This is Horse Racing
The signs of the pending winter season are everywhere. Leaves are gone from the trees, Christmas trees are being toted around town on the roofs of cars and in the beds of pickups, holiday lights are up or going up, Black Friday is in the books and public tree lighting events going on from coast to cast.
Lacey Gaudet is rolling. The 28-year-old Maryland-based trainer is in the midst of a career year nearly four times over, she’s locked in a battle for leading trainer honors at Laurel Park and she’s preparing to run three horses in Saturday’s Claiming Crown at Gulfstream Park.
Like a good book, the National Steeplechase Association season comes to a conclusion, and the authors put the final chapter to bed at the Colonial Cup Races in Camden, S.C. Nov. 19. No more jump racing in the United States until March.
Sue Sensor hugged and cried at the top of the grandstand. Arch Kingsley numbly walked down the far steps of the grandstand. Wendy Kingsley walked up the center steps in slow-motion awe. Jaime Camacho, hell, he was on the inside rail pumping his left fist and throwing a halter and shank like a cowboy throws a lasso.
“He was brilliant, wasn’t he?” Sensor said, crying, moments after the race. “Just brilliant.”
“Oh my God,” said Wendy Kingsley as she searched for her husband in the bedlam of winning the sport’s most iconic race.
“He’s a nice horse,” Arch Kingsley said, jostling between bear hugs and high fives. “He’s a nice horse.”
Just in case you didn’t get enough fill on Thanksgiving Day the world of racing offers up another smorgasbord of action from Doncaster to Newcastle, Aqueduct to Del Mar and Churchill to Tampa. Another loaded day and Saturday Special presented by Pin Oak Stud previews all the action.
So long, Grinding Speed. After 36 starts, 10 wins, seven seconds, and two thirds, the Maryland-bred son of Grindstone out of the Cozzene mare Cozelia retires to a life of leisure with owner Michael Wharton, who bought the eventual timber champion for the paltry sum of $2,000. Grinding Speed, who earned nearly $316,000 and captured a remarkable three Virginia and two International Gold Cups at Great Meadow, will become Wharton's foxhunting companion with the Green Spring Valley Hounds. Of course, a big shout out goes to the rest of the team including trainer Alicia Murphy and Billy Santoro, and jockey Mark Beecher. Photographer Tod Marks looks back at Speedy's career starting with his maiden win over jumps in 2011.
By the fourth race at Saturday’s Colonial Cup meet at Springdale Race Course in Camden, S.C., Kieran Norris needed a win. Really needed a win. He came into the day with a 13-12 lead in the battle for the National Steeplechase Association jockeys’ championship and watched five-time champion Paddy Young win the day’s third race to force a tie.
Tom Howard thought back Monday afternoon to the days leading up to the March 6, 2014 waiver-claiming race at Oaklawn Park where he and Lewis Mathews Jr. were able to land Ivan Fallunovalot for what now looks like a bargain price of $25,000.
Sue and George Sensor won the Grade 1 Colonial Cup, the biggest race of their lives as steeplechase owners, with Top Striker Saturday at Springdale Race Course in their hometown of Camden, S.C. Trained at Springdale by Arch Kingsley, Top Striker produced a win for the locals on a day that honored the memory of the ultimate local – former race chairman Austin Brown who died in May.
Top Striker continued his late-season push, added a second consecutive graded stakes win and spoiled Rawnaq’s bid for a perfect 2016 campaign with an emphatic victory in the 47th running of the Grade 1 Colonial Cup Saturday at Springdale Race Course in Camden, S.C.
And it comes down to this. As always and just as it should, the steeplechase season reaches its crescendo at the Colonial Cup.
Rawnaq aims at his fourth win in a row, taking on nine rivals in the Colonial Cup at Springdale Racecourse in Camden, S. C. In those three wins, Scorpiancer, Shaneshill, Nichols Canyon, Rudyard K and Sharp Rise chased the 9-year-old. They’re resting, have gone home or are, sadly, gone.
It’s come to this. The final stop on the 2016 National Steeplechase Association calendar occurs Saturday at Springdale Race Course in Camden, S.C. Seven races, lots of prize money, big fields, great day (how does 72 degrees and sun sound?) and some championships on the line.
Oh, and the TIHR handicappers are tied – TIED.
Just when you thought things might slow down a bit – with the Breeders’ Cup two weeks in the books and Thanksgiving right around the corner – comes the third Saturday in November. Nearly 30 stakes are on tap in North America, including loaded cards at Laurel Park and Delta Downs, and we’ve got it covered in Saturday Special presented by Pin Oak Stud.
Axelle Angeliaume brought a unique skillset and experience portfolio when she came to the United States to work in racing after starting her career in her native France.
Kieran Norris is just happy to be in the championship conversation. Paddy Young can’t really believe he has a chance at another trophy. And Sean McDermott is fighting hard to not dwell on what might have been.
Evidence of the love and enthusiasm for off-the-track Thoroughbreds was easy to see during the last week of October in Central Kentucky. In Lexington, hundreds of such OTTBs, their owners and admirers gathered to celebrate the second careers of former racehorses at the Retired Racehorse Project’s Thoroughbred Makeover.
Jim Bond clicked his stopwatch, stuffed it in his jacket pocket, spun on his heel and made his way toward the clocker’s stand at the finish line of the Oklahoma Training Track.
Heat poured from an open window as Joe Williams and Dave Lynett looked out, ready to provide Bond with the time of his last two breezers of the day. Bond beat them to the punch before they could rattle off the splits.
“And as they say, th, th, th, th, that’s all folks,” Bond said, laughing at his impression of the timeless Looney Toons signature closing line.
The end of the jump racing season is closing fast with the Colonial Cup on tap for Saturday, two weeks removed from the conclusion (for the most part) of the North American flat season. Training in Saratoga comes to an end Tuesday and things are slowing down a bit in Fair Hill, too. Sure signs of winter for sure.
Saratoga Race Course's final racing day of 2016 happened on Labor Day, more than two months ago, but the track's "offical" closing day is Tuesday – the final day of training at the Oklahoma Training Track for the year. Horses, trainers, grooms, clockers and everyone else closes up for the year and won't be seen until spring. If you're in town, stop by and say goodbye. If not, photographer Maggie Kimmitt offers a farewell of sorts with images of Songibrd, Arrogate and more.
The Breeders’ Cup is in the books – the election, too, mercifully – and it’s time to begin the slide toward the holidays and the end of the year here at This Is Horse Racing. Thank goodness for Saturdays to shake things up a bit and we’ve got it all covered in this week’s edition of Saturday Special presented by Pin Oak Stud.