“Zeke” Ferguson Memorial Steeplechase Stakes Preview; Co-Featured Race At Saturday’s Gold Cup


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Edith Dixon’s homebred Schoodic, a talented but headstrong multiple stakes winner, will shoot for a second straight victory at Great Meadow Race Course when he lines up Saturday for the International Gold Cup’s $75,000 David L. “Zeke” Ferguson Memorial Handicap (Gr. 2).

The 2 1/8-mile Ferguson will be the featured hurdle race of the 34th annual International Gold Cup at Great Meadow Race Course in The Plains, Va. First post time is noon, and pari-mutuel wagering will be offered on all races.

Trained by Jack Fisher, Schoodic won the Virginia Gold Cup’s David Semmes Memorial (Gr. 2) on May 6 before two subpar races: a fifth in the Radnor Hunt Races’ National Hunt Cup (Gr. 3), a race he had won in 2016, and a seventh in Saratoga Race Course’s A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1) on July 27.

A crowd of 40,000-plus is expected at Saturday’s International Gold Cup.

Sean McDermott will ride the seven-year-old Tiznow gelding, who was pulled up in last year’s Ferguson Memorial.

Schoodic shares the 156-pound highweight with Irv Naylor’s Charminster, who won the 2016 Semmes and then was second in both the Ferguson Memorial and this spring’s Semmes. The Irish-bred 11-year-old most recently finished sixth in Belmont Park’s Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1). Carol-Ann Sloan will ride for trainer Cyril Murphy.

Trainer Julie Gomena will saddle Stonelea Stables’ Balance the Budget, a multiple stakes winner who won this year’s Tryon Block House Handicap on April 15. Mark Watts has the mount on the Bellamy Road gelding, most recently second in a Saratoga handicap.

Balance the Budget carries 152 pounds, as will Amy Taylor Rowe’s Maserati, who won last year’s Queen’s Cup MPC ’Chase for novices before going to the sidelines after finishing fifth in that year’s Smithwick Memorial. Reigning champion jockey Kieran Norris rides for trainer Leslie Young.

Diplomat won the 2015 “Zeke” Ferguson. The stakes is a Grade 2 event this year. Photo by Betsy Burke Parker.

Here is the field for the $75,000 David L. “Zeke” Ferguson Memorial (Gr. 2). The horses’ handicap weights, which are influenced by their National Steeplechase Association ratings, are in parentheses at the ends of their profiles.

Balance the Budget. 2009 ch. g., Bellamy Road—Every Day Is Good, by El Corredor. Owner: Stonelea Stable. Trainer: Julie Gomena. Jockey: Mark Watts. Breeder: Liberation Farm & Oratis (Ky.). 2017 NSA record: 4-1-2-0, $49,800. 2016 record: 4-1-1-0, $51,600. 2015 record: 7-1-1-0, $37,250. Won 2017 Tryon Block House Handicap after setting most of the pace, then finished second in Fair Hill’s Valentine Memorial ratings handicap. Finished fifth in Saratoga’s A.P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1) and was second in Saratoga handicap. Kicked off 2016 season with victory in $75,000 Carolina Cup, a novice stakes, then was seventh in Saratoga’s A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1) and sixth in Saratoga handicap. (152).

Schoodic. 2010 b. g., Tiznow—Aunt Henny, by Hennessy. Owner: Edith R. Dixon. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Jockey: Sean McDermott. Breeder: Edith R. Dixon (Ky.) 2017 record: 4-1-0-0, $47,000. 2016 record: 7-1-2-0, $60,150. 2015 record: 4-0-2-2, $58,000. Won 2017 David Semmes Memorial (Gr. 2) at Virginia Gold Cup after fall in Temple Gwathmey (Gr. 3), then was a dull fifth in Radnor’s National Hunt Cup (Gr. 3), a race he won in 2016. Finished seventh in A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1). (154)

Maserati (Brz). 2015 record: 2-2-0-0, $30,000. 2009 bk. b. or br. g., Point Given—Lady Celina (Brz), by Roi Normand. Owner: Amy Taylor Rowe. Trainer: Leslie Young. Jockey: Kieran Norris. Breeder: Fazenda Mondesir (Brz). 2017 record: No starts. 2016 record: 3-2-0-0, $78,250. 2015 NSA record: 2-2-0-0, $30,000. Won 2016 Queen’s Cup MPC ’Chase and Fair Hill’s Valentine Memorial Ratings Handicap, then was fourth in Saratoga’s A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1). (152)

Curve of Stones 2011 gr. or ro. g., Arch—Exceptionally, by El Prado (Ire). Owner: Sarah Rebecca Shepherd. Trainer: David M. Bourke. Jockey: Open. Breeder: Audley Farm (Va.) 2017 NSA record: 4-0-0-0, $600. 2016 NSA record: 3-2-0-0, $56,400. Finished sixth in 2017 Parx handicap and Virginia Fall handicap. Was pulled up in Saratoga’s Michael G. Walsh Novice Stakes. Pulled up in 2017 Fair Hill ratings handicap after ninth in Virginia Gold Cup flat race. Won maiden victory at 2016 Virginia Gold Cup and came back two weeks later to win $35,000 allowance hurdle at Radnor. (140)

Charminster (Ire). 2006 b. g., Broadway Flyer—Monteleena, by Montelimar. Owner: Irvin S. Naylor. Trainer: Cyril Murphy. Jockey: Carol-Ann Sloan. Breeder: Raymond Cahalane (Ire). 2017 record: 4-0-1-1, $27,500. 2016 record: 6-1-2-1, $93,000. Began 2017 with solid second in David Semmes Memorial (Gr. 2), a race he won in 2016, and then was third in Radnor’s National Hunt Cup (Gr. 3). Brushed in A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1) and finished sixth. Finished sixth in Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1). (154)

Alajmal. 2008 b. g., First Samurai—Alattrah, by Shadeed. Owner: Gregory D. Hawkins. Trainer: Janet Elliot. Jockey: Michael Mitchell. Breeder: Shadwell Farm (Ky.) 2017 record: 4-0-0-1, $3,500. 2016 NSA record: No starts. 2015 record: 4-0-0-0, $6,000. Pulled up in Virginia Fall’s Randolph D. Rouse Memorial. Finished third in 2017 Georgia Cup optional allowance hurdle, then was pulled up in David Semmes Memorial (Gr. 2) and lost rider in National Hunt Cup (Gr. 3). Missed 2016 season. Bookended his 2013 season with victories in the Carolina Cup and Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup (Gr. 1). (144)