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.

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