The “Zeke” Ferguson Memorial Steeplechase Stakes was a long time staple at Colonial Downs. It was the biggest annual steeplechase stakes held at the New Kent oval. The race is now part of the International Gold Cup card, which will be held this Saturday, October 22 at Great Meadow in The Plains., VA (north of Warrenton). A total of 10 pari-mutuel races will be contested — 6 steeplechase and 4 flat ones. Hope all Virginia racing fans can come out and enjoy the event with 30,000 of your closest friends! This article below previews the “Zeke” and was written by Don Clippinger.
The Field Stable’s Portrade, a Grade 1 winner at Saratoga Race Course in his most recent start, will meet a high-quality field in Saturday’s $75,000 David L. “Zeke” Ferguson Memorial (Gr. 2), the featured hurdle race of the International Gold Cup.
The Ferguson Memorial, at 2 1/8 miles over National Fences, is one of 10 races on the program at Great Meadow Race Course in The Plains, Va. First post time is noon, and pari-mutuel wagering will be offered on all races.
Trained by Elizabeth Voss, Portrade set all the pace in winning Saratoga’s New York Turf Writers Cup (Gr. 1) on Aug. 25 after a game third in the A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1) three weeks earlier. Ross Geraghty will ride the seven-year-old Irish-bred.
Among Portrade’s opponents is Flying Elvis Stable’s Diplomat, winner of last year’s Ferguson Memorial. Trained by Kate Dalton, Diplomat will be making his first start of the year and will be ridden by Bernie Dalton.
Leading owner Irv Naylor’s Charminster won last spring’s David Semmes Memorial (Gr. 2) at the Virginia Gold Cup on the same course and comes into the Ferguson from a third in Belmont Park’s Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1). Trainer Cyril Murphy named Carol-Ann Sloan to ride.
Leading trainer Jack Fisher will saddle Edith Dixon’s Schoodic and Woodslane Farm’s Sharp Numbers. Schoodic was pulled up in the Lonesome Glory, and Sharp Numbers is making his first start since winning an allowance hurdle on the 2015 Virginia Gold Cup card. Sean McDermott rides Schoodic, and Alice Mills will be aboard Sharp Numbers.
Here is the field for the $75,000 David L. “Zeke” Ferguson Memorial (Gr. 2) in post-position order. The number in parentheses at the end of each profile is the horse’s National Steeplechase Association rating.
Diplomat. 2009 b. g., Kitten’s Joy—Waki Affair, by Miswaki. Owner: Flying Elvis Stable. Trainer: Kate Dalton. Jockey: Bernie Dalton. Breeders: Ken and Sarah Ramsey (Ky.) 2015 record: 8-3-0-0, $128,000. Won International Gold Cup’s David L. “Zeke” Ferguson Memorial (Gr. 3) before sixth in Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup (Gr. 1). Claimed from victory in Saratoga optional allowance hurdle on Sept. 2 and finished seventh in New York Turf Writers Cup (Gr. 1). Began 2015 season with half-length victory in $75,000 Carolina Cup for novices. Bred by champion owners-breeders Ken and Sarah Ramsey and is a full brother to stakes-placed Kitten Love. (137)
Top Striker. 2009 b. g., Van Nistelrooy—Two’s Cozy, by Cozzene. Owner: Mrs. George M. Sensor. Trainer: Arch Kingsley Jr. Jockey: Paddy Young. Breeder: Sycamore Hall Farm (Md.) 2016 NSA record: 5-0-2-2, $39,700. 2015 record: No starts. Lost a tough decision by a nose in Saratoga Ratings Handicap, then was second in another Spa handicap. Finished second in Fair Hill’s Valentine Memorial Ratings Handicap. Finished third in 2016 David Semmes Memorial (Gr. 2) at Virginia Gold Cup after fourth in Middleburg Spring’s Temple Gwathmey Handicap (Gr. 3). Won 2014 Carolina Cup and AFLAC Supreme Hurdle. (127)
Schoodic. 2010 b. g., Tiznow—Aunt Henny, by Hennessy. Owner: Edith R. Dixon. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Jockey: Sean McDermott. Breeder: Edith R. Dixon (Ky.) 2016 record: 6-1-2-0, $60,150. 2015 record: 4-0-2-2, $58,000. 2014 record: 6-2-0-1, $67,500. Won Radnor’s 2016 National Hunt Cup (Gr. 3), then was sixth in Saratoga’s A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1) and fourth in New York Turf Writers Cup (Gr. 1). Eased in Belmont’s Lonesome Glory Handicap. Finished second in 2016 David Semmes Memorial (Gr. 2) and Middleburg Spring Ratings Handicap. (135)
Charminster (Ire). 2006 b. g., Broadway Flyer—Monteleena, by Montelimar. Owner: Irvin S. Naylor. Trainer: Cyril Murphy. Jockey: Carol-Ann Sloan. Breeder: Raymond Cahalane (Ire). 2016 record: 4-1-1-1, $75,000. 2015 record: 5-1-0-1, $63,500. 2014 record: 2-0-1-0, $11,700. Charged to 3 3/4-length win in 2016 David Semmes Memorial (Gr. 2) at Virginia Gold Cup, then was second in Radnor’s National Hunt Cup (Gr. 3). Faded to fifth in New York Turf Writers Cup Handicap (Gr. 1). Finished third in 2016 Lonesome Glory (Gr. 1). (135)
Balance the Budget. 2009 ch. g., Bellamy Road—Every Day Is Good, by El Corredor. Owner: Stonelea Stable. Trainer: Julie Gomena. Jockey: Mark Watts. Breeder: Liberation Farm & Oratis (Ky.). 2016 record: 4-1-1-0, $51,600. 2015 record: 7-1-1-0, $37,250. 2014 record: 7-1-1-2, $27,000. Kicked off 2016 season with victory in $75,000 Carolina Cup, a novice stakes, then was seventh in Saratoga’s A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1) and sixth in Saratoga handicap. Finished second in Shawan Downs Ratings Handicap. Kicked away powerfully to win Aiken Spring’s 2015 Budweiser Imperial Cup (Gr. 3) by 21 lengths. (120).
Portrade (Ire). 2009 b. g., Trade Fair (GB)—Portorosa, by Irish River (Fr). Owner: The Fields Stable. Trainer: Elizabeth Voss. Jockey: Ross Geraghty. Breeder: Keene Bloodstock (Ire). 2016 record: 3-1-0-1, $104,300. 2015 record: 2-0-0-0, $2,500. 2014 NSA record: No starts. Won the 2016 New York Turf Writers (Gr. 1) after setting all the pace. Finished third in Saratoga’s A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1). Opened 2016 with fifth in Fair Hill’s Valentine Memorial Ratings Handicap. In final 2014 starts in Ireland, won Ladbrokes Handicap Hurdle at Listowel and then was second in a handicap hurdle at Tipperary. (129)
Orchestra Leader. 2009 b. g., Van Nistelrooy—Magic of Life, by Seattle Slew. Owner: S. Bruce Smart Jr. Trainer: Jimmy Day. Jockey: Keri Brion. Breeder: Strategy Bloodstock (Ky.) 2016 NSA record: 7-1-2-0, $30,150. 2015 record: 8-1-5-1, $52,000. 2014 record: 6-1-0-2, $12,500. Won 2016 Foxfield Fall’s featured optional allowance hurdle. Finished second in 2016 Aiken Spring’s Budweiser Imperial Cup optional allowance hurdle and Daniel Van Clief Memorial before being pulled up in High Hope’s optional allowance hurdle. Finished fourth in Monmouth Park Ratings Handicap and fourth in Saratoga handicap. (117)
All the Way Jose. 2010 b. g., Senor Swinger—Maternity Leave, by Northern Baby. Owner: Rodman W. Moorhead III. Trainer: Jonathan Sheppard. Jockey: Willie McCarthy. Breeder: Jonathan Sheppard (Pa.) 2016 NSA record: 2-0-0-0, $5,250. 2015 record: 3-0-0-0, $3,750. 2014 record: 6-3-3-0, $149,700. Finished fifth in David Semmes Memorial (Gr. 2) at 2016 Virginia Gold Cup, then fourth in Fair Hill’s Valentine Memorial Ratings Handicap. Clinched 2014 novice championship with Foxbrook Champion Hurdle victory. (134)
Sharp Numbers. 2008 dk. b. or br. g., Johar—Flight Numbers, by Polish Numbers. Owner: Woodslane Farm. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Jockey: Alice Mills. Breeder: Richard C. Granville (Md.) 2016 record: No starts. 2015 record: 2-1-0-1, $29,500. Making first start since victory in an allowance hurdle at the 2015 Virginia Gold Cup. In only other 2015 start, finished third in a Middleburg Spring optional allowance hurdle.