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The verdict is in

Show Court gives Kingsley his third Carolina Cup winner in six years

Posted: April 3, 2017 3:15 p.m.
Updated: April 4, 2017 1:00 a.m.
Tom Didato/C-I

SHOW COURT CARRIES Michael Mitchell over the 12th and final fence en route to victory in Saturday’s 83rd running of the $75,000 Mullikin Law Firm Carolina Cup. The win was the first in America for both the rider and the horse, which is trained by Camden’s Arch Kingsley Jr.

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Three jumps from home, jockey Michael Mitchell said he felt good about Show Court’s chances to win Saturday’s 83rd running of $75,000 The Mullikin Law Firm Carolina Cup Steeplechase.

Seconds later, the Englishman’s was feeling even better about things as Show Court held off a late bid from Castle Hill to win the Camden spring classic for novice jumpers by seven lengths.

Show Court made the 2 1/8-mile trip over National Fences in a time of 3:56.80. Willow U finished third in the starting field of 10 with finished with seven making it back to the finish line.

An 8-year-old Vinnie Roe-Sparkling Gem gelding, Show Court is trained in Camden by Arch Kingsley Jr. for owner Mark W. Buyck Jr., a Florence lawyer and a member of the University of South Carolina Board of Trustees. Given the choice of flying to Phoenix for the Gamecocks’ game against Gonzaga in the men’s Final Four Saturday night, Buyck opted to come to the Springdale Racecourse to take in Show Court’s race in the first leg of the National Steeplechase Associations spring novice series.

It was a wise decision as Buyck saw Show Court --- racing in his barn’s garnet and black silks --- score its first win in America.

Not only was the victory in front of a large sun-splashed crowd in Camden Show Court’s first in three starts on American soil after having won three times in 22 starts in Ireland but it was also marked the first win in this country for Mitchell. The 26-year-old  has been riding in New Zealand for the past six years and won the riding championship in that country in 2015.

For Kingsley, a former NSA champion rider, this was the third time he saddled a Carolina Cup winner in his adopted hometown. He won this race with Sunshine Numbers in 2011 and then, again, in 2014 with 2016 Eclipse Award finalist and defending Colonial Cup champion, Top Striker.

Show Court, who finished seventh in a $25,000 handicap in Camden in last fall’s Colonial Cup over the same course, went to the front heading to the first of 12 jumps on Saturday before Red Hammer and Ross Geraghty took the lead and stayed there until the field entered the final turn for home and, the final three jumps.

“It was kind of just to get him out early; it’s always harder to make ground up,” Mitchell said of taking his mount to the front in the earliest stage of the race. “I kind of stalled the start and then, kind of chipped into a couple (jumps) just to bring him into the field and give him a little bit of a break and a breather.”

Kingsley said his instructions to Mitchell did not fall on closed ears.

“We just wanted to give him a good look at the fences and get him away well and see what came after that; that was the strategy,” Kingsley said. “Michael Mitchell gave him a picture-perfect ride. It was just as we discussed. It could not have gone any more according to plan or, any smoother.”

Mitchell settled Show Court and never lost touch with Red Hammer. When the field passed the grandstand for the first of two circuits, Red Hammer was several lengths ahead of Show Court with the remainder of the field chasing their shadows. When Geraghty and Red Hammer started running out of steam as the group reached the final turn for home approaching the 10th flight, Mitchell was only too happy to bear down and bring Show Court to the lead. And, they stayed there.

“I thought I’d put the pressure on three fences from home,” Mitchell said. “Luckily, we took the leader two from home. By then, the race was already over and he was going away from them nicely.”

Not even a mistake at the final fence, in which the race leader slowed up a bit, could derail things as Show Court built on its lead in the home stretch and shrugged off a mild challenge from Castle Hill and Darren Nagle. It would be another 2 ¼-lengths back to Willow U and jockey Shane Crimin, who was riding jumpers for the first time on this side of the Atlantic.

“I knew we were in a position where we were either going to be good enough (to win the race) or, we weren’t,” Kingsley said when asked of Mitchell’s decision as to when to take his mount to the lead. “That was going to be revealed when he pushed the button and asked his horse for a run.”

Mitchell, who schooled Show Court on Friday, came to America last year following the end of the New Zealand jump season and got a ride, here and there, on the National Steeplechase Association circuit, for Paddy Young as he started to get his feet wet in racing here.

“I said to Arch yesterday that it felt like I clicked with the horse,” said the Warwickshire, England native. “It took a couple of schools to give me an idea and a bit of an understanding of how he was. I was very happy with how he schooled yesterday. I thought he’d have a good shot today but I did not expect him to win by that kind of margin.”

After two sub-par starts in this country following Show Court’s arrival in Kingsley’s barn last summer, the trainer said Saturday’s victory was the type of effort he thought he would receive from a horse which was purchased by Buyck on Kingsley’s recommendation. After a seventh in Camden last November, the trainer had to reassure his owner that Show Court just needed time to acclimate itself to this country. Saturday, it showed the fruits of those labors.

“I’ve had him now for a little bit and he’s come into himself well,” Kingsley said. “I’ve had enough time to get him right and the way I wanted him. You can tell when your horses are doing well and when they’re really adjusted and comfortable and happy. He was all those things today.”



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