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Watts, Dalton enjoy wins in Saturday jump race meets

Posted: November 1, 2017 2:38 p.m.
Updated: November 3, 2017 1:00 a.m.
Tom Didato/C-I/

CAMDEN’S MARK WATTS and trainer Julie Gomena (right) combined to bring Balance the Budget to the winners’ circle in Saturday’s $75,000 David “Zeke” Ferguson Stakes at the International Gold Cup.

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Camden jockey Mark Watts took Balance the Budget to the lead early in Saturday’s $75,000 David “Zeke” Ferguson Stakes at International Gold Cup at The Plains, Va., and dared his four opponents to catch him if they could. They could not.

Trained by Julie Gomena, Balance the Budget swaggered off to a gaping early lead of roughly 30 lengths and let his pursuers get within five lengths near the final fences. But the eight-year-old Bellamy Road gelding laughed off the challenge from Irv Naylor’s Charminster and drew away again to win the 2 ¼-mile chase by 9 1/4 lengths.

Charminster, ridden by Carol-Ann Sloan, finished second, 1 1/4 lengths ahead of S. Rebecca Shepherd’s Curve of Stones. Schoodic, winner of the Virginia Gold Cup’s David Semmes Memorial (Gr. 2) in the spring, finished fourth.

The win was the second of 2017 for  the team of Watts and Balance the Budget. The 2016 Carolina Cup winner, which was coming off a second-place finish in a $70,000 handicap hurdle in Saratoga in August, won the $40,000 feature at Tryon, N.C., in April.

With Watts doing the piloting, this was the second straight year in which the Ferguson Stakes had a Camden connection.

Last year, Top Striker, owned by Camden’s Sue Sensor and trained in Camden by Arch Kingsley Jr., won the fall feature at The Plains before going on to win the $150,000 Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup in Camden the following month.

Dalton has big day in Aiken: Another Camden jockey, Bernie Dalton, received a powerful late charge from his mount, PathFinder Racing’s Cognashene and the two roared to a half-length victory in the $20,000 Budweiser Holiday Cup, the featured race at Saturday’s Aiken Fall Steeplechase.

Indy’s Legacy, who shadowed the pace of Show King throughout the 2 1/4-mile race, took second money, 3 1/4 lengths ahead of Show King.

Trained by Neil Morris, the veteran Cognashene settled near the back of the field with Dalton as Shannon Hill Farm’s Show King set the pace under Declan Queally with pressure applied by Indy’s Legacy and jockey Shane Crimin.

Show King maintained the lead over the last fence, but Cognashene came flying late to overtake the two front-runners in a dramatic, driving finish.

Cognashene, a 10-year-old Dynaformer gelding, ran the Budweiser Holiday Cup’s 2 1/4 miles in 4:21 1/5 on turf rated as good.

The victory was the second of the year for Cognashene, who had won a $15,000 claiming hurdle at the Willowdale Steeplechase on May 14. It was also the fifth win of the National Steeplechase Association season for Dalton.

Dalton opened Saturday’s five-race card with a win on the Desmond Fogarty-conditioned White Cape in the day’s first chase, a $25,000 maiden hurdle. Dalton was third aboard Finally Perked, which is trained by his wife, Kate Dalton, in the $20,000 Filly & Mare Hurdle before coming home second on Cherished Prize --- also trained by his wife --- in the finale of the afternoon, a 1 ¼-mile training flat race.


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