The following was written by Tod Marks and appeared at nationalsteeplechase.com.
With a total of 13 events carded at the Virginia Gold Cup Races at Great Meadow and Winterthur Point to Point in Delaware, last weekend’s whirlwind series of racing had more storylines than a long-running television soap opera.
In the $50,000 Virginia Gold Cup timber stakes, Dolly Fisher’s hard-knocking Schoodic returned to his winning ways for trainer Jack Fisher and jockey Hadden Frost. The 11-year-old son of Tiznow hadn’t won a race since the fall of 2019, but on Saturday Schoodic, who just missed in the Willowdale Steeplechase in May, became a three-time stakes winner over the Great Meadow course to go along with earlier victories in the International Gold Cup and David Semmes Memorial. The win raised his career bankroll to more than $450,000 in a 45-race career that began in 2012. In the Gold Cup, Schoodic stalked in second place, took the lead on the final circuit with four fences to go, and drew off by nearly six lengths. Leipers Fork Steeplechasers’ Tomgarrow rallied on the final turn under Gerard Galligan and closed strongly for second. Kiplin Hall’s Renegade River, who beat Schoodic at Willowdale, set the pace until the final turn of the 4-mile contest.
In the co-featured $50,000 David Semmes Memorial hurdle stakes (Grade 3), Hudson River Farms’ Galway Kid, who has competed against the sport’s best, improved his career record to four wins in eight starts. The six-year-old Irish-bred, trained by Keri Brion, suffered two of his losses to Snap Decision, but closed out 2020 with a handicap hurdle win over a strong field at the International Gold Cup Races, also at Great Meadow. In the tightly contested Semmes, Galway Kid, under Bernie Dalton, made his move at the final turn and outdueled Irv Naylor’s Bedrock, who was returning from a long layoff, to prevail by a half length in a driving finish over hard-charging Gibralfaro and Tom Garner.
Speaking of Garner, the Englishman enjoyed a big weekend with four victories and two seconds. At Gold Cup, Garner struck in the first race, a maiden hurdle, with Leipers Fork Steeplechasers Perfect Tapatino. The seven-year-old French-bred son of Perfect Soul was making his NSA debut and defeated Bryce Lingo’s Ritzy A.P. by a length and a quarter. The latter was a graded-stakes-placed winner of more than $320,000 on the flat at tracks including Del Mar, Santa Anita, Keeneland, and Churchill Downs. Garner’s other Gold Cup Day winners came on Buttonwood Farms’ The Mean Queen, making her U.S. debut in an allowance hurdle, and Boudinot Farms’ Makkadangdang, in a maiden claimer. At Winterthur, Garner guided Ballybristol Farm’s Rakhaa to a 20-length maiden timber victory. All three winners were trained by Leslie Young, who was named the leading trainer at Winterthur, based on her starters’ aggregated points.
Three of the NSA’s newest riders also continued their winning ways. Jamie Bargary, Harry Beswick, and Dan Nevin, all of whom recently came over from Europe to compete on the circuit, each picked up a winner. Bargary took the Steeplethon at Great Meadow with Naylor’s Duc de Meran. After a 17-race career in France where he earned more than $100,000, Duc de Meran came to the U.S. for George Mahoney and made his first start in the 2019 Michael G. Walsh Novice Stakes at Saratoga, where he finished sixth to Snap Decision. Returning to the races in early May at Middleburg for Irv Naylor, he finished third in the Glenwood Park Steeplethon to Invocation. On Saturday, the six-year-old turned the tables on his foe, and prevailed by three-quarters of a length in a grueling stretch drive. Cyril Murphy was the winning trainer.
Beswick took the finale at Gold Cup, a handicap for horses rated at 110 or lower, on Kinross Farm’s Junonia for trainer Neil Morris. It was the first trip to the winner’s circle for the seven-year-old City Zip gelding since the fall of 2019, when he won a maiden claiming hurdle.
Nevin earned the honor of being the biggest blowout winner of the weekend, piloting EHB Racing’s Huyana, a six-year-old son of the recently departed Malibu Moon, to his first tally over jumps. Huyana was a 42-length winner in a Winterthur timber maiden for trainer Casey Pinkard Savin. Huyana was also the conditioner’s first sanctioned NSA score.
The appearance of The Mean Queen at Gold Cup was highly anticipated. The mare helped trainer Keri Brion make history this spring as the first U.S.-based conditioner to be victorious in an Irish hurdle race when she won at Wexford Racecourse. Making only her third career start, and first over jumps, the five-year-old daughter of Doyen broke her maiden convincingly by six widening lengths. On Saturday, The Mean Queen romped by eight lengths over a field of five male competitors.
Another of Brion’s Buttonwood charges who ran in Ireland over the winter and spring, Baltimore Bucko, returned in a flat race tuneup at Winterthur, defeating stablemate — and first-time starter — Nice to Meet Ya by two and a half lengths.
Going into next Saturday’s Tryon Block House Races in Tryon, N.C., Tom Garner and Graham Watters are tied for wins among jockeys with eight, while trainer Jack Fisher has six victories to Kathy Neilson’s five.
Full results for both days can be found here: nationalsteeplechase.com/results/
The NSA’s recap show, Jump Racing USA, is available on demand for the remainder of the week on the NSA website.