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Can any horse get in front of and stay ahead of Black Jack Blues in the Carolina Cup feature?

Posted: March 29, 2012 12:27 p.m.
Updated: March 30, 2012 5:00 a.m.

After two races on American soil, Black Jack Blues has yet to see the backside of another horse.
Come Saturday at the Springdale Race Course, five steeplechasers will try to get in front of the defending Eclipse Award winners and, hopefully, stay there until the end of the 2 1/-4-mile trek over 13 National fences which make up the $50,000 Carolina Cup Steeplechase (Gr. III.)
The 80th running of the Camden spring classic is set for the fifth of six races on the card which begins with a 1:30 p.m. start time for the first race.
Owned by Irv Naylor, Black Jack Blues came to America last fall, just in time to wire last fall’s $35,000 Dorothy Fred Smithwick Stakes at Middleburg, Va. He then showed the way in romping to a 7-length victory in the $250,000 Grand National. Purchased by Naylor and brought to the United States late last summer, the Irish-bred gelding won the NSA’s 2011 Lonesome Glory Award with a circuit-best $171,000 in earnings from his only two starts on this side of the Atlantic for trainer J.W. Delozier.
Both those chases were run over yielding turf, which should not be the case on Saturday over firm going.
Saturday, Black Jack Blues will carry the high weight of 154 pounds and will have his regular rider, Ross Geraghty, in the irons.
The second half of the Naylor-owned entry is another English import, Nearby, a horse which he bought days ago and sent the 8-year-old to Delozier’s barn.
A five-time winner over hurdles in 31 starts to go along with eight seconds and four thirds in Europe, Nearby comes to Camden with two hurdle races under his belt already this year. Nearby’s most recent victory came in a handicap hurdle at England’s Wincanton Racecourse in October of 2010. Nearby will carry 150 pounds and Camden resident Bernie Dalton in Saturday’s feature.
Hall of Fame trainer and part-time Camden resident Jonathan Sheppard will have two jumpers in the spring classic.
Sermon of Love finished 11th in last year’s Colonial Cup feature. In 2010, the non-9-year-old gelding gave owner Bill Pape back-to-back wins in Saratoga, taking the $100,000 New York Turf Writers Cup after having won the $53,000 A.P. Smithwick Memorial earlier in the meet. On each occasion, Brian Crowley was in the saddle for the five-time winner over fences, which has more than $284,000 in winnings in his first six years of racing. Crowley gets the call for this race in which Sermon of Love will carry 150 pounds.
The second Sheppard-conditioned nominee is the Sheppard-owned and bred Italian Wedding. Winner of the $70,000 Michael Walsh Novice Stakes at Saratoga (with Crowley up) last summer, Italian Wedding closed the year with an 11th in the soggy going at the $250,000 Grand National before running home fifth in the Colonial Cup feature. Italian Wedding gets an eight-pound break from the pre-race favorite, carrying 146 pounds, including jockey Danielle Hodsdon.
Sheila Williams’ and Andre Brewster’s All Together, the 2010 NSA novice champion, will be saddled by Jack Fisher on Saturday and carry 146 pounds. Xavier Aizpuru, who won last fall Colonial Cup aboard Tax Ruling, gets this ride.
The 7-year-old Danzig gelding won the $70,000 Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes in Saratoga last summer and captured the $75,000 AFLAC Supreme Hurdle in Pine Mountain, Ga., in the fall of 2010 en route to winning the National Steeplechase Association’s novice championship. He finished second in AFLAC Supreme Hurdle last November in his final start of the season. All Together has four wins in 13 starts over fences in his career.
Trainer Julie Gomena has Oakwood Stable’s Country Cousin in the Camden spring classic after a 2011 campaign in which the gelding closed his 8-year-old year by winning two times in his three starts.
Country Cousin opened 2011 by winning the $45,000 Budweiser Cup in Aiken. He followed that with a third in the $75,000 Marcellus Frost (Gr. 2) at Nashville in May before closing an abbreviated season by winning the $50,000 Zeke Ferguson Stakes at Colonial Downs in late June. Being assessed a weight of 146 pounds, Country Cousin will have Carl Rafter on his back.
The Carolina Cup feature is the day’s fifth race and fourth of five hurdle races to complete a program which opens with a 1 ½-mile flat race.
A field of 12 runners will go off in the Kershaw, the lone race on the flat.
The day’s second race is the first chase on the card in the $25,000 Camden Plate, a Sport of  Kings maiden hurdle event which drew six jumpers. Included in the field is Sit a Spiel, a 6-year-old owned by Camden’s Sue Sensor and trained by Camden’s Arch Kingsley. Those are the same connections of last year’s Carolina Cup feature winner, Sunshine Numbers, who just returned to light training this week.
The day’s third race is the $20,000 C.P. and Edith Wills DuBose Cup, a race named in memory of the two longtime Camden residents and horse owners. Six jumpers are expected to meet the starter’s flag in the exhausting 3-mile chase run over the figure-8-shaped course in the middle of the facility.
The fourth race, the afternoon’s co-feature, is the $30,000 Woodward-Kirkover otpional allowance claiming hurdle. It drew a group of nine jumpers including the Sheppard-owned and trained Sergeant Karakorum, which won the $25,000 Sport of Kings maiden hurdle to kick off last November’s Colonial Cup over the same course.
Also running in this race will be Moving Violation, which is owned by Camden’s Laura Thiel Shull and trained by Camden’s Britt Graham.
After the running of the feature chase, the afternoon closes with the $15,000 Filly & Mare maiden hurdle which will be run with seven jumpers taking to the course.
The races are scheduled to be run at 40-minute intervals.

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