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Four Grade I winners headed to Cup

Feature chase draws 12 nominations

Posted: November 14, 2013 8:44 a.m.
Updated: November 15, 2013 5:00 a.m.

Should either of the four Grade I winners from this year win the $100,000 Colonial Cup Steeplechase, it would go a long way toward swaying the voters when it comes time to select the 2013 Eclipse Award winner for steeplechasing.
While that may be a given, it most certainly will not be a jog in the park for any of the quartet which has designs on taking home the sport’s top yearly honor.
The 44th renewal of the Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup is set for Saturday, Nov. 23 at the Springdale Race Course. The Camden fall classic will be run as the fourth of six races with the first race taking the starter’s flag at 12:30 p.m. The gates to the Knights Hill Rd. facility will swing open to the public at 9 a.m.
Not swayed by the presence of 2013 Grade I winners Demonstrative, Divine Fortune, Gustavian and Italian Wedding, eight other jumpers were nominated into the final Grade I chase of the National Steeplechase Association campaign.
The lone grade I winner from this year not included in the field is Mr. Hot shot, who is on the mend.
Racing Hall of Fame trainer and part-time Camden resident Jonathan Sheppard has 25 percent of the projected field in the feature, led by Divine Fortune, which is coming off a breakthrough victory in the $250,000 Grand National in Far Hills, N.J., on Oct. 19. With $202,000 in winnings this year, the Bill Pape-owned 10-year-old tops the NSA earnings list.
Up until winning the Grand National, the Royal Anthem gelding had been known as much for his heart-wrenching second-place finishes --- including being runner-up to Demonstrative in last fall’s Colonial Cup feature and then again to Demonstrative in the $150,000 Calvin Houghland Iroquois Stakes in Nashville this past May --- as he had been for his durability and going up against any and all comers in this country’s toughest steeplechase races.
Divine Fortune has established himself as being among the upper echelon of American chasers in the past and is no stranger to the Springdale Race Course. The Camden layout, however, has been a source of heartbreak to his connections as Divine Fortune has a string of second-place finishes here including in the previous two runnings of the Colonial Cup to go along with a runner-up finish in the 2010 Carolina Cup. Expect Darren Nagle to get the mount on his top ride.
Sheppard will be a busy man in the paddock come next Saturday. He will also saddle Italian Wedding, which is expected to have Camden resident Bernie Dalton in the irons.
 Nicknamed “Sausage” for his stocky build, Italian Wedding was bred and is also owned by Sheppard and Pape, who bred the 8-year-old Alphabet Soup gelding came off a 16-month layoff to finish second in the $100,000 A.P. Smithwick Memorial at Saratoga. He followed that by scoring a one-length victory in the $150,000 New York Turf Writers Cup, run three weeks later. The win was the first for Italian Wedding since jumping to victory in the Michael Walsh Novice Stakes at the Spa in 2011.
Italian Wedding, who ran third in the $150,000 Lonesome Glory Stakes at Belmont Park and eighth in the Grand National, is fourth in the NSA winnings race with $123,000 from a first, a second and a third in four starts in 2013.
The second half of Sheppard’s four jumpers includes the Pape-owned Martini Brother. The 5-year-old A.P. Indy gelding enjoyed a stellar spring and summer having won its first three starts including running off with the $75,000 Jonathan Kiser Stakes at Saratoga in August. In its last start, Martini Brother fell at the fourth fence in the $250,000 Grand National.
Rounding out Sheppard’s group is Barnstorming, a 7-year-old Thunder Gulch gelding which is owned by its trainer. After a second in the $75,000 Kiser Stakes, Barnstorming won the $75,000 Michael G. Walsh Novice Stakes at the Spa before finishing fifth in the $250,000 Grand National last month.
Trainer Richard Valentine will send out defending Colonial Cup winner Demonstrative for what could be the 6-year-old’s third win on Colonial Cup day. In 2010, as a 3-year-old, Demonstrative won the $25,000 Raymond G. Woolfe Memorial Chase in convincing fashion, earning him the NSA’s 3-year-old championship title. His next win at Springdale came in last November’s $100,000 Colonial Cup in which now-retired jockey Matt McCarron brought the Elusive Quality gelding from last place after the 17th and final fence to a stirring one-length win over Divine Fortune en route to being runner-up to Pierrot Lunaire in the 2012 Eclipse Award voting.
In his first start over fences in 2013, the Jaqueline Ohrstrom-owned 6-year-old held off Divine Fortune, again, in winning the $150,000 Calvin Houghland Iroquois Stakes by a neck. From there, it was a bumpy ride as Demonstrative was scratched from the $100,000 A.P. Smithwick Stakes with a mild respiratory ailment. Then came a dull sixth in the $150,000 New York Turf Writers Cup before looking sharper in racing to a fourth-place finish in the $150,000 Lonesome Glory Handicap.
Demonstrative comes to Camden, a track which obviously suits him, buoyed by a strong third place finish in the Grand National. He has a win and a third in four starts over jumps this year and his $127,000 in earnings has him in third place in the NSA standings. Regular rider Robbie Walsh is expected to be in the irons.
The horse which finished one slot above Demonstrative at Far Hills was Gustavian, winner of the $150,000 Lonesome Glory Handicap at Belmont Park. The 7-year-old Giant’s Causeway gelding is owned by Magalen O. Bryant, is trained by Leslie Young who is expected to give her husband and three-time riding champion Paddy Young a leg up.
Gustavian comes into Saturday’s race off a second in the Far Hills feature. That followed his biggest win, to date, when he beat All Together to the finish, by a nose in the Lonesome Glory Handicap in September. It was Gustavian’s second victory over the tight turns at Belmont after having won the $75,000 William Entenmann Stakes in 2012, a race run prior to the Lonesome Glory.
You can almost expect Gustavian to finish in the money. This year, he has one win, two seconds and a third from four starts which has brought in $149,000, second only to Divine Fortune on the current NSA earnings list. In 2012, Gustavian never finished worse than second with a win and four seconds from five starts. One year earlier, he had two firsts and two seconds from five visits to the starter’s flag.
After having skipped the Camden fall feature a year ago after wins in the $250,000 Grand National and $150,000 Lonesome Glory Stakes all but sewed up his 2012 Eclipse Award, Pierrot Lunaire is being pointed for next Saturday’s race.
Owned by Mr. Calvin Houghland and trained by former jockey Blythe Miller Davies, of Lonesome Glory fame, Pierrot Lunaire was on the sidelines for most of this year before making his first start over jumps with a fourth in the $250,000 Grand National. The 9-year-old War Chant gelding rallied from 10th place, after two miles in the 2 5/8th mile race at Far Hills, to take home a portion of the purse that day.
In its only previous Colonial Cup feature start, Pierrot Lunaire came in seventh in 2009.
Two other nominees are not strangers to the Springdale Race Course.
Spy in the Sky won the 2010 Carolina Cup for Randleston Farm and its owner and part-time Camden resident Jim and Melinda Carter. Trained by former steeplechase jockey Jimmy Day, the 9-year-old Thunder Gulch gelding is winless in seven starts this season but comes in off a second in the $45,000 Noel Laing Handicap on Nov. 2.
Spy in the Sky, who is expected to carry Danielle Hodsdon on Saturday, won the $100,000 A.P. Smithwick in Saratoga in 2012 and then was sixth in last year’s Colonial Cup. Next Saturday will be the gelding’s fifth start at Springdale.
Decoy Daddy is part of a two-horse entry for reigning NSA leading owner Irv Naylor, who is chasing Pape for that title this time around.
Trained by former jump jockey Cyril Murphy, Decoy Daddy has three wins from five starts in 2013 including taking his most recent race, the $45,000 Noel Laing Handicap. The 11-year-old gelding also scored in the National Hunt Cup in Malvern, Pa., on May 8 while also having won the $50,000 Temple Gwathmey on April 20. Decoy Daddy was fourth and 10th in the Colonial Cup in 2012 and 2011, respectively.
Trainer Kathy Neilson nominated the Naylor-owned Changing Times after a third in the $45,000 Noel Laing Handicap, which was the first American start for the Irish-bred 7-year-old. Changing Times has won four times in England and Ireland and was third in a weight-for-age stakes chase at Cheltenham in April.
The lone mare in the group is Gregory Hawkins’ The Grey Express. Trained by Racing Hall of Fame conditioner and part-time Camden resident Janet Elliot, the 5-year-old comes in off a third-place finish in the $75,000 Peapack Stakes in Far Hills, N.J. last month. Earlier this year, The Grey Express won the $75,000 Mrs. Walter M. Jeffords Stakes for Fillies and Mares at Saratoga. That came after a second at the Spa in the $75,000 Mrs. Ogden Phipps Stakes.
The Grey Express has made just six starts in this country, all coming in 2013, after having won three times in England and Ireland.
The sentimental favorite in the dozen nominees has to be Sir Dynamite. The Dynaformer gelding is owned by Camden Dale Thiel, a past director of the Carolina Cup and Colonial Cup races. The 8-year-old is trained by Camden’s Britt Graham.
Sir Dynamite kicked off its 2013 campaign with a win in Aiken in the spring and was third in an allowance chase in Aiken on Oct. 26. In between, it has a second and a fourth in four starts this year.
Tickets and parking spaces of all varieties remain on sale for the Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup Steeplechase Races. Tickets and parking spaces may be purchased in person at the race office, located inside the National Steeplechase Museum on Knights Hill Rd. in Camden, or by calling 432-6513.
For complete race-day information, please visit www.carolina-cup.org.

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