Gus Dahl went to the winner’s circle Saturday wearing a mudpack and a sunny smile after Irv Naylor’s Ebanour charged relentlessly through Great Meadow Race Course’s stretch to win the $100,000 Virginia Gold Cup for a second straight year.
Last of six in the early going, Ebanour closed past Bruton Street-US’s Lemony Bay to secure the victory by 1 1/2 lengths. Holston Hall’s Hot Rize, the 2013 Virginia Gold Cup winner, ran a strong race to be third, another three-quarters of a length back.
Trained by Cyril Murphy, Ebanour ran the Gold Cup’s four miles in 9:49 flat on a course rated as soft after day-long rain on Friday and showers on race day. Both Ebanour and Dahl picked up a coating of mud as they dashed to victory.
Donald Reuwer’s Grand Manan, the 2016 International Gold Cup winner on the Great Meadow course, took his accustomed position on the lead and set a steady pace under Darren Nagle.
Grandly bred Grand Manan was accompanied in the early going by 2014 Maryland Hunt Cup winner Raven’s Choice, who was jumping well, and Lemony Bay, ridden by Sean McDermott.
Raven’s Choice began to drop back with more than a mile remaining, and Grand Manan surrendered the lead to Lemony Bay before the final fences. Dahl put Ebanour in high gear over the last two fences, and their charge carried them to the lead after the last fence.
Naylor and Murphy were going for a double double with Ebanour and Charminster, winner of last year’s $75,000 David Semmes Memorial (Gr. 2), the afternoon’s featured hurdle race. After the last fence, Charminster looked to be moving toward his second straight victory. But Edith Dixon’s homebred Schoodic uncorked a powerful move in the stretch and drew away late to a two-length victory under Paddy Young.
Trained by Jack Fisher, Schoodic is both strong and strong-willed, and he required two handlers in the spacious Great Meadow paddock. But he settled nicely for the five-time champion jockey after the start and took a forward position as Rosbrian Farm’s Simenon set a solid pace under Ross Geraghty.
Simenon handed the lead to Charminster and Jack Doyle at the last, but Young had Schoodic in high gear over the fence, and they surged to the lead on the inside of the course. Schoodic ran the 2 1/8 miles in 3:47.80.
Simenon ran on to finish third, another three lengths farther back, in an encouraging effort.