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Aiken feature field trimmed to four

Carolina Cup draws 10 nominations

Posted: March 20, 2014 9:05 a.m.
Updated: March 21, 2014 5:00 a.m.

With the Wednesday morning scratch of pre-race favorite Alajmal, the $50,000 Budweiser Imperial Cup (Gr. 3), the featured hurdle race of the 48th annual Aiken Spring Steeplechase on Saturday, March 22.
The Aiken Spring Steeplechase at Ford Conger Field in Aiken, launches the 2014 National Steeplechase Association season and heralds the arrival of spring in the Carolinas. First post time is 1 p.m. for the now five-race program.
Due to a paucity of entries, stemming in large part to the lack of available training days in the Mid-Atlantic and the Northeast after what is still a rough winter, one of the scheduled six races was scratched. There were two chases, which originally drew starting fields of three each, being combined into one allowance optional claiming hurdle.
Originally, Alajmal, who won both the Carolina and Colonial Cup feature chases in Camden last year, was to have been the high weight in the Aiken feature at 156 pounds. Now, the honor goes to Call Me Sonny, owned by Camden’s Dale Thiel.
Also entered to the Budweiser Imperial Cup were Pleasant Woodman, Dugan, and Street Fight.
The Thiel-owned Call Me Sonny will carry 146 pounds and Jacob Roberts in the handicap of NSA Director of Racing Bill Gallo Jr. Trained by Ricky Hendriks, Call Me Sonny an 8-year-old,  has competed successfully in the claiming ranks and won last year’s Valentine Memorial, a starter handicap hurdle at the Fair Hill Races in Maryland. He also won an optional claimer at the Virginia Fall Races. Call Me Sonny will have Jacob Roberts in the saddle.
Finishing second in the Virginia race was Pleasant Woodman, who races for Virginia B. Lazenby and Farm d’Allie Racing Stables. The 6-year-old Woodman gelding will carry 144 pounds in the Budweiser Imperial Cup. Trained in Virginia by Doug Fout, Pleasant Woodman loves the Aiken course, where he is undefeated in two starts. He easily won Aiken Spring’s James W. Maloney maiden hurdle and returned in the fall to score a front-running victory in the Budweiser Holiday Cup, an optional allowance hurdle. Pleasant Woodman will carry Kieran Norris in Saturday’s feature in Aiken.
Bill Pape’s veteran Dugan, who is third in the weights at 142 pounds, also has an affinity for Aiken. Trained by Racing Hall of Fame member Jonathan Sheppard, Dugan has won three of his six starts at Ford Conger Field. He most recently won a claiming hurdle at the 2011 Aiken Fall meet. Last spring, the 10-year-old Forest Wildcat gelding finished second in the Charles S. Bird Jr., an optional claiming hurdle. Camden’s Bernie Dalton gets the riding nod.
Dogwood Stable’s Street Fight won his maiden start over fences at the 2013 Aiken Fall meet. Trained in Camden by Arch Kingsley Jr., the 5-year-old Street Sense gelding will carry 140 pounds and Camden-based jockey, Willie McCarthy.
Carolina Cup noms are strong: A field of 10 novice jumpers are eyeing the 82nd running of the $50,000 Carolina Cup to be run on Saturday, March 29 at the Springdale Race Course in Camden.
All but two of the nominations have spent the winter months training in Camden.
Camden winter resident Richard Valentine nominated three jumpers from his dtable including 7-year-old Albany Road, which broke its maiden at Fair Hill last October. Also coming from Valentine is 8-year-old Fog Island, which was second in last year’s Carolina Cup and Apse, a 5-year-old that won in Atlanta and Saratoga in 2013.
Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard sent in the name of Martina Brother, a 6-year-old which had three wins in six starts a year ago, and 5-year-old jumper Powerofone, which won on Carolina Cup  day last spring and followed with a win in Atlanta in April.
Fellow Hall of Fame trainer Janet Elliot will try for a third straight Springdale feature winner with 7-year-old Alburj, a winner at Charlotte in 2013. Camden’s Kate Dalton nominated Cat Feathers, a 6-year-old filly and the 2012 winner of the Mrs. Ogden Phipps Stakes in Saratoga while Camden trainer Arch Kingsley will go with  5-year-old Top Striker which broke its maiden with a win at last fall’s Colonial Cup. Sporty, a 7-year-old trained in Aiken by Julie Gomena and Easy Reach, an 8-year old from Jack Fisher’s barn rounds out the deep list of nominations.

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