LR=Lost Rider, OC = Off Course

That oft heard quote by the character Peggy Olson from the Emmy-winning television show Mad Men aptly describes the Old Dominion Turf Championship run this Saturday at the International Gold Cup meet at Great Meadow racecourse in The Plains.

As part of a six race card on a spectacular autumn day, the $15,000 Old Dominon Turf Championship is the grand finale for the series for Virginia-bred and Virginia-sired horses at various jump meets both Spring and Fall in the Old Dominion.

The series primary sponsor is the Virginia H.B.P.A. with the Virginia Thoroughbred Association and the Virginia Horse Industry Board kicking in purse money for the ODTC which concludes the annual series.

Everything went according to plan as nine horses went to post including the 2011 winner of the race Alix White’s Tu Baku.  He was joined by other veterans of the series including Sara Collette’s Wahoo, Daybreak Stables’ Wolverton and Rebecca Shepherd’s Pride of the Fleet.  The field also included Colleen Mahoney’s Colleen’s Charm, Michael Bordwell’s Class Code, Mede Cahaba’s Complete Dyno and John Baffa’s Prized Pupil.

The race got started well enough, but things soon got interesting. Along the backside Willie McCarthy came off of Colleen’s Charm and, shortly thereafter or as a direct result of the incident, Simon Hobson (somewhat reluctantly back in the saddle) left the course on board his Daytime.  Hobson’s Seeking Daylight gelding looked no worse for the wear and all of Hobson’s tack seemed to be intact and functioning.

The comment on the viewing stand was direct “either Simon just left the course or everybody else just went off course.”

WOLVERTON (L) and PRIZED PUPIL (R) (Douglas Lees Photography)

As they came around the turn for home and headed down the stretch John Baffa’s Prized Pupil (Tommy Lee Jones, Boddy Mackenzie) hooked up with Daybreak’s Wolverton (Jimmy Day, Gustav Dahl) for a furious duel in late stretch.  Baffa’s four-year-old Prized gelding prevailed by a nose to the delight of his long-time Warrenton-based owner and his wife Sally.

Immediately following the race and Steward’s Inquiry was announced while the unofficial winners were declared as Prized Pupil first, Wolverton second and Pride of the Fleet third.  Hobson did not appear to claim foul nor did McCarthy who was unseated.

The Devil’s Bag perpetual trophy presentation ensued with the Bafa and Jones families enjoying the moment and John Baffa openly and frequently declaring his disbelief as veteran trainer Jones grinned in the background.  Perhaps he knew something?

After the handshakes and presentation photos, an awkward wait ensued.  A few minutes later, announcer Mike Hughes summoned “all the riders in the sixth race” to the Stewards’ Stands.  Shortly, all riders appeared in various forms of dress and trudged up the steps to an audience with the officials. 

After a brief meeting, the Steward’s declared the race “void” as all starters save Colleen’s Charm (who lost her rider) had gone off course. Evidently, some of them more than once!

A terrible disappointment for the Baffa’s who went from joyous to meaningless winners in a matter of minutes.  Not to mention, the lost purse money for all the top finishers and their connections…

It really was “going great until it wasn’t.”