Three Grade 1 winners, 2013 winner Decoy Daddy, and a formidable front-runner will line up on Saturday for the $50,000 Temple Gwathmey (Gr. 3), featured race of the 93rd annual Middleburg Spring Races.
Two of the three Grade 1 winners --- Magalen O. Bryant’s Gustavian and owner-trainer Jonathan Sheppard’s Italian Wedding --- collected their initial top-level victories last season.
Gustavian completed the 2013 season as the National Steeplechase Association’s second-leading earner and an Eclipse Award finalist. In his first starts after being purchased by Virginia resident Bryant, Gustavian won Belmont Park’s $150,000 Lonesome Glory Handicap (Gr. 1) and was second in the $250,000 Grand National (Gr. 1) at Far Hills, N.J. He stumbled and lost his rider at the last fence of the $100,000 Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup (Gr. 1) in Camden last November. Trainer Leslie Young named her husband, four-time champion jockey Paddy Young, to ride.
Italian Wedding returned from a long period on the sidelines to win the $150,000 New York Turf Writers Cup (Gr. 1) at Saratoga Race Course after a good second in Saratoga’s $100,000 A. P. Smithwick Memorial (Gr. 1). Unplaced in the Grand National, he finished third in the Colonial Cup. Part-time Camden resident Willie McCarthy will ride for Sheppard, a Racing Hall of Fame trainer and part-time Camden resident.
The third Grade 1 winner is Randleston Farm’s Spy in the Sky, who upset the 2012 A. P. Smithwick. He also had upset the 2009 New York Turf Writers but was winless last year.
Irv Naylor’s Decoy Daddy kicked off a notable 2013 season with his Gwathmey victory. The veteran then won the Radnor Hunt Races’ $50,000 National Hunt Cup (Gr. 3) and in the fall was victorious in the Montpelier Hunt Races’ Noel Laing for a third time. Cyril Murphy, who took over training of Decoy Daddy before the Noel Laing, named Carol-Ann Sloan to ride.
Pleasant Woodman, owned by Virginia B. Lazenby and Farm d’Allie Racing Stables, used his front-end speed to win the $50,000 Budweiser Imperial Cup (Gr. 3) at 2014’s first race meet in Aiken. Trained in Middleburg by Doug Fout, Pleasant Woodman will be ridden by Gerard Galligan.