Jonathan Sheppard’s Rum Tum Tugger completed a thrilling come from behind stretch drive to score a close win over Silver Lime in the May 7th, $50,000, 1 1/2 miles Secretariat Stakes, featured flat event on Virginia Gold Cup Day at Great Meadow. The afternoon festivities included five steeplechase and four flat races. The closing flat quartet all featured deep fields and entertained the crowd of 70,000.
The 7 year old Afleet Alex gelding started among a field of 11, was 8th at the half and 6th at the 1 1/4 miles point before going to the far outside. Rum Tum Tugger passed five frontrunners including Ack Feisty, who led from the start, in a huge deep stretch move, crossed in 2:56 1/5 and beat runner-up Silver Lime by less than a length. Rider Willie McCarthy directed the effort atop the Kentucky-bred whose stable personnel said this stakes was their goal for the winner all year. Most recently, he had raced on dirt three times in allowance company at Penn National and tried to get a turf tightener in at Laurel several weeks ago in advance of Saturday’s stakes, but he did not get in.
The VHBPA Maiden Flat had a pair of $30,000 divisions and even though the winners weren’t bred in the Commonwealth, Virginia connections played a prominent role in victory. Susan Cooney’s West Virginia-bred, Rodie, stayed close to frontrunning Di Treviso in the first race, took over at three-quarters and went on to win by a length in 1:46.0. The 4 year old Stephen Got Even gelding’s only other life start came at Charles Town last September, where he finished 10th in a maiden special weight race. On Saturday, rider Barry Foley guided the effort against a field of twelve including Lilith Boucher’s Jump Ship, who finished second but was disqualified for bumping Mr. Bossy. Surprising Soul was second and Holiday Queen finished third.
In the second maiden flat, Middle Road went gate to wire and won his first lifetime race after nine outings. Owned by Middleburg resident Maggie Bryant, the 4 year old Outflanker gelding was sent off at 12-1 and handled the nine other challengers rather easily. He crossed in 1:48.0, 2 1/4 lengths lover runner-up Bird Call, a James Lawrence trainee. Jimmy Day, who was named 2015 Virginia Trainer of the Year the prior evening, entered Irish-bred Dai Bando and the 5 year old Montjeu gelding finished third. Interestingly, the $2 trifecta payout was $78.60 while the $2 exacta returned $973.40.
Virginia-bred Willisville captured the final 1 1/4 miles, $35,000 race, which was open to Virginia-bred or sired horses. The 4 year old Grand Reserve gelding’s last start was a 4th place finish on last year’s Gold Cup card. Owned and trained by Middleburg resident Jean Rofe, Willisville raced second to frontrunning Hooping through the third fraction, eased by and won by 2 1/2 lengths in 1:47.0. Jeff Murphy was aboard the victor, who paid $15.60. Willisville, out of the Thunder Gulch mare, Naturally, was bred by Mr. & Mrs. Bertram Firestone. Hooping, who finished second, is a 6 year old by Malibu Moon out of Long N Lanky by Cozzene. He was bred by the Hickory Tree farm. Gumper, a 5 year old Even The Score gelding, was bred by Quest Realty.