Looking back on the Colonial Cup

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Forty-eight hours after the Colonial Cup and the end of the 2010 steeplechase season. Time for another look at the weekend.

– Colonial Cup Summary: Great performance by Slip Away. He deserved it. Put his gallop to good use by tackling Preemptive Strike early. The move, which jockey Paddy Young described as brilliant or stupid depending on what happened, blew the race apart – putting Preemptive Strike on the defensive earlier than usual and taking the steam out of closers Mixed Up and Percussionist. Those two horses – the fastest in the race – were hanging on early but had crept into potentially bid-launching spots when Slip Away rolled on. Had he waited, the others may have been close enough to launch bids. Once a claimer, Slip Away is now a champion – he wins the NSA award as leading earner and will surely claim the Eclipse Award for owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey. It will be the first such honor for trainer Tom Voss, the third for the Ramseys (who won one as leading owners in 2004 and another with turf champion Kitten’s Joy that year). The Colonial Cup win capped a stellar season for Slip Away. He won the Temple Gwathmey in April, finished second in the Iroquois, third in the A.P. Smithwick, second in the Helen Haskell Sampson and second in the Grand National. He improved to 10-for-25 in his career (all over jumps) and boosted his career earnings to $332,415.

– The rest of the race: Preemptive Strike was retired after finishing second, another game performance in a career that overflowed with them. The 12-year-old Polaris Stable gelding made 38 starts over jumps, won eight, finished second 13 times and third six times. That’s 27 top-three finishes and he tangled with some of the best through the years – McDynamo, Good Night Shirt, Hirapour, Sur La Tete, Mixed Up. Nearly every champion of the 2000s had to beat Preemptive Strike somewhere along the line. The chestnut Maryland-bred won nearly $500,000 over jumps for trainers Sanna Hendriks and earlier Paul Rowland. “Strike” put on another show Sunday, handling the stiff Springdale Race Course jumps with his usual daring style and holding off Tax Ruling in the final yards to claim second. He placed in the Cup three times – 2004, 2008 and 2010. Tax Ruling came back to his spring form to claim third in a good effort that earned Irv Naylor his fist NSA owner championship. The Iroquois winner struggled in two prior starts this fall, but was much sharper at Camden. Recent Naylor purchase Percussionist was thrown another set of challenges that included fast ground, stiff fences and a quick pace. He and Mixed Up were working their way into the race when Slip Away turned up the heat and took over.

– The rest of the day: Three-year-old hurdler Demonstrative continued his progression. Jacqueline Ohrstrom’s English import has won the two hurdle races he’s completed (and he lost his jockey at the start in the other) and looks like one to watch for 2011. Calm, cool, polished, he looks nothing like a 3-year-old. He gets a much-deserved break after six starts at 2 and eight at 3. As trainer Richard Valentine put it afterward: It’s all about “patience” now. Veteran hurdler Sunshine Numbers improved to 6-for-16 for his career with a Hobkirk Hill score for Sue Sensor and trainer Arch Kingsley. The 9-year-old New York-bred, whose dam Saturday Sunshine won over hurdles, led an exacta with stablemate Riddle (for the second straight week). Nobody smiled more than owner/trainer Karen Gray, who won the timber with Eye Said Scat Cat. The 8-year-old came off a solid third in a maiden timber at Callaway Gardens, got a heady ride from Carl Rafter and outran fellow Tennessee shipper Gather No Moss in the stretch. Gray’s husband is the huntsman for the Hillsboro Hounds near Nashville. Coppertree Farm’s Good Request proved that the fourth time is the charm – winning the $25,000 maiden hurdle after placing second at Saratoga Open House, Monmouth and Far Hills. Voss trains the son of Dynaformer, who won twice on the flat for trainer Bobby Frankel. Nothing prepared anyone present for the news that jockey Jorge Torres was critically injured in a fall with Class Moon in the 3-year-old race. Torres was air-lifted to Palmetto Richland Hospital in Columbia and underwent surgery for a head injury. The danger of jump racing gets lost in the victories and defeats sometimes, but it’s never easy to take and the sport awaits while a man fights for his life. A day earlier jockey Robbie Walsh broke his leg in a fall from Canardly while schooling. Walsh already missed much of the season with injuries sustained in a car accident and faced more surgery in hopes of returning for 2011.

– Paddy Young, champion jockey: He earned his second consecutive title while collecting 20 wins from 104 rides (30 more than any other jockey) including a double on the final day at Camden Sunday. He led all jockeys in rides, wins, and purse earnings. The Colonial Cup victory was his first in a Grade I and his first (in six rides) aboard Slip Away. Young has developed into the top jockey on the circuit, an on-demand rider for Voss and other trainers all year. He won the Virginia Gold Cup and Mason Houghland with timber champion Bubble Economy, piloted overall champion Slip Away, grabbed a Saratoga win with Easy Red. The steeplechase gods made him sweat in the final weeks as Danielle Hodsdon tripled at Aiken in October to draw within two wins of the lead, but Young pulled away late.

– Jonathan Sheppard, champion trainer: His Colonial Cup day didn’t go very well, but Sheppard had long ago wrapped up another NSA crown. His horses won 26 races and more than $800,000. Arcadius, Sermon Of Love and Divine Fortune led the way and helped pace a dominant Saratoga where Sheppard and owner Bill Pape won four of the five races. The National Steeplechase Museum honored Sheppard Friday night in Camden with an exhibit that included numbers, photos, facts and what amounted to a living history of the last 40-plus years of American jump racing.

– Irv Naylor, champion owner. Naylor left no race unturned in 2010 – catching Pape on the final day to claim the seasonal crown with $329,300 earned in a busy 84 starts. The stable won a dozen races including major hurdle scores with Tax Ruling and Decoy Daddy. Naylor’s first love, timber racing, also proved fruitful as Patriot’s Path won the Genesee Valley, New Jersey and Pennsylvania Hunt Cups. Naylor’s total edged Pape by less than $8,000 with Decoy Daddy’s victory in the Noel Laing and Tax Ruling’s third in the Colonial Cup helping the cause late in the season.


– Joe Clancy