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Six jumpers eyeing $50,000 Carolina Cup

Lack of entries leads to a scratched race

Posted: March 25, 2014 2:40 p.m.
Updated: March 26, 2014 5:00 a.m.

What has been a tough winter up and down the East Coast is having a profound effect on the first two weeks of the 2014 National Steeplechase Association campaign.
The early season trend of short fields and scratched races which took place in Aiken last Saturday extended into Camden for Saturday’s 82nd running of the Carolina Cup steeplechase races.
As entries for the Camden spring classic were being taken at the NSA offices in Elkton, Md. on Tuesday, snow from an early spring Nor’easter was falling with anywhere from one to three inches of the white stuff predicted to be on the ground before the storm passed.
With so many steeplechase trainers based in the Mid-Atlantic region, as well as in Pennsylvania, entries for the Carolina Cup card came up light with six jumpers being prepped for a run in the $50,000 Carolina Cup feature for novice jumpers. With only two entries, the flat race for Saturday has been scratched, bringing the card to five races over fences, including one over timber. A total of 32 horses were entered into the five events. The final figure will come after scratches at 11 a.m. Wednesday.
Saturday’s first race will go off at 1:30 p.m. with races being run at 40- --- rather than the normal 30- --- minute intervals. The gates to the Springdale Race Course will swing open at 9 a.m.
Carolina Cup director Jeff Teter said there is no real mystery as to why the entries for Aiken and the Carolina Cup were low in number.
“It’s not too hard to surmise what a lot of the problems are,” he said in alluding to the unseasonable weather this winter and spring. “It was tough enough to train down here this winter and it hasn’t been easy for trainers up there.”
Last Saturday at the NSA opener in Aiken, insufficient entries led to the original six-race card being chopped to five with two races being combined into one chase. Two  races went off with four starters while another had five jumpers.
For the Cup day, the $25,000 Camden Plate and the $20,000 C.P. and Edith Wills DuBose Cup, over the timber course, drew eight-horse fields. The Carolina Cup and the $20,000 Filly & Maiden Hurdle each had six entries while four jumpers were eyeing the $20,000 Woodward-Kirkover starter handicap.
The $50,000 Carolina Cup, a 2 1/8-mile chase over National Fences and the day’s fourth race, drew a strong field of six novice jumpers, trimmed from 10 nominations a week ago.
Remaining in the race is Bill Pape’s Martini Brother, a 6-year-old gelding which won last year’s $75,000 Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes at Saratoga for his third straight win for Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard. He followed that with a third in Saratoga’s $150,000 New York Turf Writers Cup Handicap. With three wins and a third from six 2013 starts, Martini Brother was ninth on the NSA earnings list with $95,250.
Trainer Richard Valentine, who stable a string of horses at the Camden Training Center in the winter, entered the Pape-owned Albany Road. The 7-year-old gelding broke its maiden at Fair Hill last spring before coming in second behind All Together in an optional allowance chase at Saratoga in August. His year ended with a sixth in a $20,000 allowance chase at last fall’s Colonial Cup.
Lending a local feel to the feature will be a pair of jumpers who are based a few hundred yards from each other on the grounds of the Springdale Race Course.
Cat Feathers, trained by Camden’s Kate Dalton who will give her husband Bernie Dalton a leg up on Saturday, is the lone female in the group. Across the street in the barn of Camden’s Arch Kingsley is Top Striker, who will carry Irishman and Camden resident Willie McCarthy.
A 5-year-old mare, Cat Feathers will receive a break in the weights from the boys. This will be her second straight start on her home course after a strong second in the $20,000 allowance chase at the Colonial Cup. She had a strong 2012 at Saratoga in winning the $75,000 Mrs. Ogden Phipps Stakes before running second in the $75,000 Mrs. Walter M. Jeffords Hurdle Stakes.
Top Striker, a 5-year-old owned by Camden’s Sue Sensor, already has a win at the Springdale Race Course in having carried McCarthy to a 7 ½-length victory in the $25,000 Sport of Kings maiden hurdle at 2013 Colonial Cup. That came after a second in its first start over jumps in a $15,000 maiden at Charleston on Nov. 10.
Seven-time champion trainer Jack Fisher will go with Easy Reach, an 8-year-old gelding which had two wins and a third in six starts last year while finishing fourth in a $20,000 allowance hurdle at last November’s Colonial Cup. Easy Reach broke its maiden at the Queens Cup last April and followed with a win in a claiming hurdle at Fair Hill in May.
Rounding out the field of six jumpers is Sporty, a 7-year-old Smarty Jones gelding trained in Aiken by Julie Gomena. Winner on the flat in Aiken last week, Sporty kicked off its 2013 campaign with a win in an allowance hurdle at the Dogwood Classic at Colonial Downs in April. He broke his maiden with a win in Camden at the 2012 Colonial Cup.

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