag and the most interesting development is Skylar McKenna taking off a mount trained by her mother Kathy Neilson to ride for Leslie Young. OK… Rakhaa won at Winterthur. Rocket Star Red jumped around the Maryland Hunt Cup. Highway Prince was third twice in the spring. Pocket Talk won like a good thing at the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup in 2020.
Joe: Rakhaa, Pocket Talk, Rocket Star Red.
Sean: Rakhaa, Pocket Talk, Rocket Star Red.
Tom: Pocket Talk, Rakhaa, Rocket Star Red.
Third race. $25,000 Genesee Valley Hunt Cup timber stakes going 3 1/2 miles. Showdown. Two of the circuit’s best timber horses – Mystic Strike and Schoodic – clash again in the feature. They were both here in 2019, when Schoodic won at Mystic Strike pulled up. They were both in the My Lady’s Manor in April, and both slipped and fell on the flat. They were both in the Virginia Gold Cup in May, which went to Schoodic when Mystic Strike lost his jockey. Schoodic tuned up with a win at Shawan Downs last month, where Mystic Strike ran on the flat. The 11-year-old Tiznow gelding seeks his third win of 2021. Goodoldtimes and Road To Oz complete the field along with a cross-entered Rocket Star Red.
Joe: Schoodic, Mystic Strike, Road To Oz.
Sean: Schoodic, Mystic Strike, Road To Oz.
Tom: Schoodic, Mystic Strike, Road To Oz.
Fourth race. Training flat going 1 3/4 miles. It ain’t exactly Seabiscuit and War Admiral, or Chris Evert and Miss Musket but it’s a match race. Brave Deacon for Team Davies faces English import Ace Ventura from Kathy Neilson’s barn.
Joe: Ace Ventura, Brave Deacon.
Sean: Ace Ventura, Brave Deacon.
Tom: Ace Ventura, Brave Deacon.
Virginia Fall Races.
Long a fixture on the schedule, the fall meet at Middleburg used to run two days but gets close with eight races. Post time is 1 p.m. and the day has a timber stakes where Schoodic or Mystic Strike would be favored, a handicap hurdle, a maiden hurdle and a non-winners of two hurdle and more.
First race. $20,000 handicap hurdle for horses rated 115 and below going 2 1/8 miles. Seven face the starter in the opener including course winner Eryx, 2020 Saratoga winner Court Ruler, Foxfield winner Animal Kingston on short rest, the dual-purpose Vincent Van Gogo and the better-than-he’s shown Contented, spring handicap winner Prayer Hope and two-time winner Anticipating. Like a whale’s mouth on free plankton night – wide open.
Joe: Court Ruler, Animal Kingston, Vincent Van Gogo.
Sean: Court Ruler, Vincent Van Gogo, Contented.
Tom: Court Ruler, Vincent Van Gogo, Animal Kingston.
Second race. $20,000 maiden hurdle going 2 1/8 miles. Field of eight ranging from first-timers Undercover Rowdy, Drewscourt and Connagh’s Quay to the seventh-start Westerland and Lap Of The Gods. Twenty Years On was third twice last year as a 4-year-old. Westerland was third twice at Colonial Downs. Connagh’s Quay was third on the flat at Belmont Sept. 17 after leaving the Chad Brown barn.
Joe: Connagh’s Quay, Lap Of The Gods, Undercover Rowdy.
Sean: Connagh's Quay, Drewscourt, Undercover Rowdy.
Tom: Twenty Years On, Drew’s Court, Connagh’s Quay.
Third race. $30,000 National Sporting Library and Museum Cup timber stakes going 3 1/4 miles. Without Schoodic and Mystic Strike, it’s not as tough as it could be. Tomgarrow and Storm Team were second and third behind Schoodic at Shawan last month. In June, Storm Team beat Tomgarrow at Nashville. Elusive Exclusive on a maiden at Shawan.
Joe: Storm Team, Tomgarrow, Flaming Sword.
Sean: Storm Team, Tomgarrow, Elusive Exclusive.
Tom: Elusive Exclusive, Storm Team, Tomgarrow.
Fourth race. $25,000 allowance (NW2) hurdle going 2 1/8 miles. Six line up here, all looking to find something positive after losing starts since maiden victories. Irish-bred Don’t Shout makes his U.S. debut for Leslie Young. Fightinirishtabit is still looking to get out from the shadow of his brother Mr. Hot Stuff. Knockholt returns to jumping, after toiling on the flat (and winning at Mountaineer last month). Compass Zone won at Colonial and was a solid second to West Newton at Shawan. Yankee Doodle Boy was third at Colonial last time. A winner over the course last fall, Lemonade Thursday adds blinkers while trying to find his best form.
Joe: Compass Zone, Lemonade Thursday, Don’t Shout.
Sean: Lemonade Thursday, Don't Shout, Compass Zone.
Tom: Lemonade Thursday, Compass Zone, Yankee Doodle Boy.
Fifth race. $10,000 maiden claiming hurdle going 2 1/8 miles. First-timers Big Dave, Wind Ridge, Blue Ridge Scout and Unbuntu take on Argentic (winless in eight tries), The Kid Rocks (0-for-3) and second-timers Criticize and Real Good Man.
Joe: Wind Ridge, Argentic, Criticize.
Sean: Wind Ridge, Argentic, Real Good Man.
Tom: Argentic, Ubuntu, Real Good Man.
Sixth race. $15,000 maiden timber going 3 miles. Big field of nine. Elucidation was second at Shawan, but disqualified (with jockey Gerard Galligan getting a big fine) for coming back underweight. Multiple hurdle winner can win this. Ack Feisty’s hurdle form was good. Timber debut wasn’t so good at Shawan. On My Wish List was third at Winterthur in the spring. Brooklyn Speights should be OK over timber, same with The Silent Trainer (who was third in his only try last year).
Joe: The Silent Trainer, Elucidation, On My Wish List.
Sean: Monbeg Stream, On My Wish List, Elucidation.
Tom: On My Wish List, Indian Hawk, Elucidation.
Seventh race. $15,000 allowance cross-country timber going 2 5/8 miles. They twist, turn and jump everything imaginable in this. The race isn’t the same without Invocation, who is on the sidelines. Four runners led by somewhat reformed hurdlers Bodes Well and New Member. Who’s handy?
Joe: New Member, Bodes Well, Cracker Factory.
Sean: Cracker Factory, Bodes Well, New Member.
Tom: Bodes Well, New Member, Cracker Factory.
Eighth race. Training flat going 1 1/2 miles. Big field of 10 looking to prep for hurdle starts. Renown goes again for Elizabeth Voss and carries the most flat class along with New York-bred stakes winner Honor Up from Leslie Young’s barn. Young runs three. Voss runs two. Keri Brion and Sanna Neilson run one each – leaving three entries for male trainers (Ricky Hendriks, Cyril Murphy and Forrest Kelly).
Joe: Renown, Honor Up, Caughtmeoncamera.
Sean: Renown, Recent Revelations, Granuleux.
Tom: Honor Up, Recent Revelations, Where’s Oliver.