- Joe Clancy
"We don't have any routine with him," said Maryland-based Dawn Williams, who trains the 10-year-old son of Bon Point, favorite for Saturday's International Gold Cup timber stakes at Great Meadow Race Course in The Plains, Va.
That's an understatement. Since making three spring starts (two of them stakes wins), Bon Caddo has gone in several local shows (hunter division), hunted with the Green Spring Valley Hounds, worked on a Polytrack gallop, tested his racing fitness with schooling sessions and visited the tack room.
"He comes in the tack room pretty much every day," Williams said. "He's got more personality than most horses. We've had a really fun summer with him."
Owned by Merriefield Farm, Bon Cado won the My Lady's Manor and Virginia Gold Cup timber stakes (also held at Great Meadow) this spring, earning $67,200 and taking the lead in the National Steeplechase Association timber standings. Like all timber horses, the Canadian-bred gets a summer break though his features a bit more activity. Williams' niece Nikki regularly shows Bon Caddo in hunter classes over the summer. Once Green Spring starts foxhunting, he regularly joins the field under his trainer, Nikki Williams or Bruce Fenwick (the horse's former owner and the proprietor of Belmont Farm where Williams trains).
The tack room visits serve no purpose other than entertainment - for human and equine - but the rest of the activity is by design. Bon Caddo learns to jump a variety of fences and gets fit enough for a 3-4 mile race without working too hard. As he nears racing season, Bon Caddo spends more time galloping and training - including sessions on Jack Fisher's Polytrack gallop and a recent work with hurdle horse Inti. Bon Caddo was bred by Marablue Farm and won once in 10 flat starts for trainer Jonathan Sheppard. The bay gelding couldn't break his maiden over hurdles, but has won four times over timber.
Saturday Bon Caddo takes on eight others including He's A Conniver, who handed the favorite a defeat in last fall's Gold Cup. The 3 1/2-mile race also lured recent stakes winner Aero (2-for-3 over timber this year), veteran Incomplete and spring stakes winner Won Wild Bird.
Jody Petty, regular exercise rider of recent Grade I winner and Breeders' Cup hopeful Aruna for trainer Graham Motion, takes the ride.
"Jody's been down three times in last two weeks and schooled him," said Williams. "I have him about as ready as I can without a race under his belt. This is horse racing so we'll just see how it pans out. He gives me 100 percent every time."
Al Griffin's Aero won the National Sporting Library/Chronicle Cup over Saturday rivals G'day G'day and He's A Conniver at Virginia Fall Oct. 1 and looks like the main challenger. EMO Stable's He's A Conniver finished third that day after falling and pulling up in his two most recent starts. Incomplete seeks his first win since the 2009 My Lady's Manor for Bob Kinsley and trainer Ann Stewart. Pink Ribbon Racing's Won Wild Bird upset the Radnor Hunt Cup (a field that included Bon Caddo) in May and is a threat with her best effort for trainer Regina Welsh.
The Gold Cup is the fifth of six races on the card, which starts at 1:30 p.m. Live streaming video is available on a pay per view basis on the NSA Website.
NOTES: Other Gold Cup races included a crowded maiden hurdle headed by Saint Dynaformer, Almarmooq, Worried Man and Inti and a tough starter allowance including Port Morsbey, Fog Island, Class Indian, Lake Placid and Wantan.