The Colonial Cup: Horses, Races, Thoughts and Reflections.

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Home from Camden, the end of the jump season accentuated by Divine Fortune’s flawless performance in the Colonial Cup. Yes, it would have been more fun to see a Demonstrative/Divine Fortune crescendo but it didn’t happen as the former ran slightly flat, finishing third and the latter, well, he was simply brilliant.

There is nothing like a frontrunner winning the Colonial Cup, the fences along the backside ticked off like flicked dandelions, jumping and running for the joy of it. In American jump racing, it’s the best race of the year, the best of my lifetime at least. Since 1970, the year I was born, the race has produced the greatest doing the greatest. The names roll of my tongue, swim in my mind and click off my keyboard. Give me five minutes and I could probably give you all winners in order. I remember all of them through photos, stories or experiences…Top Bid, Inkslinger, Soothsayer…Cafe Prince, Grand Canyon, Zaccio…Flatterer, Victorian Hill, Lonesome Glory…Flat Top, McDynamo, Good Night Shirt…Slip Away, Demonstrative and now Divine Fortune. He deserved one.

Next time you’re feeling down, think about how Divine Fortune felt after pulling up in the Smithwick in July, falling in the Lonesome Glory in September and, egads, his fall at the last fence of the Turf Writers in 2012. The 11-year-old veteran has a knack of dusting himself off like it never happened and reasserting himself at the top of the game. I am awed by his resiliency as much as his brilliance. Dance like there’s nobody watching, love like you’ll never be hurt, sing like there’s nobody listening…and in steeplechasing, jump like you’ve never fallen. That’s Divine Fortune.

Demonstrative and Divine Fortune won five of the six Grade 1 stakes this year, with Demonstrative winning three (and missing by a nose in one) and Divine Fortune bookending the year with wins in the Iroquois and the New York Turf Writers Cup. Eclipse Award voters might have had a moment of doubt for a moment of time at Camden, but Demonstrative, holding a 3-2 lead in head-to-head match ups over Divine Fortune this year, should get the nod. They loom at the top of the all time earnings list, fourth and fifth behind McDynamo, Good Night Shirt and Lonesome Glory. Legends.

Beyond the Cup, it was a captivating weekend of races, meetings and parties. Woodslane Farm’s Overwhelming dominated the maiden, putting experience to good use, he won by 11 and stamped himself as a proper novice for next year. Straight To It continued to show his affinity for Camden, winning the timber for the second consecutive year. Sean McDermott finished off a torrid final few weeks of the season while Jack Fisher continued to keep his horses in form. Fisher won his eighth leading training title, using an uncanny ability to keep horses in top form all year long. He runs his horses more often than most trainers, but it works as horses like Syros, Selection Sunday, Straight To It and Overwhelming ran well late in the season after long seasons.

Rosbrian Farm, Ricky Hendriks and David Byrne doubled with Wantan and Long House Saint. One claimed, one imported, both good.

The once-a-year open board meeting of the NSA board elicited plenty of discussion. I walked in with the goal of listening and not speaking. I almost made it. Bill Price, the chairman of the newly formed Growth and Promotion Task Force presented a wide range of facts, trends and ideas. The numbers will shock you, but I actually left with a better attitude than when I arrived. Progress? Perhaps.

The Steeplechase Owners and Trainers Association joined forces with the National Steeplechase Association to host the annual awards dinner. Renamed the Awards Dinner and Jockeys’ Ball, it sold out and will continue to sell out. Full disclosure, I’m on the SOTA board and my brother Joe and I presented the awards, but it was a home run. Most of the jockey colony attended, along with the likes of Mickey Preger Jr. the Bonifaces, Kip and Helen Elser, the Sheppard girls, Bill and Renee Lickle…it was a great party.

Thanks to Mimi Voss, Catherine French and many others for making it happen. It’s the first time we danced in the sport for a long time.

Special congratulations to champion jockey Willie McCarthy, you made it happen and Russell Haynes for campaigning timber champion Hot Rize, you made it happen too. That’s what the night is about – what the sport is about – making it happen.