Willie McCarthy took Holston Hall’s Hot Rize to the lead before the final fence of the $75,000 Virginia Gold Cup and fought off a determined challenge by Organisateur to win by three-quarters of a length before a capacity crowd at Great Meadow Race Course in The Plains, Va., on Saturday, May 3.
Kinross Farm’s Old Timer finished third in Virginia’s richest race, and 2013 winner Grinding Speed took the fourth spot in the 89th running of the four-mile timber classic. Hot Rize ran the distance in 9:20.80 on ground rated as good.
For the second year, the Virginia Gold Cup offered pari-mutuel wagering on its races, and Hot Rize paid $23.40 to win. That payoff approximated his program-line odds of 10-1, largely based on his winless record over the year since his sixth-place finish behind Grinding Speed last year.
Still, Hot Rize had been close to the winner’s circle. He was caught at the finish line in the Radnor Hunt Cup and finished second by a nose. He finished third, beaten 1 3/4 lengths, in the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup. Holston Hall owner Russell Haynes took over the training of the 10-year-old Sultry Song gelding this year and rode him to a sixth-place finish in the Grand National at Butler, Md., on April 19.
For the Virginia Gold Cup, Haynes placed Hot Rize in the hands of the sport’s current hot jockey and part-time Camden resident, McCarthy, and the payoff was the biggest victory of the veteran campaigner’s career. In fact, he had never hit the board in five starts on the Great Meadow course.
McCarthy, who also scored in the $25,000 Steeplethon aboard Irv Naylor’s Saluda Sam in the day’s first race, placed Hot Rize in midpack as Irv Naylor’s Chess Board set the early pace under Ross Geraghty. Chess Board began to tire after three miles, however, and fell at the 20th fence. Chess Board was uninjured.
Hot Rize started his move a half-mile from the finish, and he jumped to the lead before the final fence. But Organisateur, owned by Rose Hill and trained by Ivan Dowling, also had made a move on the final turn and engaged Hot Rize in the stretch. The two leaders battled to the finish line, with Hot Rize maintaining the advantage by less than a week.
Irish-bred Organisateur had made the transition from hurdles to timber with an 11 1/4-length score in the first division of the John Rush Streett maiden timber race at My Lady’s Manor in Monkton, Md., on April 12.
The result denied Organisateur’s jockey, Jody Petty, a rare double in the Maryland Hunt Cup and Virginia Gold Cup. The former champion jockey, now riding as an amateur, had won the Maryland timber classic a week earlier aboard Guts For Garters.
McCarthy, a native of Ireland, leads the National Steeplechase Association rider standings with nine wins, five seconds and three third from 26 starts. The winner of the 2014 Carolina Cup aboard Top Striker tops the circuit’s earnings charts with $196,000 in purse money.
Lake Placid captures Block House: Irv Naylor’s Lake Placid set all the pace and easily turned back the owner’s Changing Times to win the $20,000 Tryon Equestrian Partners Block House, the featured optional allowance hurdle at the Block House Races in Tryon, N.C., on Saturday, May 3.
Under ideal weather conditions, Harry Haynes sent the free-spirited Lake Placid to the front at the start in a field of four and never looked back in winning by 2 1/2 lengths. The 2011 novice champion collected his first victory in nearly two years, since a starter handicap victory at the Iroquois Steeplechase in May 2012. Trained by Cyril Murphy, the nine-year-old Giant’s Causeway gelding ran the Block House’s 2 3/8 miles in 4:24.80 on firm turf.
Naylor’s Changing Times, trained by Kathy Neilson and ridden by Carol-Ann Sloan, finished 6 1/2 lengths clear of Duc de Savoie.
On to Music City: The NSA heads to Nashville for Saturday’s 73rd edition of the Iroquois Steeplechase, featuring the $150,000 Calvin Houghland Iroquois Stakes, the lone Grade I chase of the circuit’s spring campaign.
Divine Fortune, the reigning Eclipse Award winner, headlines a dozen horses nominated to the feature field which also includes 2013 Carolina Cup and Colonial Cup winner Alajmal, 2012 Colonial Cup winner Demonstrative and 2012 Eclipse Award winner Pierrot Lunaire.