Recap of Saturday’s International Gold Cup Flat Races

Complete St. and Renown, two horses that captured Virginia Equine Association (VEA) events in September, rolled to victories on the flat at Great Meadow Saturday afternoon during the 78th running of the International Gold Cup program.

The annual fall renewal featured five steeplechase events, four flat races that all attracted full fields, a crowd of 30,000, actress Meg Ryan, and two Keeneland- bound Virginia breeders whose respective horses, Tonalist and Sticksstatelydude, will compete in this weekend’s Breeders’ Cup Championships. All the flat races in addition to the Grade 3 David “Zeke” Ferguson Memorial Steeplechase Stakes were presented by the Virginia Horsemen’s Benevolent & Protective Association.

Complete St. won the featured $35,000 Old Dominion Turf Championship in a similar come from behind fashion she showed in winning the $60,000 Brookemeade Stakes September 26th at Laurel. The 5 year old came from mid pack in a field ten Virginia-breds Saturday and with a well timed stretch move that saw her pass Hooping, Gumper, Slavic Aura and Pride Of The Fleet, earned her second straight triumph. She crossed in 2:09 3/5 in the 1 1/4 miles race. Rider Richard Boucher delivered the big effort for trainer Lilith Boucher and owner Harlan Crossman.  Complete St., bred by the Mede Cahaba Stable and Stud LLC, is a St. Averil mare out of Complete Number, by Polish Numbers.

“She can adapt her running style to accommodate whatever you ask of her,” said rider Boucher when comparing her two most recent victories with back to back stakes wins Complete St. earned in 2014 when she ran near the front throughout. “I was concerned heading down the backside because we were getting outrun and the times were pretty quick. I wasn’t sure how the horse would react on the rolling terrain because she’s more of a racetrack mare,” added Boucher. “Through the turn though, she had lots of run left in her. We went inside down the stretch and without an inside rail, faced no obstacles and got a nice win.”

Renown on the other hand was third at the quarter fraction of his $45,000, 1 1/2 miles open flat race, took control shortly after and led the rest of the way, finishing the 1 1/4 miles race in 2:38 2/5. The 4 year old Champ Elysees gelding beat runner-up Bishops Castle by 2 1/2 lengths with Jack Doyle in the irons again. The Great Britain-bred is trained by Elizabeth Voss for the Merriebelle Stable LLC.  Renown dominated an allowance race September 20th during the VEA’s inaugural Virginia Downs event at Great Meadow by going gate to wire and beating eight other challengers by 5 3/4 lengths.

Ack Feisty, one of two wins trainer Neil Morris’s stable had Saturday, surged past Collinito in the stretch of his $40,000 allowance flat, then held off fast closing No Wunder to win by 3/4 lengths. Darren Nagle directed the lightly raced 3 year old Birdstone gelding to his second straight win, though that last victory was 4 1/2 months ago at Belmont.

“I bought him at a sale in July and he developed issues shortly after,” said Tennessee based owner Jill Johnston, explaining the extended time between starts. “We treated his problems and thought this would be a nice race to hit on his way down south for the fall and winter. It’s actually the first time I’ve seen the horse in person since I bought him, so it’s quite a thrill.”

The New York-bred, who is out of Patagonia Tango, by Storm Boot, made his first start outside the Empire State. “I buy horses primarily to compete in jump races”, added  Johnston. “That is the plan for Ack Feisty though I’d probably be stupid to not consider another flat race this year after his performance today.”

The most exciting finish of the day, which came in another $40,000 allowance flat, saw Candy Man Can, Surf Classic, Mutasaawy and Max Crown finish in a thrilling blanket photo, with barely a neck separating finishers one thru four. Upset winner Candy Man Can, who paid $36.80 to win, kicked off the four race flat program in grand style as jockey Ross Geraghty guided the 4 year old Lemon Drop Kid gelding for trainer Morris. The finish was so close that it took several minutes before stewards could declare the race and order of finish official.

Virginia-bred Max Crown, 6th in the recent Bert Allen Stakes, led the 11 horse field coming out of the final turn and finished 4th. Surf Classic, a regular Fair Grounds competitor, raced among the top three for the first mile and just missed in taking second. Mutasaawy, another Neil Morris horse fresh off a claiming win at Belmont, earned third with a late rally. The winner, who rebounded from a pair of recent 7th and 13th place finishes, got his first life win in start number 16. The Florida-bred is owned by the Noble Stables and is out of Snow Cone, by Cryptoclearance.