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?

Monday, October 18, 2010


It’s going to be a long winter’s wait for Ernie and Betty Oare.

The noted Virginia horsemen have been trying for over forty years to capture the Virginia Gold Cup run annually just down the road from their Warrenton, VA base. The Oares have come close – really close. But the famous four mile timber race has alluded them time and time again including back in the early 1970’s when Oare rode Seven Corners Timber Champion Allen B.J. only to have his girth break mid-race.

Oare, who is selling the overwhelming majority of his horses this week in Ocala, is hanging on to the International Gold Cup winner. He recently told Steeplechase Times, “I’ve been trying to win the Virginia Gold Cup for 40 years. I really have. I’d rather win that than any other race. If I sell him, I’m going to have to start all over again.”

Oare who has trained, owned and ridden racehorses since he married Betty in 1964, returned to training his own stock in earnest in 2008 concentrating on Tampa, Colonial Downs and Delaware Park. Apparently, somewhere along the way, Oare forgot about one of the basic truisms of horse ownership – they accumulate. Turn the clock forward to 2010, and Oare was conditioning a stable of 30 horses.

Deciding to reduce the stable to a more manageable size, Oare opted to clean house and start over. That said, a horse that can go three and one-half miles over timber is not easy to find and the last half-mile to the Virginia Gold Cup distance of four miles makes the search all the more tricky, so retaining the specialist He’s A Conniver makes perfect sense.

Oare’s patience was rewarded on Saturday when the eight-year-old gelding went flag-to-wire to win the $50,000 International Gold Cup at Great Meadow.

In doing so, He’s a Conniver collected his second straight victory turning back a challenge by Bon Caddo and winning by 2 1/4 lengths.

Jumping comfortably on the lead in the late stages of the testing 3 1/2-mile timber race, He’s a Conniver found himself on the far outside with jockey Jody Petty after the last fence, while Merrifield Farm’s Bon Caddo took the inside route under Christopher Read for the battle to the finish line. But Petty kept He’s a Conniver under pressure and maintained his advantage to the finish line.

Finishing a good third in a field of seven was Mrs. S. K. Johnston’s Swagger Stick, a timber-racing newcomer who is trained by Jack Fisher and was ridden by Willie Dowling.

He’s a Conniver ran the distance on the Great Meadow course in 7:36.

Bred by Racing Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard, He’s a Conniver opened the fall timber season with a sparkling 27-length victory in the $35,000 National Sporting Museum Chronicle Cup at the Virginia Fall races in Middleburg on Oct. 2.

Oare is a member of the board of directors of both the Virginia H.B.P.A. and the Virginia Thoroughbred Associaiton.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


A field of nine is scheduled to go to the starting line for Saturday’s $50,000 International Gold Cup, the fifth race on the six race card.
He's A Conniver

1 MUSIC TO MY EARS (IRE) g.12 150 Walsh, R – jockey, Anna Stable – owner, Richard L. Valentine – trainer; 2 FIELDVIEW g.7 165 Nagle, D, Irvin S. Naylor, Katherine N. McKenna; 3 GATHER NO MOSS g.9 150 Watts, M, Manown Kisor Jr,. Michael Berryman; 4 BON CADDO g.9 160 Read, C, Merriefield Farm, Dawn P. Williams; 5 HE'S A CONNIVER [L] g.8 165 Petty, J, EMO Stables, Ernest M. Oare; 6 ALBERT'S CROSSING g.10 155 Slater, J, Irvin S. Naylor, William Meister; 7 INCASEYOURAMINER g.9 150 Swope, B, Benjamin C. Swope, Benjamin C. Swope; 8 MEET AT ELEVEN (IRE) g.11 165 Young, P, Keystone Thoroughbreds, Todd McKenna; 9 SWAGGER STICK g.9 150 Dowling, W, Mrs. S. K. Johnston, Jr. Jack Fisher.

Gold Cup vetrans will note that the trainer of Swagger Stick is Jack Fisher of SALUTER fame.

(Photo courtesy of Susan M. Carter photography)


Well, there’s a small boat made of china
Is going nowhere on the mantelpiece
Well, do I lie like a lounge room lizard
Or do I sing like a bird released

Everywhere you go you always take the weather with you…

-- Neil Finn, Mullane Finn and Brian Timothy (Crowded House) and as frequently performed by Jimmy Buffett.

Which brings us to a little subject we have to face each year right about now – the WEATHER.

So what if it’s raining now. We don’t care about NOW. We care about Saturday.

Drum roll, please.

SATURDAY: Sunny, 66 degrees.

In a word, PERFECT.

If you are one of those “fairweather” race goers who waits to decide if you are going until the last minute ‘cause it might “not be perfect,” we’ve got good news for you – weather that’s just about as “fair” as it gets this time of year. Let’s call it “perfect.”

So, are you going to “lie like a lounge room lizard” or “sing like a bird released?”

Everywhere you go, you always take the weather with you.

We’re taking our weather to Great Meadow on Saturday. How about you?


Joe Tizzard riding Intac (yellow) clear the water before winning The Higos Insurance Services Handicap Steeple Chase at Wincanton racecourse on October 14, 2010 in Wincanton, England (Photo by Alan Crowhurst/ Getty Images)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Drever Route ridden by Timmy Murphy (5) clears a fence during their victory in The Bobby Renton Handicap Steeple Chase at Wetherby Racecourse on October 13, 2010 in Wetherby, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images Europe)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


Look, we know you can’t wait until the Real Housewives of D.C. reunion show on Thursday night to find out 1) will the non-crashers chew up and spit out the crashers, 2) what new closet lock technology is out there, 3) did anymore “gear” get stolen (we thought “gear” was a fishing term as in “fishing gear,” our bad) and 4) what Cat might say or do next while standing outside someone’s home in the rain obviously fuming?
A hunting we will go...
That said, there is a HUGE rumor swirling about that some, none or all of the D.C. Housewives will be attending the races this Saturday. There is another rumor…ok, call it reasonable deduction…that if they do ALL come, they won’t come all TOGETHER.

Now this rumor popped up last spring when the Bravo show was filming and some folks thought that showing up at the Virginia Gold Cup on the first Saturday in May would be LOGICAL as it is one of the most IMPORTANT social events in the metro-D.C. area (not to mention to the horsey set out in horse country.)

However, if they were amongst us on that lovely spring Saturday, nobody at the Virginia Blog Cup made (or recorded – which is the important part) any sighting. That said, now that we’ve watched who-knows-how-many episodes of this new chapter of the hugely popular Housewives franchise, we now know that parties for stylists and the occasional department store fashion shows are way MORE important then horse race/cocktail parties in the bucolic Virginia countryside.
Mary, Michaele, Stacie, Cat and Lynda
Silly us. What were we thinking?

It’s not that we don’t like celebrity stylists (we do) and fashion shows (well…not as much, but we do like the models), and it’s not that we don’t think they are terribly important (as clearly all of the D.C. housewives cast members do…What? Tarq isn’t an official "D.C. Housewife?" Jeez…Damn it!). Oh well, it’s just that we thought there were certain KNOWN facts about the Washington social calendar and prestigious events like the International Gold Cup.

Fact is, the Gold Cups, both Spring and Fall, have been attracting celebs, socialites, college kids, families and both regular and high-test Joes for many YEARS. People with stylists, and people without stylists, come out and enjoy and afternoon in the country and all the trappings.

Now in order to give all of this some additional legs, there is another rumor floating around that says the Gold Cup has agreed to add a new division to the annual and always popular International Gold Cup Tailgate Contest – The D.C. Housewives Division.

Apparently Andy needs some brown water to confront
this crew. We'd recommend Woodford Reserve.
 Only the D.C. Housewives can enter. Linda can only serve breakfast as that’s all we’ve seen her cook, the Salahis can only serve those same store bought grapes everybody stomped on a few episodes back or any food they may have slipped out of that ill-fated State Dinner, Mary can serve whatever she wants but it must include big glasses of vino – big, BIG glasses. Stacie has to have her Aunt Frances (the one who put on such a spectacular displays of home cooking in an early episode) help her out and Cat must serve something dead, sour, American and angry, (but not her estranged husband, ‘cuase that would be gross).

The prize for the winner will be a trip back to the Bravo Clubhouse with Andy Cohen (assuming he’s survived another rugged reunion show.)
"Sure, who doesn't love a good tailgate?"
To give all of this just a bit more spark, we are told that Bono, Sting and Bruce Springsteen will probably (not) be the judges of this year’s tailgate competition.

So, get your tickets, you don’t want to miss this…after all, a polo game might break out if we can find the “gear.”

And if that doesn’t happen, it promises to be a great day of socializing and racing and that’s what it was meant to be all along!

*items in italics may not be true.

(Props to Express Night for the cool pic up top.)


Runners and riders make their way down the back straight during the Betdaq The Betting Exchange Handicap race at Kempton Park on October 11, 2010 in Sunbury, England. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images Europe)

Monday, October 11, 2010

Pictures of the Day

Czech jockey Josef Vana, 58, on his Polish horse Tiumen, (2ndL) and Czech jockey Marek Stromsky on French horse Amant Gris (2ndR) race during the 120th traditional Velka Pardubicka Steeple-Chase in Pardubice city, East Bohemia, on October 10, 2010. Vana won ahead of Czech jockey Marek Stromsky, who came in second, and Czech jockey Josef Bartos on French horse Sixteen who placed third. (Photo by Joe Klamar/AFP/Getty Images)

Runners and riders clear a flight of hurdles at Ffos Las racecourse on October 10, 2010 in Trimsaran, Wales. (Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images Europe)
Czech jockey Lucie Baluchova on horse Ligreta jumps over Big Taxis during the 120th traditional Velka Pardubicka Steeple-Chase in Pardubice city, East Bohemia, on October 10, 2010. (Photo by Joe Klamar/AFP/Getty Images)

Friday, October 8, 2010


But, you probably already knew that.

But did you know that the 1973 Triple Crown winner was born in Virginia?  Down in Doswell, not far from Richmond and the Strawberry Hill Steeplechase races you may or may not have attended.

While he died many years ago, his name lives on in the pedigree of many Thoroughbreds -- some of which may be running next Saturday at the International Gold Cup.

They never tried Big Red over jumps as he was way to valuable to risk a fall or injury.  But had they, he would have given all of them -- even the great Gold Cup champion Saluter -- one heck of a race.

Here are some reviews of SECRETARIAT starring Diane Lane and John Malcovich.

Ann Hornaday of the Washington Post admitted to Tony Kornheiser on the radio this week that she is a sucker for a sports movie and she loved Secretariat -- the horse and the movie.

To read her review, click here.

Andy Beyer, who is portrayed in the film, in the Washington Post: Just about every turf writer who has previewed "Secretariat" - which opens nationwide on Friday - has pointed out historical inaccuracies and significant omissions in the film. Having followed Secretariat's career as a journalist, I found some of the omissions distracting (particularly the expurgation of his Kentucky Derby-winning stablemate Riva Ridge.) But the filmmakers had to take some liberties in order to make this movie. Secretariat's real-life story didn't have a triumph-of-the-underdog theme that is a staple of sports movies. Nor were the people surrounding him especially colorful or lovable.

To read the review, click here.

Manohla Dargis of the New York Times: It's a pleasurable, seductive fantasy partly because, as we have known from the start of cinema, the sight of a running horse is a beautiful thing.

To read the review, click here.

Richard Roeper: This is a very predictable but thoroughly entertaining take on the greatest horse of all time.

To see the video of Roeper’s review, click here.

Clint O’Connor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer:
In that golden span of great sports from the mid-'60s to the mid-'70s, Muhammad Ali was king, but Secretariat was a contender for the throne of sports majesty. He even out-Springsteened Springsteen, landing on the covers of Time, Newsweek and Sports Illustrated.

To read the review, click here.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Picture of the Day

Runners take a flight of hurdles in The Ladbrokes Novices' Hurdle Race at Worcester racecourse on October 07, 2010 in Worcester, England. (Photo by Alan Crowhurst/ Getty Images)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


The Curragh Racecourse in Ireland
Now look, we aren’t about to cede the title of Best Horseracing Hats to anybody who isn’t right here in the good old U.S. of A. out at Great Meadow the third Saturday in October or the first one in May.

Any arguments from the folks in Louisville, KY notwithstanding, we will reluctantly claim the title while paying homage to our friends in Europe who are willing to glam up and go racing literally at the drop of their hat.

While they are happy to doll up for a regular meet, they also have skills when it comes to the “majors” with just such an event occurring last Sunday at Longchamp racecourse near Paris.

As always, hats played a major role in the ladies dress code.

There was an elegant party as one might expect and an important horse race. Is this starting to sound familiar?

Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe at Lonchamp Racecourse near Paris
At some point in a very fun day, Epsom Derby (that’s the English version of the Kentucky Derby) winner Workforce upset favorite Behkabad to the feature race – the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. “The Arc”, as we horseracing aficionados like to call it, is Europe's richest horse race with a purse of $5.5 million. Which last time we looked, was a bunch of coin.

The three-year-old colt, ridden by Ryan Moore, held off a strong challenge from Nakayama Festa on the home stretch.

"He was back to his best today and we got a nice run through,'' Moore said. "There was half a gap there and he was very brave and really quickened into it well.''

Say what? Those European jockeys have a rather odd way of saying things. What he meant was.

"My horse was at his best today, he didn't get tired and finished strong.  There was a tight space for me to go through to get to the lead, and my horse wasn't shy about going through this small space, and, once through it, he ran on very well from there to the finish."

Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe at Lonchamp Racecourse near Paris
Jeez, speak English, will ya?
Workforce gave trainer Sir Michael Stoute and his double talking jockey thier first wins in The Arc.
Stout also was wearing a hat.
Sources near Paris tell us a party ensued and lasted well into the night. 
No doubt, hats were lost.


Ryan Moore riding Workforce (L) win the most prestigious horse race in Europe, the Qatar Prix de l'arc de Triomphe from Japanese invader Nakayama Festa (R) at Longchamp on October 03, 2010 in Paris, France. (Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images Europe)
Paddy Brennan on Red Rouble (6) on their way to victory in the Tipzone @ 'National Hunt' Novices' Handicap Hurdle race at Towcester Racecourse on October 6, 2010 in Towcester, England. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images Europe)