|GRINDING SPEED (Douglas Lees Photo)|
(NSA) Michael T. Wharton’s Grinding Speed returns to Great Meadow Race Course on Saturday, May 3, to defend his 2013 victory in the prestigious $75,000 Virginia Gold Cup. Standing in the way of a second straight win for trainer Alicia Murphy and jockey Mark Beecher is a strong field of opponents, including Gold Cup runner-up Straight to It.
The four-mile Virginia Gold Cup, one of the premier races on the National Steeplechase Association schedule, highlights the 89th Virginia Gold Cup Races in The Plains. First post time is 1:30 p.m. for a six-race program that features pari-mutuel betting under the supervision of the Virginia Racing Commission.
With his Virginia Gold Cup victory, Grinding Speed ended the 2013 spring season atop the NSA’s timber standing by purse earnings. He triumphed by 6 3/4 lengths over Straight to It.
Grinding Speed began his 2014 season with a third-place finish in the My Lady’s Manor at Monkton, Md., on April 12.
Jack Fisher, who shared last year’s timber trainer title, entered the pairing of Straight to It and Worried Man. Sheila J. Williams’ Straight to It opened the year with a fourth-place finish in the My Lady’s Manor. Jeff Murphy has the mount.
Sonny Via’s Worried Man, winner of last year’s Mason Houghland Memorial timber stakes at Nashville’s Iroquois Steeplechase, finished fifth in the My Lady’s Manor. Champion jockey Paddy Young will ride.
A horse to watch is Spencer Road, who upended defending timber champion Foyle by a hard-driving nose in the Grand National at Butler, Md., on April 19. Owned by Gerry Brewster, Eleanor T. Russell, and Joseph Tydings, Spencer Road is trained by Blythe Miller Davies, and Eric Poretz will ride.
Billy Meister, who shared the 2013 timber training title with Fisher, will saddle Irv Naylor’s Chess Board, winner of the New Jersey Hunt Cup timber allowance race last fall. He finished third in the Middleburg Hunt Cup on April 19.
Holston Hall’s Hot Rize, who was favored in last year’s Virginia Gold Cup and finished sixth, will take another shot at Virginia’s richest steeplechase race. Now trained by owner Russell Haynes, Hot Rize finished sixth in the Grand National.
Virginia-based horseman Neil Morris will send out Kinross Farm’s Old Timer, who finished second in the My Lady’s Manor in his first 2014 start. Jacob Roberts will ride.