All of the inside scoop on Virginia's biggest day of Steeplechase racing -- the Virginia Gold Cup. Hey, 50,000 of your closest friends can't be wrong! Do you have your tickets yet?

Friday, May 2, 2008


by Brian Nadeau – Steeplechase Times

Four miles and 23 timber fences stand between 10 horses and the biggest payoff on the National Steeplechase Association's timber calendar when the circuit heads to Great Meadow Race Course in The Plains, Va., tomorrow for the 83rd running of the $100,000 Virginia Gold Cup.

Any talk of the Virginia Gold Cup and 4-mile timber races begins and ends with Kinross Farm's standout Miles Ahead. Two-time Gold Cup winner, 2005 NSA timber champion and the only horse in the field to have won at this demanding distance, Miles Ahead casts a long shadow over his nine rivals. Trained by Neil Morris, the 11-year-old prepped for the Gold Cup with a second behind Allimac in a 3 1/4-mile allowance at Middleburg, which is news itself, as Miles Ahead tasted defeat for the first time after winning his initial eight timber starts. Hardly dismayed, Morris looks forward to Saturday's race.

Though he missed last year's running, Miles Ahead won the race in 2005 and 2006, and is back in 2008 "for a shot at the big money." As an 8-year-old, Miles Ahead prepped in a Middleburg allowance and then made his timber stakes debut in the 2005 Gold Cup, rallying late for a half-length score. He used the same path in 2006, when his 22-length triumph in the Gold Cup was a performance for the ages.

After more than 17 months on the sidelines Miles Ahead returned last fall for an easy score in the Genesee Valley Hunt Cup. Chris Read, aboard for both Gold Cup victories, has the return call. All starters will carry 165 pounds.

Though Miles Ahead is the horse to beat, contention runs deep in the Gold Cup. Irv Naylor's Hot Springs (Willie Dowling to ride) and Brigadoon Stable's Erin Go Bragh (Paddy Young) continue their rivalry that peaked in the My Lady's Manor April 12.

Desmond Fogarty conditioned Allimac to upset Miles Ahead at Middleburg, and he'll try to turn the trick again with Hot Springs, who finished second by a head to Erin Go Bragh in the Manor but was awarded the victory after Erin Go Bragh was disqualified for interfering with Hot Springs at the last.

Bob Kinsley's Incomplete (James Slater) enters light on experience but long on talent for trainer Ann Stewart. The 7-year-old is perfect in two starts over timber, having won an allowance at Grand National in 2007 and again earlier this season. Incomplete gets tested for class on Saturday but enters as a true wild card who could prove to be a fresh face in the division.

Champion trainer Jack Fisher will send out two in the Gold Cup, Arcadia Stable's Bubble Economy (Chip Miller), the 2004 timber champion, and Arthur Arundel's Monte Bianco (Xavier Aizpuru).

Bubble Economy chased Hot Springs and Erin Go Bragh home when third in the My Lady's Manor and is one of only three horses in the field to try 4 miles. Monte Bianco flies the flag for Great Meadow course founder "Nick" Arundel and steps up after taking his seasonal debut at Camden by 13 1/2 lengths.

Entries for the $100,000 Virginia Gold Cup (with jockey, owner and trainer):
1. Straight Gin (Calvin McCormack, Whitewood Stable, Richard Valentine).
2. Incomplete (James Slater, Robert Kinsley, Ann Stewart).
3. Miles Ahead (Chris Read, Kinross Farm, Neil Morris).
4. King Lear (Jeff Murphy, Mrs. Harry Russell, Joe Davies).
5. Hot Springs (Willie Dowling, Irv Naylor, Desmond Fogarty).
6. Erin Go Bragh (Paddy Young, Brigadoon Stable, Doug Fout).
7. Monte Bianco (Xavier Aizpuru, Arthur Arundel, Jack Fisher)
8. Bubble Economy (Chip Miller, Arcadia Stable, Jack Fisher)
9. J. Alfred Prufrock (Conrad Somers, Conrad Somers Conrad Somers).
10. Move West (Jody Petty, Augustin Stable, Sanna Hendriks).

(Top: Miles Ahead (l) in beige and blue silks, bottom Erin Go Bragh (l) and Hot Springs (c).)

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