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, April 29, 2011


While we won’t know for a few more days exactly what horses will be entered in Saturday’s feature race – the 86th running of the Virginia Gold Cup -- we can speculate upon who we might place a wager should they be found under starter's orders next Saturday at 3:45 pm.   

If he skips the Maryland Hunt Cup on Saturday and heads down to the Commonwealth, Merrifield Farm’s Bon Caddo, who won the $35,000 My Lady’s Manor on April 16, could be one of the favorites along with EMO Stables’ He’s A Conniver.
Bon Caddo (red and green) (Douglas Lees)
You might remember those two names if you attended last October’s International Gold Cup where those two warriors finished one-two in the feature race.

Bon Caddo hasn’t done much wrong since, and if he skips the Free State’s Hunt Cup, don’t be surprised if those same two horses dominate the spring version of the timber classic.  Bon Caddo finished second to Patriot’s Path in the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup back in November and followed that up with a victory in the Ladies Timber at the Piedmont Hunt Point-to-Point in March prior to winning the featured My Lady’s Manor.

That said, if Bon Caddo goes in Maryland, that leaves the door wide open for He’s A Conniver.
He's A Conniver (Douglas Lees)
Owners of EMO Stables, Betty and Ernie Oare of Warrenton, VA, have deep Gold Cup roots and they have been on the lookout for a horse that could win the race for many years.  In his younger days, Ernie used to ride steeplechase horses and his best timber horse, Allen B.J., once had a shot to win the Gold Cup with jockey Oare in the saddle.

Unfortunately, the girth broke during the race. The girth is the big belt looking strap that keeps the saddle on and without it you can’t run four miles and jump over a bunch of big fences unless you have the balance of Shannon Miller or Mary Lou Retton. Even then, it would be next to impossible. Kind of like riding a motorcycle on water – not impossible, but damn difficult.  A tough break, to say the least.
Veterans Randy Rouse (l) and Ernie Oare back in the 1970's.
Since then, the Oares have kept a steady look out for the right horse and they look to be headed in the right direction when the now nine-year-old He’s A Conniver won the International Gold Cup last fall.

He’s A Conniver, who is now trained by Dale Jackson and ridden by Jody Petty, made his 2011 debut last weekend at the Middleburg Spring Races where he finished second in the $20,000 Middleburg Hunt Cup.  He’s A Conniver ran a good race getting beat by Delta Park by 2 ¼ lengths.

For the EMO charger, the question is one of stamina…can he get the extra half-mile in the longer Virginia Gold Cup?  Time will tell.
Delta Park (Susan M. Carter)
Arcadia Stables Delta Park merits consideration based on winning the Middleburg Hunt Cup last weekend and for the simple fact that he is trained by Jack Fisher.

Fisher knows his way around the course at Great Meadow having either trained or ridden (or both) the great Saluter for each of his historic record-setting Gold Cup victories.   Delta Park was fourth prior to that in the My Lady’s Manor, so the seven-year-old could be coming to form at just the right time.
More Facination (Douglas Lees)
Rosbrian Farms My Lady’s Manor runner-up More Fascination is skipping the Maryland Hunt Cup and may well have his eighty-year-old eyes set on the Virginia Gold Cup.  Prior to running second to Bon Caddo for trainer Tara Elmore and rider Jeff Murphy, the Dynaformer gelding won the open timber race at the Orange County Hunt Point-to-Point.

Augustin Stables Radio Flyer has done well on the point-to-point circuit, but hitting in Hagerstown isn’t the same as hitting in Nationals Park.  The son of the well-named Irish stallion High Roller, won the $3,500 open timber race at Fairfax Point-to-Point last weekend.

Radio Flyer
Prior to that he was second in the Rokeby Bowl and last year he did perform well in stakes company finishing second to previous Gold Cup winner Bubble Economy in the $75,000 Mason Houghland Memorial.  Radio Flyer is in the capable hands of trainer Richard Valentine and we may find out if two recent “Triple A” wins have him ready for the “majors league.”

Others to keep an eye out for include NoGo Stables’ Yin Yang, Waverton Farm’s He’s Got Mojo and Maggie Bryant’s G’day G’day.  All three bring great connections and solid resumes to the event…if they decide to give it a try.

We will have more when the entries are drawn next week. – G. Petty

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