By Tod Marks
Weather loomed large for last weekend’s race meets, with prolonged rain and chilly temperatures, especially at the Gold Cup Races, making for challenging conditions. But, as always, the races themselves were the star of the show, with accomplished veterans and newcomers sharing the spotlight. Also finding themselves in the winner’s circle once again were leading trainers Keri Brion and Leslie Young, who ran the table at Gold Cup, combining for all seven race wins.
At Great Meadow Race Course in The Plains, Va., Ballybristol Farm’s Andi’amu was a popular winner of the $100,000 Virginia Gold Cup timber stakes at four miles, one of the richest timber events on the circuit. By any yardstick, it was a remarkable performance by the 12-year-old, trained by Young and ridden by hot jockey Freddie Procter.
Out for 20 months with a tendon injury, the 2019 timber champion (and a previous Gold Cup winner) finished second in his comeback race in the Middleburg Hunt Cup two weeks ago. On Saturday, Andi’amu was back in top form, vying for the lead in the field of seven from the outset, and maintaining a five-length advantage heading to the final fence. He extended the margin to 23 lengths at the wire. Dolly Fisher’s Schoodic was second. It was Andi’amu’s 11th career triumph, and increased his bankroll to over $400,000.
Redicean takes David Semmes Memorial in unusual fashion
Sharon Sheppard’s Redicean has always been a hard-knocking horse, finishing second and third in big Grade 1 races. On Saturday, the British-bred eight year-old, trained by Leslie Young and ridden by Tom Garner, earned his first trip to the winner’s circle since the 2019 Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes at Saratoga, taking the $75,000 G2 Semmes Memorial hurdle stakes by 54 lengths.
But the race wasn’t the runaway it seems. Going into the far turn, it looked like it was going to be a battle to the last, as pacesetter Belfast Banter, the 7-5 second choice in the pari-mutuel wagering, began to weaken and City Dreamer and Graham Watters took charge. At this point, it appeared as if Redicean would have to settle for third, as 6-5 favorite Going Country, ridden by Parker Hendriks, made a big move to challenge City Dreamer. But that’s when things went awry, when the two leaders went off course as a result of what the stewards deemed to be careless riding by Watters. Once the leaders were out of the picture, Redicean inherited the lead, and the rest is history.
Ljay becomes a stakes winner in second career outing
On paper, it was tough to handicap Belle Meade Jockey Club’s Ljay as a serious contender to win the $50,000 Sport of Kings Hurdle Stakes for four year olds.
Making his career debut at Middleburg two weeks ago, the Irish-bred son of Champs Elysees tired and was pulled up. But he obviously got something out of that initial start. Sent off as a 12-1 longshot, Ljay, with Mikey Hamill riding for Keri Brion, settled in mid-pack, rallied entering the far turn, then thwarted a determined rally by South Branch Equine’s Who’s Counting to prevail by a length.
Sa’ad slogs to victory in $50,000 turf stake on the flat
There aren’t many flat stakes at NSA meets, but there was a rich one presented by the Virginia Equine Alliance, Virginia Thoroughbred Association, Virginia Horsemen’s Benevolent & Protective Organization. And the winner was Buttonwood Farm’s Sa’ad, a French-bred four-year-old by Tamayuz, trained by Keri Brion and ridden by Parker Hendriks.
Making his first official start since the G2 Qatar Prix Chaudenay at Longchamp in October, when finishing eighth, Sa’ad saved ground on the inside path, vied for the lead from the beginning, and edged clear by a length in front of a game Fearsome and Barry Foley. Sa’ad recently made his U.S. debut in April at Middleburg with a training flat score.
Though the race was a stake, it does not count in the standings, either as a win or contribute to purse earnings, since it was on the flat and not over jumps.
In other action
Bodes Well continues Steeplethon dominance
Call him the King of the Steeplethon. Silverton Hill’s Bodes Well, with Tom Garner riding for Leslie Young, captured his second straight marathon over mixed obstacles, and has scored in three of the five he’s competed in. Though the Steeplethon had only three starters, what it lacked in numbers it made up in excitement, especially as the trio stormed through Swan Lake, which was filled to the brim thanks to the prolonged rain. Leading from the start, Bodes Well extended his lead from the final turn to the wire, romping by 26 lengths ahead of Straylight Racing’s Worzel Gummidge and Alex Leventhal.
Baltimore Kid breaks maiden at first asking
It looks like Buttonwood Farm has sourced another nice runner from Ireland’s Baltimore Stables. Baltimore Kid, an unraced four-year-old coming into Saturday’s maiden special weights hurdle, was sent off as the 6-5 favorite and ran to form, scoring by three lengths over Michael Smith’s Project Two. Sitting fourth in the six-horse field for the first mile and a half of the 2 1/8-mile contest, Baltimore Kid, with Parker Hendriks riding for trainer Keri Brion, pressed Project Two on the final turn, drew even over the last, and pulled away at the wire. Among the other good ones Buttonwood has acquired from Baltimore Stables are champion The Mean Queen and G1 winner Baltimore Bucko.
Howyabud does fine in U.S. debut
Irv Naylor’s Howyabud, making his first NSA start after three tries in Ireland, sat just off the pace for set by Gill Johnston’s State of Affair, took the lead at the final fence, and roared to victory by 10 lengths in an allowance hurdle non-winners of two.
Like Baltimore Kid, Howyabud is another jumper trainer Keri Brion acquired from Ireland’s Baltimore Stable. In his home country, the five-year-old boasted a win and two seconds in his career, which began in April 2021.