Nominations Close for Grade II Commonwealth Derby & Turf Cup; Pair Are Set to Run at Laurel Sat. Sept. 19

With a week to go before the respective Grade II Commonwealth Derby and Turf Cup stakes are held at Laurel Park on September 19, early nominations closed for both on Friday (September 11). The pair are being sponsored by the Virginia Equine Alliance (VEA).

The Derby attracted 26 nominations including a four pack from three time Derby winning trainer Bill Mott, while the Turf Cup drew 28 nominations that include four million dollar-plus earning horses.

Trainer Mott’s prior Derby triumphs came with Orchard Park (2002), Silver Tree (2003) and Go Between (2006), all of whom were owned by Peter Vegso. That same battery has nominated Go Around next Saturday. Mott also has Syntax, Closing Bell and Courtier.

Trainers Chad Brown and Graham Motion have nominated four each as well. Brown’s include Dujac, Fundamental, Offering Plan and Winter Springs while Motion’s are Cat Humor, Nucifera, Pride of Stride and Tale of Life. Cat Humor is owned by the Augustin Stable, who have won two past Derbies with Crowd Pleaser (1998) and Potaro (2001).

Two of the more intriguing Derby nominations are Force The Pass, trained by Alan Goldberg, and Divining Rod, conditioned by Arnaud Delacour. The former won the $500,000 Grade III Penn Mile and $1,250,000 Grade I Belmont Derby and has amassed earnings of $1,074,634. The latter has been solid in key dirt stakes this year, winning the Grade III Lexington while finishing third in the Preakness, Tampa Bay Derby, Ohio Derby and Indiana Derby.

One Go All Go is the lone Virginia-bred nominated. Bred by Albert Coppola, the Fairbanks colt is out of the Marquetry mare Ashleigh Run and is trained by Pavel Matejka.

2014 Belmont Derby (Gr. I) winner Mr. Speaker is one of four millionaires that have nominated to the $250,000 Commonwealth Turf Cup (Gr. II). Claude “Shug” McGaughey, who won the 2011 Virginia Derby with Air Support, conditions 4-year-old Mr. Speaker.

Graham Motion has nominated seven to the Cup including Up With The Birds, who has bankrolled $1,463,189. Four of Motion’s group were bred outside of the U.S. — Under Control (Brazil), Glenard and Planetaire (both Great Britain) and Messi (Germany).

Up With Birds is one of 7 Graham Motion trained horses nominated to the Commonwealth Turf Cup; courtesy of Michael Burns

Up With Birds is one of 7 Graham Motion trained horses nominated to the Commonwealth Turf Cup; courtesy of Michael Burns

One of Bill Mott’s trio of noms is Vyjack, a 5 year old that has won $1,099,000. Trainer Todd Pletcher’s Mshawish is top earner of the 28, having collected $1,670,151 while winning the Grade II Fort Lauderdale Stakes and Grade I Gulfstream Park Handicap this year, and finishing third in the $6,000,000 Dubai World Cup Turf (Gr. I).

Virginia-breds Middleburg and Special Envoy, who finished a tight first and second in the August 23rd Grade III Cliffhanger Stakes at Monmouth, have both nominated to the Cup. The pair were bred by Mr. & Mrs. Bertram Firestone — the former is a 5 year old Lemon Drop Kid horse out of the Spectrum mare Rum Charger while the latter is a 4 year old Stroll gelding out of Stroll Diplomacy by Cozzene. Christophe Clement trains Middleburg and Arnaud Delacour conditions Special Envoy.

Middleburg is one of two Virginia-breds nominated to the Cup

Middleburg is one of two Virginia-breds nominated to the Cup

Oldest nomination honors go to Hyper, an 8-year-old Victory Gallop horse owned by Ken & Sarah Ramsey, who won the ’04 Virginia Derby with Kitten’s Joy. Trained by Chad Brown, Hyper has 21 “in-the-money” finishes in 27 grass starts.

The draw for both stakes will take place on Wednesday September 16.

The VEA will host the inaugural Virginia Downs Thoroughbred race event at Great Meadow, in the Plains, on Sunday September 20, giving Virginia racing fans a unique racing weekend opportunity when coupled with the Commonwealth graded stakes at Laurel on the 19th. For more information, visit