UPDATED: International Gold Cup Photo Recap

The International Gold Cup races at Great Meadow were a tremendous success over the weekend. The Virginia Thoroughbred Association hosted its Turf Club tent to a wonderful attendance and Virginia-breds turned in great performances to earn valuable owners bonuses.

Nick Hahn was on-scene for the day, and sent us an exciting recap of all the action!

Big crowds and solid performances dominate Gold Cup day

by Nick Hahn

On a picturesque day, there was a nine-race card with four steeplechase races and five on the flat.  At Great Meadow, you know you are in a steeplechase venue but with wagering available and many choices on the grounds, it had more of a flat-track feel.  Cards like this have been run at Colonial Downs and other racing venues but not with somewhere around 40,000 people and $83,000 in handle.  Absent Colonial’s racing license there will be plenty more to say about Great Meadow’s role in Virginia racing’s future, but as for past weekend, here’s what race-goers watched and handicappers wagered upon.

Magalen Bryant’s Plated opened racing with a 3-length score provided when rider Jeff Murphy rated Jimmy Day’s gelding in mid-pack for much of the 2 and 1/8-mile contest over national fences.  After Jake’s Mandate gave up the lead, Overwhelming and Plated leaped the last hurdle together.  Jimmy Day’s Tiznow-sired bay proved better after straightening for the wire.

Plated’s previous attempt over hurdles resulted in a 14-length defeat at Foxfield this spring.  After proving himself at Belmont Park in his next start, a $40,000-maiden claiming win, two mediocre allowance outings followed.  The $30,000 purse at Great Meadow became an attractive alternative.

In the Zeke Ferguson run at Great Meadow for the first time, Able Deputy left little doubt as the longest shot on the board (11-1) and left those playing the ponies befuddled.  The manner of how Irvin Naglor’s gelding dominated the run in after the last jump was as impressive as his long odds, getting the margin measured by over 11 lengths.  Rider Ross Geraghty was “confident all the way” with the Union Jack-bred who had won four of his last five starts in England this summer.

“We’d hope to see that at Middleburg,” remarked trainer Cyril Murphy, alluding to a tiring 28-length trouncing over hurdles at Able Deputy’s expense earlier this month, seven days after arriving from England.

“The race was nearly over as soon as it started,” said jockey Gerard Galligan about an alert getaway in the third race when the flag dropped.  The veteran turned back any threats in the 7-furlong turf flat to win by a little more than a length as the second longest shot on the board.

Galligan’s silks resembled a “dinner dress blue jacket” worn by ranking naval officers.  Pride of the Fleet, named for owner Rebecca Shepherd’s husband, reflects his designation being all gentlemen between starts yet “on-duty” when the flag drops.  Trainer David Bourke saddled Pride of the Fleet’s 49th start.

“He’s the only horse whose groom brushes him held by a piece of twine,” joked Shepherd after the race.  “He gets led back to the barn by a wet noodle.  He’s hard working though after he punches the clock.”

Pride of the Fleet is entered in the opening race at the Montpelier Races this upcoming Saturday. Four of his career-eight triumphs were at Colonial Downs where his racing career began in August of 2008.

Larry Johnson has won races in venues throughout the mid-Atlantic circuit but the nearby Bluemont resident had never been to the Gold Cup races.  Neither had his six-year old gelding Grand Old Game whose previous 32 starts had been in racetrack venues.  Rider James Slater battled Jacob Roberts aboard Slews Best Quality to the wire prevailing by a nose after the stewards studied the replay.  Johnson reveled with the win.

“This is quite an experience for this guy,” remarked Johnson.  “He’s still looking for the starting gate.  This is a remarkable win.”

Trainer Gerald Brooks made the preparations for Game Old Game, a tall order considering he carried 26 more pounds than his last start and was running on hills.

“I didn’t know what was going to happen,” confessed Brooks.

Grand Old Game won three claiming races at Presque Isle this summer for Johnson but this one made the owner appear as if a first-timer.

Racing went back over the obstacles in the 5th race going 3 and 1/4 miles over timber. Rider Sean McDermott went three wide and had little challenge after he landed Certain Swagger over the last fence to win by nearly 4 lengths.

“We went back to school for this one. I’m pleasantly surprised,” said owner Jeremy Batoff after the race. “The hope started off at timber.”

Trainer Jack Fisher strapped on his twentieth career saddling and Certain Swagger finally had an opportunity to showcase his precision jumping skill.

The featured $60,000 International Gold Cup going 3 and 1/2 miles over timber may have been the most exciting event of the day despite only starting four. Grinding Speed, who won the 2012 International, found the lead and maintained over favored Dakota Slew to win by nearly a length.

It was a bit of a redeeming win for rider Mark Beecher who last visited the winner’s circle with Grinding Speed at Great Meadow after the 2013 Virginia Gold Cup.

“This horse means so much to me. There were a few hiccups along the way. He could have fallen around the turn, but he dug his heels in,” said Beecher. “He’s earned it more than I did.”

Trainer Alicia Murphy noted that in this year’s edition, her grey was “totally tractable, more patient today,” than in 2012.  Grinding Speed is sired by the 1996 Kentucky Derby winner Grindstone.

After taking a few laps the paddock during a claim of foul, trainer Elizabeth Voss led Atherton into the winner’s circle delighting a large portion of the crowd as the favorite. It was the first career win for Voss at Great Meadow.  The 1 and 1/8-mile contest was the second win collected by Atheron this fall for Trillum Stable.

Rider Gustav Dahl mentioned that the Trillum Stables Laghfuhr gelding “likes a bit of cut in the ground,” when he runs.

The versatility of Coturnix was on display in the 8th race when Eva Smithwick’s gelding took to the Great Meadow turf, clearing the margin by over 3 lengths when rider David Byrne found the wire.

“He knows where to put his feet since he has been up and over hurdles before,” trainer Michael Smithwick, Jr, explained after the race.

Coturnix won three races at Colonial Downs during their last thoroughbred meet in 2013. Since then he has won at Monmouth Park, Laurel Park and Kentucky Downs.

Rider Kieran Norris aboard Marq Your Bible avoided some “commotion” down the backstretch, took the lead and withstood challengers for trainer Lilith Boucher and owner Perfect Peace Racing Stable.  The little more than a length margin on the flat was significantly less than in his last start, a 34-length win at Foxfield over the hurdles.

Second place finisher and favorite Hard Enough would later be disqualified when he hit a beacon during the race.  The finale was the $25,000 Old Dominion Turf Championship for Virginia-bred or sired.

Photo Recap

by VTA Staff

The Old Dominion Turf Championship over 1 1/4 miles went to Perfect Peace Racing Stables’s Marq Your Bible. The 5-year-old son of Marquetry, bred in Virginia by Lisa and Gordon Calhoun, was following up on a victory at Foxfield in September for trainer Lilith Boucher. The bay gelding put in a long drive to turn in a 1 1/4-length victory. 

The ninth race, the Old Dominion Turf Championship, was won by Marq Your Bible. Photo courtesy Douglas Lees.

The ninth race, the Old Dominion Turf Championship, was won by Marq Your Bible. Photo courtesy Douglas Lees.

In the third race, a 7-furlong allowance, Virginia-bred  Pride of the Fleet pushed back all comers for a 1 1/4-length victory. The 8-year-old gelding by Parker’s Storm Cat is owned by Rebecca Shepherd and bred by Run Away Stable and as a Virginia-bred, earned an $10,000 owner’s bonus for a total prize of $25,000. The fifth-placed horse, Make Waves, also won an owner’s bonus that doubled her purse earnings for owners Morgan’s Ford Farm.

7-furlong flat race won by Pride of the Fleet in the third. Photo courtesy Lees.

7-furlong flat race won by Pride of the Fleet in the third. Photo courtesy Lees.

The feature, the International Gold Cup, went to Grinding Speed and owner Michael Wharton. Trained by Alicia Murphy, the gray son of Grindstone won this race in 2012, as well as 2013’s Virginia Gold Cup Timber Stakes at the same venue. 

Grinding Speed wins International gold Cup for owners Michael Wharton and Alicia Murphy and trainer and rider Mark Beecher. Photo courtesy Douglas Lees.

Grinding Speed wins International gold Cup for owners Michael Wharton and Alicia Murphy and trainer and rider Mark Beecher. Photo courtesy Douglas Lees.

Grinding Speed wins International gold Cup for owners Michael Wharton and Alicia Murphy and trainer and rider Mark Beecher. Photo courtesy Douglas Lees.

Grinding Speed wins International gold Cup for owners Michael Wharton and Alicia Murphy and trainer and rider Mark Beecher. Photo courtesy Douglas Lees.

Enjoy the rest of the photos from this wonderful day of Virginia racing!

VTA member Leslie Hazel and Gold Cup Executive Director Diane Jones.

VTA member Leslie Hazel and Gold Cup Executive Director Diane Jones.

The first race, the maiden hurdle, was won by Plated. Photo courtesy Douglas Lees.

The first race, the maiden hurdle, was won by Plated. Photo courtesy Douglas Lees.

Atherton wins the 1 1/8-mile flat race in the seventh.

Atherton wins the 1 1/8-mile flat race in the seventh.

Amy Moore, VTA President Wayne Chatfield-Taylor and Susie Chatfield-Taylor.

Amy Moore, VTA President Wayne Chatfield-Taylor and Susie Chatfield-Taylor.

The VTA Turf Club tent.

The VTA Turf Club tent.

Grand Old Game beats  Slews Best Quality in the 7-furlong fourth race. Photo courtesy Douglas Lees.

Grand Old Game beats Slews Best Quality in the 7-furlong fourth race. Photo courtesy Douglas Lees.

Country Cousin (R) wins the allowance timber fifth race. Photo courtesy Douglas Lees.

Country Cousin (R) wins the allowance timber fifth race. Photo courtesy Douglas Lees.

The Zeke Ferguson Memorial, won by Able Deputy. Photo courtesy Douglas Lees.

The Zeke Ferguson Memorial, won by Able Deputy. Photo courtesy Douglas Lees.

Coturnix, winner of the 1 1/8-mile VHBPA flat race in the eighth.

Coturnix, winner of the 1 1/8-mile VHBPA flat race in the eighth.

Pat Butterfield and Tom Bishop enjoying the day.

Pat Butterfield and Tom Bishop enjoying the day.