Author Archives: Aiden Turnge-Barney

‘Beautiful Virginia-Bred’: Gigante Rolls to Main Track Victory in Commonwealth Turf

The Virginia Thoroughbred Association’s (VTA) 2022 Virginia-Bred Two-Year-Colt Champion Gigante is back with another stakes win. Gigante was bred by Ann Backer in the Plains, VA. The colt started his racing career at Colonial Downs, breaking his maiden in the second start of his two-year old season. His stakes-winning ways began his next time out winning the Black Type Kitten Joy Stakes in September of 2022.

He began his 3-year-old season with another Black-type stakes victory in the Caesars Handicap at Horseshoe Indianapolis and did not slow down coming into Colonial for the 2023 season. He was able to cross the wire first in the Grade 2 Secretariat Stakes during Colonial’s “Festival of Racing.” Besting some of the best three-year-old horses in the world, we look forward to Gigante returning home to Virginia to continue his winning streak during his 4-year-old campaign.

Originally posted on on 11/26/2023, as an edited press release.

Virginia-bred Gigante angled out at the top of the stretch, collared Smokey Mandate inside the three-sixteenths pole, and kicked away late to win the off-the-turf $257,500 Commonwealth Turf on Sunday at Churchill Downs, closing day of the 134th Fall Meet.

Not This Time colt Gigante, under Luan Machado, rolls to a comfortable win on Churchill Downs’ main track in the Commonwealth Turf (Photo by Jetta Vaughns/ Coady Photography).

The Not This Time colt won by 4½ lengths over 3-5 favorite Northern Invader, earning his fifth win from 12 career starts.

Gigante, who broke his maiden at Colonial Downs as a 2-year-old in his only other race on dirt, ran 1 1/16 miles over the fast main track in 1:44.46 to collect his fourth stakes win. Luan Machado rode the winner for the meet’s leading trainer, Steve Asmussen.

Originally carded as a Grade 3 race, the race was shifted to the main track when track officials on Friday canceled turf racing for the remainder of the meet. The race’s status will be reviewed by the American Graded Stakes Committee.

Sent off at odds of 10-1, Gigante had to check off heels as the field of eight 3-year-olds raced into the first turn, but he settled nicely in fourth just behind J. P. Race, Wild Sean, and Smokey Mandate who raced three-wide through early fractions of :23.86, :47.56, and 1:12.12. When J. P. Race began to retreat leaving the final turn, Gigante spurted three-wide into contention and proved best down the lane.

Virginia-bred Gigante (#2) in his win of the G2 Secretariat Stakes (Coady Photography).

“He’s a very nice horse and Steve Asmussen and his team did a great job getting him prepared for this race,” Machado said. “I sat a beautiful trip behind the pace and he came with his closing kick down the lane. Every time I asked him, he dug in.”

Previously, Gigante won the Kitten’s Joy at Colonial Downs at age 2 and prevailed in this year’s Caesars Handicap at Horseshoe Indianapolis in May at odds of 33-1 and Secretariat (G2) at Colonial Downs in August at 22-1 odds.

“He’s a beautiful Virginia-bred and it was great to see him dominate versus open company today,” Asmussen said. “I thought Luan gave him a great ride today. We’re very fortunate to be in the position we’re in with horses like him.”

Gigante returned $22.06 as the fourth betting choice. Northern Invader got up by a head for second, and Smokey Mandate was third in the eight-horse field.

Winters Lion, Lincoln Highway, Wild Sean, Worthington, and J. P. Race completed the order of finish. Anglophile, Runaway Storm, Ohana Honor, Irish Aces, Bal a Kazoo, Santorini, and Clyde’s Get a Gun were scratched.

Gigante netted $150,350 for owners Iapetus Racing and Diamond T Racing and boasts career earnings of $915,475.

Gigante is out of the Empire Maker mare Summertime Green and was bred by Ann Mudge Backer and Smitten Farm. Taylor Made Sales Agency sent bay colt through the auction ring at the 2021 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, where he was bought by Andrew Dean for $120,000.

Longtime Breeder and Member of the VTA, Bobby Gene “Bob” Sowder Passes Away

Originally posted on on 10/28/23.

B.G. “Bob” Sowder of Catlett, VA, passed away on October 14, 2023.

One of eleven children, he was born December 4, 1937, in Weirwood, WV, to William Ernest and Goldie Pearl (Settle) Sowder. He is survived by his wife, Janet, of 62 years, son, Andrew Sowder, daughter-in-law, Dean Foster, and grandchildren, Anna Charlize, Lucas James, and Laurel Legare Sowder, all of Mount Pleasant, SC. Bob is also survived by his sister, Rosann Culley, brothers, James and Charles, and numerous nieces and nephews.

He was predeceased by his son, Mark Sowder, and by his parents, sisters, Lorraine, Evelyn, Betty, Bonnie Sue, and Geneva, and brothers, Harold and Sherman.

Bob Sowder left his childhood home among the coal fields of West Virginia before completing high school to find work and opportunity in the Northeast. He later settled in the Washington, D.C., region where he would meet his lifelong companion, Janet, and go to work for Eastern Airlines on the ramp and later as a ground agent at National and Dulles International Airports.

Working evenings, he received his high school equivalency diploma (GED) and changed his vocation to real estate, which would become his passion for the rest of his life. Rising quickly from real estate agent to broker, Bob would go on to establish many real estate firms and land development companies throughout his five-decade career. In 1997, Bob Sowder was named the Fauquier Chamber of Commerce Business Person of the Year.

Bob enjoyed raising and racing thoroughbred horses. While he celebrated the “wins, places, and shows” of his horses over the years, he was particularly proud watching his filly win the 2012 Maryland Million Ladies Race at Laurel Park, MD.

Education was always important to Bob given his own limited options growing up in rural West Virginia. And when the opportunity arose, he did not hesitate to offer “The Barn” and 2.5 acres of land on his Corral Farm property just south of Warrenton on Route 29 – along with renovation funds – to start the Fauquier campus of the Laurel Ridge Community College (formerly Lord Fairfax Community College). His service to the Virginia community college community continued with additional donations, an endowed scholarship for students, and an emergency student fund. Bob has been affectionately recognized as the “grandfather” of the Fauquier campus, and the library bears his name and a plaque dedicated to the memory of his mother, Goldie Pearl.

The family wishes to express their deep gratitude to all his friends and caregivers during his extended illness. Special appreciation goes out to the personnel of Manassas Home Instead, to the nurses and staff of Warrenton Heartland Hospice, and to the staff of the Blue Ridge Christian Home in Bealeton, VA, for their compassionate care.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that contributions be made in Bob’s memory to the Laurel Ridge Community College “Building the Future Fund” for career and technical education, including the skilled trades. Checks payable to the Laurel Ridge Foundation can be sent to 173 Skirmisher Lane, Middletown, VA 22645. Online donations can be made at

A Celebration of Life is planned for early Spring 2024.

Online condolences may be expressed at

Da Hoss Stakes Winner, Nobals Rallies Up Rail to Land Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint

Colonial Down’s alumni Nobals was back in style over the weekend at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California. Winning the Breeder’s Cup Turf Sprint in his first start back after taking the $150,000 Black type Da Hoss stakes over the summer in New Kent, VA.

Originally Posted on on 11/4,

Patricia’s Hope LLC’s Nobals parlayed a ground-saving trip into a diminishing neck victory over Big Invasion in the 16th running of the $1-million Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) on Saturday afternoon at Santa Anita.

Trained by Larry Rivelli and ridden by Gerardo Corrales, Nobals covered the five furlongs over a firm turf course in :55.15. It is the first Breeders’ Cup victory for Rivelli and Corrales.

Nobals in his win of the 2023 Da Hoss Stakes (Photo by Coady Photography)

European raider Live In The Dream (IRE) shot to the front and opened a daylight advantage through an opening quarter-mile in :21.15 while Corrales had Nobals racing on the inside.

Live In The Dream took his advantage into the stretch, where he shook off a challenge from defending champion Caravel and Arzak but left room to his inside where Nobals slipped through at mid-stretch to take command.

Nobals opened enough of a cushion to hold off Big Invasion, who had followed him along the inside into the stretch and a fast-closing Aesop’s Fables (IRE), who was another half-length back in third with Live In The Dream and Motorious completing the top five. Caravel finished 10th.

Nobals is a 4-year-old Noble Mission (GB) gelding. Bred in Kentucky by Dr. John A. Chandler, he is out of the Empire Maker mare Pearly Blue.

Nobals in his win of the 2023 Breeders Cup Turf Sprint (Photo by Horsephotos)

The victory was worth $520,000 and increased Nobals’ lifetime earnings to $1,453,274 with a record of 18-10-3-0.

Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint Quotes:

Winning trainer Larry Rivelli, Nobals – “Absolutely not (how I drew it up). Stuff happens in these types of races and I think the jock made the difference today. He rode the horse perfect and stayed inside and the gap came and he was gone. This is it. I’m a third-generation trainer and we’ve been doing this forever. I’m happy for the connections — Vince Foglia, my buddy — and all my owners and friends and staff and family… it’s nice.”

Winning jockey Geraldo Corrales, Nobals – “We had a real nice trip. I had a lot of horse and when the rail opened up, my horse was ready to go. He was the best horse today.”

Wolfie’s Dynaghost Makes All For Autumn Triumph, First Graded Score

Virginia Certified Wolfie’s Dynaghost wins first graded stakes race at Woodbine. The five-year-old gelding was certified at Rene & Lauren Woolcott’s Woodslane Farm in Middleburg, VA. Wolfie’s Dynaghost is a Colonial Downs alumni, having won the 2022 Bert Allen Stakes in New Kent, VA.

Originally posted on on 11/5, Written by Chis Lomon/ Woodbine Communications.

Wolfie’s Dynaghost, a 5-year-old son of Ghostzapper, put on a front-running tour de force to win Sunday’s $175,000 Autumn Stakes (G2) at Woodbine.

Trained by Jonathan Thomas for owner-breeder Woodslane Farm, the gelding arrived at the 1 1/16-mile main track race for 3-year-olds and up off a third in the Durham Cup (G3) at the Toronto oval on October 7.

Wolfie’s Dynasty (Photo by Chelsea Durand)

Supplemented to the Autumn, multiple graded stakes placed Wolfie’s Dynaghost earned his first graded triumph courtesy of a flawless performance on a cloudy gray afternoon at Woodbine.

Sent on his way at 7-2 in the compact field of six, the bay, with leading rider Kazushi Kimura aboard, was engaged by multiple graded stakes victor War Bomber (IRE) and Win for the Money in the run to the first turn.

Wolfie’s Dynaghost was a half-length clear of War Bomber through an opening panel timed in :24.71, followed by Win for the Money, 3-5 choice Tyson, Artie’s Storm, and Luckman.

In front by a length through a half in :48.44, Wolfie’s Dynaghost, making his third appearance at Woodbine, remained unfettered on the front end in the leadup to the final turn, with little change in positioning throughout the field. Coming off the turn for home, Wolfie’s Dynaghost, still running comfortably on the lead, began to pull away from his pursuers and held a 2½-length advantage at the stretch call.

Wolfie’s Dynaghost in his win of the $175,00 Autumn Stakes (Photo by Michael Burns/ Woodbine)

From there, the only thing left to decide was second place, as Win for the Money and 40-1 Luckman dueled for the runner-up spot, with the former three-quarters of a length clear of his rival at the wire.

The final time for Wolfie’s Dynaghost’s 4½-length victory was 1:42.52.

“I felt like he had a nice, high cruising pace, and I just kept him steady and just kept it going from the beginning,” said Kimura. “He was really relaxed on the backstretch and just took off from the three-eighths. It was a magnificent race.”

It was the ninth lifetime win, accompanied by a pair of seconds and five thirds from 24 starts for the Kentucky-bred, whose travels have taken him to Florida, New York, Kentucky, Virginia, and Pennsylvania.

Wolfie’s Dynaghost, whose dam is the Dynaformer mare Dynaire, returned $9.70 for the win.

Petes For Real Finishes 3-for-3 In Virginia Breeders Championship Series at Shenandoah Downs; Scores In $85,250 Finale 

(WOODSTOCK, VA — 10/30/2023) — Pam Wagner’s Petes For Real completed a sweep of his Virginia Breeder’s divisional championship series with a big win in Sunday’s $85,025 2-Year-Old Colt & Gelding Pace, one of eight title races for freshman and sophomore pacers and trotters of both sexes that were on the card. Those eight carried total purse money of $702,000 and combined with a four pack of $20,000 Aged Breeder’s races and a pair of $10,000 Opens, a total of $802,200 was distributed Sunday making it the richest card in Virginia harness racing history. 

Petes For Real in the Winners Circle with his connections (Photo by Quentin Egan)

The 2-year-old Rusty’s For Real colt won both his $8,000 preps on back-to-back weeks in 1:59 1/5 and 1:59 4/5, then powered home to a 1:56 4/5 finishing time in the finale. Driver Fern Paquet Jr. was in the sulky in all three legs for trainer John Wagner, who had three wins total on Championship Day. Petes For Real sat second in the final behind Tracy Bradshaw’s Bgoing Away until mid-stretch then surged past late to win by a comfortable 2-3/4 length cushion. Bgoing Away finished second while Pam Wagner & Scott Woogen’s K J Real Deal was third. 

Petes for Real, Driven by Fern Paquet Jr. (Photo by Quentin Egan)

Anne McDonald’s Sweet Pirategirl captured the $90,100 freshman female counterpart going wire-to-wire with trainer Mark Gray aboard in 1:59/1. The Sweet Lou filly, who finished second in her lone prep, crossed two lengths better than Pam Wagner’s Covid For Real in gaining her first lifetime win. Caviart Farms’ Caviart Sanibel was third. 

2-year-old Filly Pace Champion Sweet Pirategirl (Photo by Quentin Egan)

Jane Dunavant’s Rip Away kicked off the afternoon festivities by connecting in the $92,400 2-Year-Old Filly Trot with her Dusty Winner homebred filly. The Carlo Poliseno trainee broke at the start of her second prep a week ago and came up a nose shy at the wire but that wasn’t the case Sunday. After breaking before the quarter pole in the final, she rebounded quickly and regained the lead after previous leader Divoc broke stride near the half. Rip Away went on to win by three lengths in 2:02 3/5 with Cody Poliseno in the bike. Nanticoke Racing Inc. and Delbert Cain’s Platinum Proposal finished second and Arthur Hauser’s Ida Muscles was third.      

2-year-old Filly Trot Champion Rip Away (Photo by Quentin Egan)

Pam Wagner and Scott Woogen’s K J Dash continued a stellar young racing career with a close win over Debbie Warnick’s Royal Beep Beep in the $87,875 2-Year-Old Colt/Gelding Trot. Interestingly, the Lockkeeper gelding did not win either of his prep races after breaking stride in both. On Sunday with Corey Braden in the sulky, K J Dash stayed flat throughout but trotted sixth at the half — nearly ten lengths behind Royal Beep Beep — then came outside to begin making up distance but was still fourth at the third marker trailing by 5-3/4 lengths. In the final straightaway, Braden had his trotter positioned second and he pushed forward to nip Royal Beep Beep by less than a length in 1:59 4/5. Pam Wagner’s Gerald A Keeper took third. The winner’s bankroll now stands at $157,809 from seven wins in ten career starts. 

K J Dash in the winner’s circle with driver Corey Braden (Photo by Quentin Egan)

Driver Victor Kirby Collects Career Victory Number 5,000 in Final Breeder’s Race

In three-year-old finals action, driver Victor Kirby collected career win number 5,000 when he piloted Pam Wagner’s K J Todd to victory in the $85,600 Colt/Gelding Trot. Sent off at 10-1, the Trixton gelding had to make up a deficit of 18-1/2 lengths in the second half of the race but after passing Tyler Shehan’s Cantab Speed and Scott Woogen’s KJ Devil in deep stretch, prevailed by 1-1/4 lengths in 1:59 3/5. The other pair finished second and third respectively. The win was trainer John Wagner’s third in Breeder’s action for the afternoon. Kirby initially came to Woodstock Sunday with plans to make one drive — in the second race aboard his trainee Ronnie Ridge. He ended up taking over five of John Wagner’s drives as well including the finale’s board K J Todd. Wagner was involved in a spill the day prior and even though he was at the track Sunday, was unable to drive.    

Driver Victor Kirby in the winner’s circle for the 5,000th time (Photo by Quentin Egan)

In the $84,000 filly counterpart, Caviart Gwen took over the lead from Graham Grace Stables’ Quarantine Crisis at the quarter and never looked back, winning by 5-1/2 lengths in 1:59 2/5. Trainer Philip Scott Sonsteby earned his first win in the U.S. with Caviart Gwen in her September 30 prep where she dominated by ten lengths. Sent off again Sunday at odds of 1-9, she did not disappoint in boosting her impressive lifetime bankroll to $258,497. Jane Dunavant and Thomas Davis’s Starlight Lounge was second and Quarantine Crisis finished third.

Caviart Gwen in her win of the $84,000 Filly Championship (Photo by Quentin Egan)

Charles Myers’ Hillbillypacinhill saved the best of his three Woodstock appearances for last by outdueling an eight horse field of 3-year-old colt and gelding pacers in the $89,800 divisional final. The Racing Hill gelding went coast-to-coast in 1:53 3/5, just two-fifths of a second off his lifetime best. Reinsman Lucas Myers authored quarter fractions of :27.0, :56 3/5 and 1:24 4/5 before sailing across the wire three lengths ahead of Jimmy Viars’s Miraclepowerfull — last year’s 2-year-old champ in this division. Myers’ consistent pacer has finished first, second or third in 11 straight races and in 16 of his last 17. Lawrence & Derrick Cooper’s Caviart Stoney finished third.

Hillbillypacinhill in the Winner’s Circle with his connections (Photo by Quentin Egan)

Hickory View Farm’s Caviart Leeloo led initially in the $87,400 3-Year-Old Filly Pace, surrendered the top spot to Pam Wagner’s Lloyd’s Loves in the second turn and didn’t regain the lead until just before the finish. The Downbytheseaside filly caught Lloyd’s Loves just in time and ended up three-quarters of a length the best in a lifetime mark of 1:55 2/5. David Ward drove for trainer Tom Blankenship. Pam Wagner’s Morgans All In finished third.

Caviart Leeloo in her win of the $87,400 3-year-old Filly Pace (Photo by Quentin Egan)

Champions Day marked the end of Shenandoah Downs’ fall season. Combined with its first ever spring meet earlier this year, the Woodstock oval offered 28 pari-mutuel race dates over a 14-week period evenly split between spring and fall. A 7-week spring campaign is planned for 2024 pending Virginia Racing Commission approval. The meet would run from April 6 – May 19 with racing every Saturday and Sunday afternoon. Racing applications will be available at beginning February 1.       


Snap Decision, Schoodic star in monumental day for Fisher and Watters

Origionally posted on on 10/31/2023, written by Tod Marks

On a day that felt more like August at Colonial Downs in nearby New Kent, Va., rather than The Plains in late October, Bruton Street-US’ Snap Decision captured the G2 $75,000 David L. “Zeke” Ferguson hurdle stakes while Dolly Fisher’s Schoodic scored in the $75,000 International Gold Cup timber stakes.

The day was nothing short of a tour de force for Hall Of Fame trainer Jack Fisher and jockey Graham Watters, who not only combined for victory in the two stakes, but captured two other races on the eight-race card. Watters additionally finished second three times and third once, propelling him to a tie in the NSA standings for leading rider with Harry Beswick, who had one winner on Saturday. Both are knotted at 16 victories.

The scene at the International Gold Cup

Snap, crackle, and plenty of pop

Flashing the form that made him an electrifying force in the steeplechase world starting in 2019, the nine-year-old Phipps-bred dueled Upland Flats Racing and John Lewis’ West Newton throughout the 2 1/8 Ferguson. The two raced as a pair for most of the going, separated from the rest of the field. Snap Decision finally putting away his gutsy challenger after the final fence. The margin of victory for Snap Decision, who carried 20 pounds more than West Newton under the race’s handicap conditions, was 3 lengths. Riverdee Stables and Ten Strike Racing’s Awakened, a Grade 1 winner at Saratoga last summer, was third. Snap Decision’s victory came a week after he was pulled up in the Grand National at Far Hills over a soft course that wasn’t to his liking.

The victory — his 15th — was also a milestone in Snap Decision’s magnificent 42-race career, which began on the flat under the tutelage of Hall of Fame conditioner Shug McGaughey in 2016. It put the grand gelding over the $1 million-mark in total earnings.

Watters’ other triumphs came aboard Bruton Street’s Neotropic, also trained by Fisher, and Maranto Manor’s Auction Kingdom, for trainer Neil Morris. Fisher’s other score came with Northwoods Stable’s Look North.

Snap Decision in the winner’s circle at the International Gold Cup (Photo by Tod Marks)

Ageless Schoodic adds to his incredible resume

At age 13, Schoodic has racked up a list of career accomplishments that would be the envy of just about any race horse.

After three innocuous starts on the flat as a 2-year-old in 2012, and a couple more in his 3-year-old season, the son of Tiznow switched to jumps and became a phenom from his first outing, in the prestigious Gladstone stakes at Far Hills.

Since then he has made 46 trips to the post, winning 14 more times, and finishing second or third in 17 others. His victory in the $75,000 International Gold Cup at 3 1/2 miles on Saturday was his 10th stakes score over both timber and hurdles. His earnings to date: $571,606.

Only four went postward in the Gold Cup: The Hundred Acre Field’s Cracker Factory, a stakes winner himself; Boudinot Farms’ Elusive Exclusive, who was caught near the wire by Cracker Factory in the Brown Advisory timber stakes at Shawan; and Irv Naylor’s Stooshie, a maiden and allowance winner looking for his first stakes score.

Elusive Exclusive took the lead under Freddie Procter and held it under a leisurely pace for three miles, until Schoodic, the odds-on favorite, took command on the final turn and extended his advantage to 6 1/4 lengths as Watters celebrated nearing the wire.

Cracker Factory put in a late charge under Jamie Bargary to be clearly second best, nine lengths ahead of Elusive Exclusive.

Bred and originally owned by Edie Dixon, and trained by Michael Matz on the flat, Jack Fisher took over conditioning duties at the start of his NSA career. When Schoodic ended his long hurdle career and switched to timber, Dolly Fisher became the owner.

Schoodic, ridden by Graham Watters (Photo by Tod Marks)

Imperial Assassin is top gun in $30,000 maiden opener

Armata Stable’s Imperial Assassin, who began his career this year and had three thirds in his first four starts, found the winner’s circle in the first division of the Virginia Equine Alliance maiden special weights hurdle.

Settling in mid-pack in the field of seven for most of the 2 1/8 miles, the five-year-old Irish-bred, ridden by Parker Hendriks and trained by Kathy Neilson, took aim at the leader, Teresa Haupt and Carl Doran’s Boffo Kid (with Bernie Dalton) on the final turn, and led a charge over the final fence in a thrilling race to the wire.

Bruton Street-US’ Quick Master (Graham Watters), a four-year-old son of Hard Spun making his second start over jumps, also launched his bid on the final turn, dueling Imperial Assassin and R. Larry Johnson’s Mr Jefferson over the last hurdle and hanging in gamely to the finish. The margin of victory was three-quarters of a length. Alexander Fulton’s Reassured (Jamie Bargary), who was shuffled back on the far turn, reasserted himself to finish third, four lengths behind Quick Master.

Imperial Assassin, with the winning connections in the winner’s circle (photo by Tod Marks)

Look North looks great in $30,000 maiden score

The second division of the Virginia Equine Alliance maiden special weights hurdle was almost a carbon copy of the first.

Northwood Stable’s Look North began his career in the spring and had made four starts coming into Saturday’s International Gold Cup Races. And just like Imperial Assassin in the opener, Look North was an impressive first-time winner.

With Jamie Bargary riding for Jack Fisher, the four-year-old Maryland-bred son of Lookin At Lucky led from the start, was never headed, and drew off through the stretch to score by 5 lengths over Hard Game’s High Deff (Gerard Galligan). Kincraig Stables’ In Effect, making his second NSA start, was third.

Look North, jumping a gate in his win in the 2nd division of the Virginia Equine Alliance maiden special weights hurdle (Photo by Tod Marks)

Seven years later, veteran Mercoeur repeats in $30,000 Steeplethon Stakes

Making his seventh start at Great Meadow since 2016, Ballybristol Farm’s Mercoeur captured his second Steeplethon, blowing by pacesetter Salamanca School coming out of Swan Lake and never looking back.

The Steeplethon is a unique race in which competitors navigate mixed obstacles — including hurdles, natural brush fences, and water. Contested at 3 miles, Fat Chance Farm’s Salamanca School and Freddie Procter seized the lead at the start and held it for the first mile and a half or so, with the 12-year-old gray French-bred his constant shadow. As the field of six headed to the water, Salamanca School continued to show the way with Mercouer and Harry Beswick to his outside, and Sheila Fisher and Northwoods Stable’s Storm Team sitting in third.

Mercoeur maintained his advantage and was never seriously threatened. Storm Team, who made a strong bid two fences out, overtook Salamanca School on the final turn, but was outkicked in the stretch.

The victory was the seventh in Mercoeur’s long career, which began in Europe in 2014. He’s finished in the money 33 times in his 48-race career. He also boasts a stakes win over hurdles, taking the Noel Laing at Montpelier in 2017. He captured the Steeplethon at Great Meadow in 2016.

Mercouer ridden by Harrison Beswick (Photo by Tod Marks)

Neotropic flashes winning form, romps in allowance

Snap Decision wasn’t the only star of the day for Bruton Street-US. Neotropic, who garnered attention since his NSA debut a year ago, found the winner’s circle for the first time since breaking his maiden at Charleston last November, with a powerful 6 3/4-length score in a $35,000 non-winners of two allowance hurdle.

With Graham Watters riding for Jack Fisher, the five-year-old son of Tapit snatched the lead after the second fence, had a clear lead after the final hurdle, and extended his advantage through the stretch. Gill Johnston’s Pure Courage, with Elizabeth Scully, put in a spirited rally in the stretch to finish second. Greg Hawkins’ Kiyomori, stepping up after a maiden victory at Virginia Fall two weeks ago, gained steadily for third.

Following Neotropic’s win at Charleston, he was a close second to highly regarded The Hero Next Door in allowance company at the Middleburg Spring Races last May, in which he finished ahead of subsequent Grade 1 winner Awakened. In his next start, he was uncharacteristically dull when finishing off the board at Shawan Downs in September.

Neotropic, jumping a gate in his win of the $35,000 non-winners of two allowance hurdle (Photo by Tod Marks)

He’ll Do does it again

Sanna Neilson and John Huganir’s He’ll Do won for the third time in his last four outings, getting up in the final strides to edge Gill Johnston’s Ping Pong Champ by a length in a $30,000 115 ratings handicap.

With Parker Hendriks in the saddle, the seven-year-old Florida-bred, who is also trained by the jockey, passed the $100,000 career earnings mark.

Content to sit fourth in the field of five for the first mile and a half, Hendriks roused his mount heading toward the last fence. Going over the last, He’ll Do was still in second to favored Ping Pong Champ (Graham Watters), as the duo dug in for the stretch run. But He’ll Do had the momentum to win going away. Bruton Street-US’ South Mountain was far back in third.

After capturing a 110 handicap at Foxfield last fall, He’ll Do scored in a 115 handicap a few weeks later at Montpelier. He was uncharacteristically dull in a 120 handicap at Foxfield earlier this month, a race in which he never got untracked.

He’ll Do, in the winner’s circle, ridden by Parker Hendricks (Photo by Tod Marks)

Auction Kingdom takes $20,000 maiden claiming finale, ends Watters’ day with an exclamation mark

Making his fourth start over jumps, and his first outside of the maiden special weights ranks, Maranto Manor’s Auction Kingdom completed Graham Watters’ riding grand slam.

Advancing steadily from ninth to first, Auction Kingdom, benefitted from a less-than-perfect jump at the final fence by Louisa Stevenson and Achsah O’Donovan’s pacesetter Greylover and jockey Jamie Bargary. Though the pair locked horns through the stretch, Auction Kingdom outfinished his foe by three-quarters of a length. Sawbuck Racing’s Bellamine Hall was third.

The four-year-old son of Animal Kingdom, trained by Neil Morris, began his second career over the summer at Colonial Downs, following a 16-race campaign on the flat, mostly at Laurel. He has two seconds in his brief NSA tenure to go along with his victory on Saturday.

Auction Kingdom, in the winner’s circle, ridden by Graham Watters (Photo by Tod Marks)


NEW KENT, Va. (10/31/2023) – Eleven horses who raced at Colonial Downs, led by Fev Rover and Gina Romantica, the 1-2 finishers G1 Beverly D. on August 12, are among the 167 runners entered for the Breeders’ Cup World Championships to be run at Santa Anita Park on Friday, November 3 and Saturday, November 4.

Fev Rover prevailed in the Beverly D with jockey Javier Castellano in the irons (Coady Photography).

The Mark Casse-trained Fev Rover a 3½-length victress in the Beverly D. has been installed at odds of 8-1 in the G1 $2,000,000 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf while Gina Romantica, from the barn of Chad Brown, runs in the G1 $2,000,000 Breeders’ Cup Mile with a morning line of 12-1. The Argentina-bred Didia, winner of the 2022 Old Nelson Stakes also goes in the Filly & Mare Turf for trainer Ignacio Correas IV. Both the Filly & Mare Turf and Mile are part of Saturday’s program which gets underway at 1:10 p.m. with the first Breeders’ Cup race slated for 2:30 p.m.

Gina Romantica in her win of the 2022 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Stakes at Keeneland (Coady Photography)

Also on Saturday, Brown has Adhamo slated to go in the G1 $4,000,000 Breeders’ Cup Turf. The Irish-bred finished third in G1 Arlington Million which was raced in Virginia for the first time on August 12.

Adhamo #1 with Flavien Prat riding won the $600,000 Grade I United Nations Stakes at Monmouth Park Racetrack in Oceanport, NJ on Saturday July 23, 2022. (Photo By Bill Denver/EQUI-PHOTO)

Da Hoss Stakes winner Nobals, trained by Larry Rivelli, carries the Colonial flag into the G1 $1,000,000 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, the eighth of the nine Championship races on Saturday. Calumet Farm’s Gear Jockey, who finished sixth in the Van Clief Stakes also runs in the Turf Sprint.

Nobals, with Gerardo Corrales up, wins the Twin Spires Turf Sprint at Churchill Downs (Photo by Skip Dickstein)

Friday spotlights the “Future Stars” of racing with a strong contingent of Colonial Downs runners starting at 2:30 p.m. The first Breeders’ Cup race is scheduled for 5:00 p.m. and kicks off the five Championship races for the best two-year olds in the world.  

The 2023 Rosie’s Stakes winner, No Nay Mets, trained by George Weaver, returns to action in the G1 $1,000,000 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint. Trainer Kelsey Danner has Shards, who broke her maiden here on September 7, entered as well. In 2019, the inaugural Rosie’s winner, Four Wheel Drive, went on to capture the Juvenile Turf Sprint also at Santa Anita.

No Way Mets, trained by George Weaver in a race at Gulfstream Park (Photo by Lauren King/ Gulfstream Park)

Additionally on Friday, Kitten’s Joy Stakes winner, the Graham Motion-trained Tok Tok, and a pair of maiden winners for trainer Arnaud Delacour in Air Recruit and Fulmineo, are among the 14 runners in the G1 $1,000,000 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.

Tok Tok, ridden by Jorge Ruiz in his win of the Kitten’s Joy Stakes at Colonial Downs (Photo by Coady Photography)

Wagering for both days of Breeders’ Cup action begins Friday and will be offered throughout Virginia at Colonial Downs in New Kent, all Rosie’s Gaming locations – Richmond, Hampton, Vinton, Collinsville, Dumfries and our newest location in Emporia – and VA-Horseplay locations at Breakers Sports Grill in Henrico and Buckets Bar & Grill in Chesapeake. If you can’t make it to one of our off-site wagering locations, betting is available online at For more information visit

About Colonial Downs
Colonial Downs Racetrack, in New Kent, Virginia, hosts live thoroughbred racing on two nationally renowned surfaces – the Secretariat Turf Course, the widest turf course in North America at 180 feet wide and on a 1 1/4-mile dirt track, second in length to only the world-famous Belmont Park. The Colonial Downs Group, which is owned by Churchill Downs Incorporated (NASDAQ Global Select Market: CHDN), also operates Rosie’s Gaming Emporiums ® in Richmond, Hampton, New Kent, Vinton, Emporia and Dumfries which offer innovative historic horseracing (HHR) gaming technology and full card simulcasting as well as Rosie’s Game Room in Collinsville, which features a limited selection of some of their best HHR titles plus full card simulcasting.


70 Years of Equine Excellence; The Powhatan Plantation in King George, VA

The Powhatan Plantation in King George, Virginia is not unique in the fact that they have horses enrolled in the Virginia Certified program, it is unique because it is one of the only farms in the Commonwealth that is involved in raising both standardbred and thoroughbred race horses. 

The historic barn at the Powhatan Plantation

The facility was initially constructed in 1829 by Edward Thorton Tayloe and was a major agricultural centre trading with English ships coming in on the Rappahannock River. The current operation was started by present owner Achille Guest’s father Raymond Guest, after he purchased the facility in 1952. 

Raymond bred and raised thoroughbreds, some of which were well renowned race horses, not just here in the States, but overseas in Ireland, France, and England as well. Raymond was the United States Ambassador to Ireland from 1965 – 1968, He was always passionate about horses. He played polo,  hunted, and rode; he was a true horseman. He is one of only three owners to win both the Epsom Derby and the Grand National. Some of his most iconic horses included Sir Ivor, the winner of the 1968, 2000 Guineas Derby in New Market, and Larkspur, winner of the 1962 Epsom Derby. 

Photo of Raymond Guest holding Sir Ivor at Claiborne Farm in 1981

He was voted in as President of the Viriginia Thoroughbred Association in 1958. His most accomplished horse in the States was Tom Rolfe, the winner of the 1965 Preakness Stakes whose accomplishments led him to win American Champion 3-year-old Male Horse honors. Guest also dabbled in steeplechasers, the most impressive of which was I’Escargot a U.S. Racing Hall of Fame member who was awarded 1969 U.S. Steeplechase Horse of the Year. After receiving the award, he shipped across the Atlantic to England where he won the Cheltenham Gold Cup in back-to-back years (1970-1971). There is a history of greatness at the Powhatan Plantation. 

Dozens of polo horses call Powhatan home in the offseason

The farm started with Polo horses, Raymond played Polo and began keeping the horses on the property in the off-season. Typically, the horses played a summer season in New York and then returned to Virginia to rest for the off-season before returning to Florida for the Winter. To this day they continue to house polo horses in the off-season.

Raymond Guess was the United States ambassador to Ireland from 1965- 1968

When the Virginia Certified program started, Raymond’s son Achille was seeking to diversify the cattle business that dominated his interests. In 2019,  they brought in their first bunch of standardbred race horses, these horses were owned by Virginia Harness Horse Association President Dr. Scott Woogen. He remains the primary owner of the standardbreds on the property. The farm is currently on their fifth group of standardbreds. 

Both standardbreds and thoroughbreds enjoy the lush pastures of Powhatan

Farm Manager Gena Nelson has been at Powhatan since 2018 when the farm was focused on cattle. She delighted in the arrival of the horses and said“ I’ve always loved racehorses and thoroughbreds; I love polo horses as well. But working with the standardbreds is a little different. They are some really smart, intelligent, and levelheaded horses. So, a lot of times they’re not handled as much as the thoroughbreds are, but they seem to settle in quicker once they understand.” She knows the difference in the breeds is significant but is comfortable managing both. “The one thing about taking care of animals is that they can’t tell you what they need. And if there’s one gift that I’ve been given, it’s the sense of just understanding, okay, they need this or they want that, or this is what’s necessary. And that’s just not something that I necessarily have been taught. It’s just something that I’ve learned with experience.”

Farm Manager Gina Nelson

The first group of thoroughbred race horses showed up to Powahattan last December, the first group consisted of 4 colts and 3 fillies. Unlike the standardbreds who usually arrive as two-year olds, the thoroughbreds were primarily yearlings. With the farm’s rich history Achille has always wanted to return to the thoroughbred roots of the farm and continue his father’s legacy. 

Some of the standardbreds they helped develop can be found racing for Sharon Robert’s local farm in Maryland, or right here in Virginia where Dr. Scott Woogen races his horses from Powhatan every Saturday and Sunday during the Spring and Fall at Shenandoah Downs. 

The facilities at Powhatan include over 1000 acres

When asked about his experience with Powhatan, Dr. Woogen said “I like it because they have 1000 acres, good pastures, good fences, and good people working with the horses. They handle them so, when it’s time to be broken, they are ready.” Dr. Woogen also noted that KJ Dash, the 2-year-old Maryland Champion who has won over $100,000 for him this year, was trained and broken at Powhatan Plantation last year.

Veteran Timber Star Schoodic Returns in Grand Fashion to the VA Fall Races in Middleburg

Originally posted on on October 19, Written by Tod Marks

At the Virginia Fall Races in Middleburg, the rain stopped long enough to complete the entire eight-race card, highlighted by the return of veteran timber star Schoodic in the $50,000 National Sporting Library & Museum Cup at 3 ¼ miles. In a fight to the finish, Dolly Fisher’s 13-year-old son of Tiznow fought off recent stakes winner and defending Cup winner Cracker Factory, to win by 1 ¾ lengths.

With the victory, Schoodic, ridden by Graham Watters for trainer Jack Fisher, went over the half-million-dollar mark in earnings in a remarkable 51-race career that began in 2012.

The scene at the 2023 VA Fall Races

On the sidelines for 17 months, Schoodic returned to the races two weeks ago at Shawan Downs to finish a hard charging second, in a timber allowance. The gelding has been a model of consistency, not only winning multiple stakes over hurdles and timber, but finishing in the top three 32 times, including in Grade 1 competition.

Here’s how the rest of the card played out:

The Stewart’s stand overlooking the course

Press Pause goes fast forward in maiden hurdle

Rolling Tide’s Press Pause, a French-bred five-year-old, led from start to finish in the $30,000 Theodora A. Randolph Cup maiden hurdle at 2 1/8 miles, the distance of all of the hurdle races at Glenwood Park.

Trained by Doug Fout for owner Allie Lawaetz, Press Pause, under Harry Beswick, broke swiftly in the nine-horse field, and extended his lead at every call, drawing off easily by 16 lengths at the wire. The win came in Press Pause’s fifth career start. He began his career at the Carolina Cup Races in April and finished in the top three in four of his five outings. Northwood Stable’s Look North (Graham Watters) was second. Armata Stable’s Imperial Assassin was third.

Press Pause ridden by Harry Beswick with the Winning Connections

Kiyomori comes from behind to break maiden in exciting finish

Greg Hawkins’ NY-bred four-year-old gave leading 2023 rider Harry Beswick back-to-back wins. The race began with Kiyomori stalking the pacesetter, Gary Barber’s Finding Freedom, in the $30,000 Virginia Equine Alliance maiden hurdle.

The gelding, in the hands of new trainer Todd Wyatt, fell back to fifth, then launched his bid heading toward the final fence. Kiyomori still trailed Michael Smith’s Foxy Walk (Mikey Hamill), who raced close to the lead throughout, and South Branch Equine’s I Can Only Imagine (Jamie Bargary), as the last hurdle loomed. Turning into the stretch after the long downhill run, Kiyomori narrowed the gap and closed with a flourish to get up at the wire by three-quarters of a length. Foxy Walk was second in his career debut, with I Can Only Imagine, third.

Kiyomori breaking his maiden, ridden by Harry Beswick; Photo by Tod Marks

Eye of Gunfighter gives Larry Smith milestone win

Trainer Larry Smith earned his 300th career victory – on the flat and over jumps – when Hickory Made Stables and Celtic Venture Stable’s Eye of Gunfighter captured the $30,000 Magalen O. Bryant ratings handicap.

With Gerard Galligan aboard, the six-year-old Pennsylvania-bred tracked the leader, Flying Elvis Stable’s Vincent Van Gogo, in second the first time around the course, took charge on the final lap, and held off Bruton Street-US’ South Mountain (Jamie Bargary) by 1 3/4 lengths. Gill Johnston’s Ping Pong Champ (Graham Watters) was third.

The victory was the second in a row for Eye of Gunfighter, who took a maiden claimer at Foxfield on Oct. 1.

Eye of Gun Fighter ridden by Gerard Galligan, gives trainer Larry Smith 300th win; Photo by Tod Marks

“General” takes no prisoners in $20,000 maiden starter hurdle

Making his first start over jumps after 11 tries (and three victories) on the flat, Sycamore Run Farm’s Union Gen. George made his move the second time around the course under Parker Hendriks, took the lead in a cavalry charge over the final fence, and was in an all-out drive to score by a neck over Maranto Manor’s Auction Kingdom in a race for runners who had previously started for a claiming tag of $20,000 or less.

Kathy Neilson trained the winner, a five-year-old son on Union Rags. The second and third-place finishers are also newcomers to steeplechase racing. Auction Kingdom, a son of Animal Kingdom trained by Neil Morris and ridden by Graham Watters, began his career over the summer at Colonial Downs. He finished two lengths ahead of South Branch Equine’s Casamo, who made his NSA debut at Shawan Downs two weeks ago.

Union Gen. George ridden by Parker Hendriks leaping a fence ahead of the competition; Photo by Tod Marks

Sheppard-bred Lap of the Gods gives Hendriks his first training victory

On a week that a memorial was held in honor of training legend Jonathan Sheppard, a horse that the late Hall of Fame conditioner bred made his first trip to the winner’s circle after three years and a dozen starts.

Owned by Stewart Strawbridge, whose father, George, teamed up with Sheppard to campaign several champions and multiple stakes winners, Lap of the Gods was third at the final fence and made up ground in the stretch to get up in time to defeat Bon Nouvel Chasers Ya Boy Ya by a length in the $20,000 James P. McCormick maiden timber.

The winner, a six-year-old Pennsylvania-bred son of Temple City, was trained and ridden by leading 2022 jockey Parker Hendriks. It was Hendriks’ first victory as a conditioner.

Ya Boy Ya, ridden by Gerard Galligan and making his first start in two years, was second best, 11 lengths ahead of Keystone Thoroughbreds’ Hard Strike.

Lap of the Gods ridden by his trainer Parker Hendriks; Photo by Tod Marks

Fashion Line makes statement in $25,000 steeplethon

Armata Stable’s Fashion Line, a seven-year-old son of Morning Line, made it three wins in six 2023 outings with a come-from-behind victory in the Kinross Steeplethon over mixed obstacles.

Ridden by Gerard Galligan, Fashion Line gave trainer Kathy Neilson her second score on the card, uncorking a late burst after the natural brush final fence to catch the leader, Leipers Fork Steeplechasers Court Ruler (Harry Beswick). The winning margin was 1 3/4 lengths. Sheila Fisher and Northwoods Stable’s Storm Team was another three-quarters of a length behind in third.

Fashion Line ridden by Gerard Galligan, with the winning connections after the $25,00 Steeplethon; Photo by Tod Marks

Scanno takes training flat finale

After 25 starts on the flat from Gulfstream Park in Florida to Woodbine in Canada, S. Rebecca Shepherd’s Scanno made his NSA debut a winning one on the flat at 1 1/4 miles.

With Taylor Kingsley riding for trainer Liam Bourke, the six-year-old son of Bernardini dueled Elizabeth McCue’s Prince Khozan, with Gretchen Eisenberg aboard, for most of the going. Heading downhill toward the stretch, Scanno – a winner of nearly a quarter-million-dollars in his flat career — took the lead and coasted to the wire 2 3/4 lengths ahead of late-closing Clifton Down (Mikey Hamill), an Irish-bred and France-raced three-year-old making his NSA debut for Runnymoore Racing and Leslie Young.

For Scanno, the race was a prep for next weekend’s $100,000 John Forbes Memorial flat stakes at Far Hills. For Liam Bourke, who works alongside his dad, trainer David Bourke, it was the first victory under the younger Bourke’s name.

Scanno ridden by Taylor Kinglsey, getting walked by trainer Liam Bourke’s father, David Bourke; Photo by Tod Marks

Preview of Middleburg Fall Races at Glenwood Park

Originally posted on on October 13, Written by Tod Marks

Eight races have been carded for the 69th Virginia Fall Races at Glenwood Park in Middleburg. First run in 1955, the meet carries $205,000 in purses for a mix of timber and hurdle races.

Anchoring the program is the $50,000 National Sporting Library & Museum Cup stakes at 3 ¼ miles. The race has gotten a purse bump of $20,000 over last year.

A field of seven is expected, including The Hundred Acre Field’s Cracker Factory, who captured the race last fall for trainer Mark Beecher. The eight-year-old is coming off a come-from-behind victory in the Brown Advisory stakes over Elusive Exclusive and champion Andi’amu at Shawan Downs two weeks ago.

The wildcard in the race is Dolly Fisher’s venerable star Schoodic, trained by her son, Hall of Fame conditioner Jack Fisher. The 13-year-old, a multiple stakes winner of nearly half-million-dollars over hurdles and timber, returned recently after 17 months on the sidelines to run a hard-charging second, beaten 2 ½ lengths by Chosen Mate in an allowance race at Shawan Downs. A model of consistency over his 11 years on the track, Schoodic has 13 top-three finishes in 15 starts since April 2019.

Leslie Young, sends out Leipers Fork Steeplechasers’ Tomgarrow, the 2021 timber champ. Tomgarrow began 2023 with a win in the My Lady’s Manor stakes, and had won four of his previous five outings coming into the Virginia Gold Cup in May, where he fell.

Fat Chance Farm’s Flaming Sword, trained by Richard Valentine, was second in the Willowdale Steeplechase, and set the pace for 2 miles in the Brown Advisory at Shawan before tiring to finish last. Valentine also saddles Jacqueline Ohrstrom’s Hafajay, who makes his first start in more than two years. The lightly raced British-bred 10-year-old broke his maiden over timber at Winterthur in 2021.

Upland Partners’ Shootist, trained by Todd McKenna, makes his first appearance at Middleburg. The nine-year-old son of Smart Strike is stakes placed over timber. He was third in the Maryland Grand National and competitive in the four-mile Maryland Hunt Cup before tiring and being pulled up at the 18th fence.

Rounding out the field is Stooshie, a winner of two of his past four starts for leading owner Irv Naylor and trainer Cyril Murphy. The 10-year-old broke his maiden at the Virginia Fall Races in 2022 and outfought multiple stakes winner Storm Team in an allowance event at the Old Dominion Hounds meet in April. He lost his rider in his only other start this year, in the Steeplethon stakes at Great Meadow.

Glenwood Park in Middleburg plays host to a card of steeplechase racing once each spring and fall.

Besides the timber stake, the card consists of two $30,000 maiden special weight hurdles; a $30,000 handicap for horses rated at 115 or less; a $20,000 maiden starter allowance for horses who have run for a claiming tag of $20,000 or less; a $20,000 maiden contest over timber; a $25,000 steeplethon over mixed obstacles; and a training flat finale. Post time is 12:30 p.m.

For complete entries, click here:

You can watch all of Saturday’s races via live stream from the link on the NSA homepage, The stream is sponsored by Brown Advisory.