Old Dominion jump picks & preview

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Abaan (left) takes aim at The Hero Next Door over the last fence in last week’s Carolina Cup. The winner has won three of four over jumps. Tod Marks photo

Old Dominion. It’s a university, a beer, a trucking company, a music academy, a Nashville-based band. And, Saturday, a race meet. Technically a nickname for Virginia, since it was the first (and oldest) overseas dominion of the kings and queens of England, the title ends up on the racing because it’s organized by the Old Dominion Hounds.

Founded in 1924, the fox hunting club celebrates its 100 years, and holds its annual point-to-point at Ben Venue Farm in Washington, Va. Owned by the Eastham family, the place dates to 1805 and its house was designed by Thomas Jefferson’s architect John Powell.

Racing starts at noon and includes three NSA-sanctioned races on a 10-race card of hurdle, timber and flat. You can watch some (maybe all) of it at the NSA website.

Last week, Abaan dazzled again with a win over The Hero Next Door and L’Imperator in the Carolina Cup novice stakes. A graded stakes horse on the flat for Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Daigneault Thoroughbreds, the 7-year-old changed careers effortlessly and has won three of four for Kate and Bernie Dalton. He rated in a four-horse field, went after the leader on the final turn and won by 2 1/4 lengths as Bernie looked behind him, patting his horse on the neck and grabbing an ear for fun.

Bred in Kentucky by Rosilyn Polan, Abaan traded paint with the likes of Gufo, Highland Chief, Red Knight and Therapist on the flat for Shadwell Stable and then his current owners. He won four including two stakes for trainer Todd Pletcher at Gulfstream Park in 2021-22 – before going off form and moving to the Daltons for a potential jump career. Second in his debut after leading late, he won easily at Colonial Downs in September, then jumped up a couple of conditions to win the Foxbrook novice stakes (also over The Hero Next Door and L’Imperator) at Far Hills last year.

“I tend to be conservative and it was actually my idea to run him in the Foxbrook,” said Kate Dalton of the restricted stakes try out of a maiden win. “It was either the Foxbrook or the non two at Gold Cup and I kind of thought he might not like Gold Cup, because he’s a big horse and it’s tight turns. So I thought the tougher race on a nice course for him would be better for him. I was not expecting to win it. And then he did. The Carolina Cup was nearly the same race, the form held up again. We’re happy and we’re going to wait for the novice at Iroquois (May 11).”

Watch Abaan win the Carolina Cup.

The streaking Arch Kingsley barn won two – the maiden claiming hurdle with Sherkali and a maiden special with Feeling Festive. Parker Hendriks rode both. Lightning Rod denied Kingsley and Hendriks a triple by winning a maiden hurdle for owner/breeder Clarke Ohrstrom and trainer Laird George. Ridden by Gerard Galligan, the Maryland-bred son of Bellamy Road was making his first start since November 2022. Galligan teamed up with Tease And Seize for Jacqueline Ohrstrom and trainer Richard Valentine in the handicap hurdle. The French-bred won by 19 1/2 lengths as the highweight.

In other action, Decisive Triumph won the amateur/apprentice hurdle at Blue Ridge for Dan Baker, Mark Beecher and jockey Dan Nevin. Upland Partners’ Bob’s Bar (Andrew Burke Ott) won the amateur/apprentice timber for trainer Todd McKenna. At Cheshire, Court Ruler made easy work of the open timber at Cheshire for Leipers Fork Steeplechasers, Leslie Young and Freddie Procter. Riverdee Stable’s Include It got off the bench to win the amateur/apprentice timber for trainer Todd Wyatt and jockey Elizabeth Scully. The 9-year-old Maryland-bred is undefeated in four NSA timber starts dating to 2021. Counting point-to-points, he has won six in a row. McKenna and jockey Harrison Beswick closed the Cheshire card with a maiden timber win by Hard Strike for Keystone Thoroughbreds.

Despite all the opportunities, the TIHR handicappers’ race didn’t really change much. Joe (Sherkali, Abaan, Court Ruler and Include It) and Sean (Sherkali, Lightning Rod, Abaan and Court Ruler) had four winners each. Tom came up with Sharkali and Include It. The scoreboard reads 6-6-3. In a disturbing – to him – trend, six of Joe’s second choices have also won this year.

On to Old Dominion.

Third race (1:10 p.m.). $30,000 Ben Venue maiden hurdle going 2 miles. A full field of 10 (with three on the also-eligible list) meet the starter. Rookies Nobel Speaker and Little G T get started. Kitten Around was second last fall. I can Only Imagine was third at Middleburg in October and in contention when he fell at Montpelier in November. Clifton Down was second at Charleston in November. Hold Hard was third at Shawan in September. High Deff leads the way with three seconds and two thirds. Travesuras was second at Shawan (ahead of Hold Hard) and third at Aiken (behind Kitten Around). Solid race.

  • Joe: I Can Only Imagine, Travesuras, Hold Hard.
  • Sean: Travesuras, I Can Only Imagine, High Deff.
  • Tom: Travesuras, Kitten Around, Clifton Down.

Fourth race (1:45 p.m.). $30,000 Valhalla filly/mare maiden hurdle going 2 miles. Seven clash here. Split In Two, Modern Society, Easy Squeeze and Camcha make their jump debuts. Fox In The Mark makes her eighth start over jumps and was third at Aiken last month. Camcha’s dam The Grey Express won over jumps and has produced jump winners Kiyomori, Saigon and Webb. Hall of Famer Janet Elliot gets back in the training business for owner/breeder Greg Hawkins.

  • Joe: Split In Two, Modern Society, Camcha.
  • Sean: Split In Two, Love Saga, Fox In The Park.
  • Tom: Fox In The Park, Camcha, Split In Two.

Seventh race (3:30 p.m.). $20,000 Leeds Don open timber going 3 miles. First of all, Leeds Don was an awesome timber horse of yesteryear. Won the Virginia Gold Cup three times (1965-67). Four give the timber feature run in his memory a try. Family Tree fell in his timber debut last year, but won his next two. Lap Of The Gods won Middleburg last fall. Stooshie gets a little class relief after trying Schoodic in stakes company. Fashion Line tuned up at Cheshire when third behind Court Ruler.

  • Joe: Family Tree, Lap Of The Gods, Stooshie.
  • Sean: Family Tree, Stooshie, Lap Of The Gods.
  • Tom: Family Tree, Lap Of The Gods, Stooshie.