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Storylines abound in Carolina Cup races
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Bargain basement purchases, horses with Camden ties and an Irish import making its first start over fences on this side of the Atlantic. What more could you ask for in a jump race?

That will be the scenario as five novice jumpers look to add their name to Carolina Cup lore in Saturday’s 83rd running of the $75,000 Carolina Cup steeplechase.

The feature chase will be the centerpiece at the Springdale Race Course in Camden.

Jack Fisher, the defending NSA trainers’ champion, took advantage of a break in the weather in Maryland to round Syros, who went from claimer to a winner at Saratoga, into shape for the Carolina Cup.

Owned by Gil Johnston, the 7-year-old Dynaformer gelding won three times in 10 starts --- with three seconds and a pair of thirds --- in 2014 which brought in $122,400. One of his wins from a year ago came in the $65,000 allowance chase at Saratoga. Syros closed last season with back-to-back seconds in the $100,000 Foxbrook Champion Hurdle Stakes at Far Hills and a runner-up finished behind 2014 Carolina Cup winner Top Striker in the $50,000 AFLAC Supreme Hurdle at Callaway Gardens in November. He will carry Sean McDermott and 153 pounds.

Mrs. Timothy Gardner’s Where’s the Beef, who is trained at the Springdale Race Course by Ireland native Peter Murphy. Getting the nod in the irons, at 153 pounds, will be defending NSA champion jockey and part-time Camden resident Willie McCarthy, who has been riding the gray gelding all winter.

Claimed for $25,000 after a 10th place finish in a $28,000 race on the flat for Kathy Neilson last June at Parx Racing in Pennsylvania, the 7-year-old son of multiple stakes winner Rockport Harbor, scored its biggest win over fences by carrying McCarthy to victory in the $50,000 AFLAC Supreme Hurdle Stakes at Callaway Gardens, Ga., on Nov. 2, 2013. That win came five weeks after Where’s the Beef broke its maiden over hurdles in its second start in a maiden special chase at Foxfield in Charlottesville, Va.

Trainer Richard Valentine, who campaigns 2014 Eclipse Award winner Demonstrative, entered Bill Pape’s Fog Island. Darren Nagle gets the call at 153 pounds.

The 8-year-old Rossini gelding has not win over fences since taking the Foxbrook Champion Hurdle Stakes at Far Hills, N.J., in 2012, but is no stranger to stakes company. In fact, its last 11 races have been stakes jump races with one of those resulting in a second-place finish in the 2013 Carolina Cup.

Aiken-based trainer Julie Gomena, who sent out Balance the Budget to victory in last Saturday’s $50,000 Aiken feature, will have Rock Ford Stables’ Sporty was nominated for another shot at the Carolina Cup after finishing fourth last year. The 8-year-old Smarty Jones gelding was third in the Iroquois Steeplechase’s Marcellus Frost Novice Stakes and Saratoga’s Jonathan Kiser Novice Stakes last year.

Last year’s NSA leading amateur rider, Kieran Norris, gets the nod on Sporty which will also carry 153 pounds.

The mystery horse in the field is Daybreak Stable’s Diplomat, who was purchased by trainer Jimmy Day from Dermot Weld’s stable in Ireland. A 6-year-old Kitten’s Joy gelding bred by Ken and Sarah Ramsey, Diplomat had a pair of seconds in eight starts in the UK in 2014. In 2013, Diplomat scored a pair of wins over hurdles at Galway and Sligo in Ireland. Camden’s Bernie Dalton gets the ride on Diplomat which will carry the high weight of 156 pounds.


Filling up the card:

After what has been, and in some cases continues to be, a brutal winter in the Mid-Atlantic and northeast regions, the fact that all six races are a go on Saturday is no small feat in itself.

The shortest fields will be in the $75,000 Carolina Cup feature, the $20,000 C.P. and Edith Wills DuBose Cup (the lone timber chase on the card) and the day-ending Kershaw flat race. Each of those three races drew five entries.

The $20,000 filly and mare maiden hurdle drew 10 entries with the $30,000 Camden Plate Sport of Kings maiden hurdle is expected to go off with nine starters while the day-opening maiden training flat race drew seven runners.

In all, 41 entries were accepted by the National Steeplechase Association for three races over National fences, one over timber and two on the flat.


No Sheppard horse in the feature:

It is a strange occurrence, indeed, that Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard does not have a jumper in the $75,000 Carolina Cup feature for novice jumpers.

A member of the Carolina Cup Racing Association who saddled four of the six jumpers --- including race winner Divine Fortune --- in last fall’s $100,000 Colonial Cup at Springdale, Sheppard has one horse entered onto the Camden card with 4-year-old filly Stalled in the $20,000 Filly and Mare maiden hurdle.


Eclipse Award winner in the house:

When the Carolina Cup feature reverted to a chase for novice jumpers, it took some of the more-established horses on the National Steeplechase Association out of the picture for the day’s premier chase.

That does not mean Saturday’s card lacks star power.

For those patrons sticking around until the final race of the day, The Kershaw, a 1 ½-mile run over the flat course, they will get to see 2014 Eclipse Award winner for steeplechasing, Demonstrative, make its 2015 debut for trainer Richard Valentine.

The 8-year-old Elusive Quality gelding spent its winter training in Camden at Valentine’s barn on the grounds of the Camden Training Center following its third-place run in last November’s Colonial Cup.


McCarthy on his "home" track:

In last year’s Carolina Cup, Camden resident and Ireland native Willie McCarthy, scored two victories including riding Top Striker, owned by Camden’s Sue Sensor and trained by Camden’s Arch Kingsley, to victory in the $75,000 Carolina Cup. For his effort, he was depicted on this year’s Carolina Cup poster which was the work of Camden artist Toby Sheorn.

Those victories established the ground floor of a 23-win season for McCarthy, who rode off with his first NSA leading rider title.

On Saturday, McCarthy will have four rides over hurdles and one on the flat after having picked up a win last week in Aiken. McCarthy will be on the back of Where’s the Beef in Saturday’s feature.

McCarthy’s fellow Irishman, Ross Geraghty, scored two wins in the NSA opening meet and has two scheduled rides in jump races in Camden.