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Two Cups are better than one

Eight jumpers eyeing Colonial, 10 nominated to Carolina Cup

Posted: March 22, 2018 10:36 a.m.
Updated: March 23, 2018 1:00 a.m.
Tom Didato/C-I

COLONIAL CUP FEATURE CHASE nominees Swansea Mile (left) with Michael Mitchell up, and Zanjabeel and jockey Ross Geraghty breeze over the Springdale Race Course during a March 10 work.

Early skepticism has given way to “let’s go.”

The inaugural spring running of the $150,000 Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup (Gr. I), a race without a home last fall, found the perfect landing spot in the spring. A field of eight jumpers were nominated in the hopes of testing the 14-jump, 2 3/8-mile Springdale Race Course layout which has become the feature jump race at the 84th running of the Carolina Cup Races to be run on Saturday, March 31.

The namesake race, the $75,000 Mullikin Law Firm Carolina Cup, drew a field of 10 nominees for the Grade II co-feature chase on a six-race card which will distribute a Camden-record $325,000 in purse money.

When the Carolina Cup Racing Association announced that it was shuttering the Colonial Cup races in 207 and moving the feature chase to the spring, there were those in the jump racing community who openly criticized the move while wondering how many top-flight jumpers would be ready to run so early in the spring. That answer arrived in the form of a strong, quality field.

Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard nominated 2017 Eclipse Award for Steeplechase Horse finalist All the Way Jose into the field. The 8-year-old gelding won the $150,000 Lonesome Glory Handicap at Belmont Park last fall with 2017 National Steeplechase Association champion rider Darren Nagle on board. In October, the pair came in third in the $400000 Grand National at Far Hills, N.J., after finishing third in the $150,000 New York Turf Writers Cup in Saratoga.

Ricky Hendriks moved a good portion of his jumpers from his Pennsylvania base to Camden this winter in order to get a head start on the NSA spring campaign. He sent the names of two of his stalwarts, Swansea Mile and Zanjabeel, in for the Colonial Cup.

The Irish-bred Swansea Mile won the $150,000 A.P. Smithwick Handicap at Saratoga --- with Michael Mitchell on board --- last July for its first U.S. victory and then found bad racing luck in its next two starts with a fifth in the $150,000 New York Turf Writers Cup and then a third place finish in the $150,000 Lonesome Glory Handicap at Belmont Park in September after clipping the second fence. 

Zanjabeel, a 5-year-old bred in Great Britain and formerly trained by noted Irish trainer Gordon Elliott, won in his U.S. debut, only 10 days after arriving on American soil as it drew away to a 4 3/4-length victory in Far Hills’ $125,000 Foxbrook Champion Hurdle. He followed that by taking the $75,000 AFLAC Supreme Hurdle in Pine Mountain, Ga., for its second win is as many starts in this country and first  with Hendriks as trainer.

The past two Carolina Cup feature champions are also in the field with Camden-based conditioner Arch Kingsley Jr. forwarding the name of 2017 champion Show Court while Julie Gomena will send 2016 Camden spring classic winner Balance the Budget out from her Aiken barn.

Bred in Ireland, Show Court gave its Florence owner Mark Buyck Jr., a day to remember last April by winning the $75,000 Carolina Cup with Mitchell in the saddle for its first U.S. victory.  The pair returned to the winners’ enclosure last July after having won the $75,000 Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes. 

Balance the Budget carried Camden resident Mark Watts to a Carolina Cup victory in 2016. Last year, Balance the Budget bracketed a six-start campaign over fences with wins including the $75,000 Zeke Ferguson Memorial Hurdle Handicap at Great Meadow, Va., in its final start on Oct. 28.

Seven-time NSA champion trainer Jack Fisher nominated a pair of jumpers in Hinterland and Schoodic. The former finished seventh last September’s $150,000 Lonesome Glory Handicap. Hinterland started last year with a second behind stablemate and 2017 Eclipse Award winner Scorpiancer in the $200,000 Calvin Houghland Iroquois Hurdle in Nashville. Schoodic captured the $75,000 David Semmes Memorial Stakes at Great Meadow last May over a quality field which included former Carolina Cup winners Alajmal and Diplomat. Winner of the $50,000 National Hunt Cup Hurdle Stakes in Malvern, Pa., in 2016, Schoodic was second in the 2015 New York Turf Writers Cup after having won the $75,000 Michael G. Walsh Novice Stakes at Saratoga in 2014.

Like Hendriks, trainer Elizabeth Voss moved part of her barn to Camden this winter including prospective Colonial Cup starter Lyonell, who is cross-nominated into the $75,000 Carolina Cup. Lyonell comes off an impressive 2017 campaign in which the German-bred gelding carried Jack Doyle to victory in the $50,000 Appleton Stakes rating hurdle at Far Hills, N.J., in October. He followed that with a third in the Noel Laing Stakes in Montpelier, Va.

The $75,000 Mullikin Law Firm Carolina Cup retains its conditions as a 2 1/8-mile race for novice jumpers. One nominee, the Fisher-trained Ice It, ran in this event last spring and finished sixth. Four weeks later, Ice it won the $75,000 Queens Cup MPC Chase Hurdle in suburban Charlotte. Ice It closed 2017 with second place runs in the Foxbrook Champion Hurdle Stakes in Far Hills, N.J., and then in the $75,000 AFLAC Supreme Hurdle in Pine Mountain, Ga.

Fisher also nominated New Member which closed its first year racing in this country with a second in the $75,000  William Entenmann Stakes at Belmont Park before a third in the $125,000 Foxbrook Champion Hurdle Stakes.

Richard Valentine, who also winters in Camden, and Voss nominated a pair of their jumpers in the mix. Valentine plans on running Personal Start, winner of an allowance at Great Meadow, Va., in its last start of 2017, and Lachares, a three-time winner over hurdles in its native Ireland and is coming off a fourth in the AFLAC Supreme Hurdle Stakes last fall. Voss plans on sending out No Wunder, which broke its maiden over fences at Fair Hill last May before winning a handicap in Saratoga last summer, and possibly, the aforementioned Lyonell.

Kingsley will try for his third and, second straight, Carolina Cup victory with Red Mist, which is entered to run in a two-mile chase in Aiken on Saturday in its first start over fences. Camden trainer Kate Dalton nominated Zio Elio which broke its maiden at first asking over fences last spring in Charleston.

Jumpers conditioned by Hendriks and Sheppard round out the nominees with Hendriks looking to give Daneking, a four-time winner in Ireland for trainer Willie Mullins,  its first American start. Sheppard is also eyeing the Carolina Cup for Taper Tantrum’s U.S. debut after having won four times and twice over hurdles in Great Britain.

Call the Carolina Cup at (803) 432-6513 for ticket and reserved parking information

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