By Tod Marks
We haven’t seen many Arrogates over jumps, but an NSA newcomer with the late stallion’s bloodlines put in a late move under Graham Watters to take Friday’s maiden special weights hurdle for four-year-olds, the first of three steeplechase races on the Colonial Card.
A field of eight faced starter Harrison Young, and it was Leipers Fork Steeplechasers’ Garrison Forest, with Robbie Dunne, who took the lead and held it for much of the 2 1/4-mile contest. Though the field was never spread out by more than five or so lengths, Garrison Forest was determined to show the way, and repelled multiple challenges by Del Rio Racing’s Tiger to Remember (Bernie Dalton), who stalked in second throughout and secured the advantage turning for home the final time.
Several horses made a late move into the stretch, but navigating into the straightaway became more challenging as loose horse Travesuras headed the field, causing potential traffic problems. But it was Daniel Baker’s Aftermath, trained by Mark Beecher and making only his second try over hurdles, who took command with a sixteenth of a mile to go and coasted clear by a length. Tiger to Remember held the place spot with Gill Johnston’s Active Duty (Tom Garner) third.
For Aftermath, who made his NSA debut in a maiden claimer at the Queen’s Cup in late April, it was his third career victory in 25 starts. Most of those previous starts came at Laurel and Turfway Park.
Animal Kingston gives Watters a riding double
William Russell’s Animal Kingston made a late bid to overtake a determined Ancient Times to take the $35,000 overnight handicap for horses rated at 115 or less by about three-quarters of a length.
Ridden by Graham Watters for trainer Neil Morris, Animal Kingston — along with three other starters — found themselves far back of the leader, Carrington Holdings’ Ancient Times (Conor Tierney) for most of the 2 1/4 miles.
Ancient Times broke on top and extended his lead to around 20 lengths, and carried that advantage into the stretch. Rounding the far turn the final time it looked as if Animal Kingston and Jacqueline Ohrstrom’s Tease and Seize (Mell Boucher) would zoom past the tiring leader — whose fizzle was colorfully described by the racecaller as “evaporating like a snow cone in Virginia.” But Ancient Times, despite setting all of the fractions, dug in gamely as Animal Kingston drew alongside, and still maintained a slight lead with 100 yards to go. It was only in the final few strides that Animal Kingston passed his foe to give Watters the victory. Tease and Seize finished third.
Animal Kingston, an eight-year-old son of Animal Kingdom, has had a long and successful career on the flat and over jumps. This was his seventh career victory — along with 18 other in-the-money performances — in 40 starts.
Bourbon Diversion goes wire to wire in filly and mare hurdle
Carrington Holdings’ Bourbon Diversion, a four-year-old daughter of Bellamy Road, snatched the lead shortly after the break, controlled the pace, and held off a challenge by Bonnie Rye Stable’s Afraid Not to score in the $40,000 filly and mare hurdle at 2 1/4 miles.
Ridden by Tom Garner for trainer Arch Kingsley, the New York-bred, making her third start over jumps, quickly extended her advantage to as much as eight lengths heading up the backside the first time around the course. Afraid Not (Gerard Galligan) sat in second, with the rest of the field close behind.
There was little change in position throughout the race, as Bourbon Diversion maintained a lead of about five lengths with three-sixteenths of a mile to go. As the leader rounded the far turn the final time, Afraid Not inched closer, gradually gaining ground and shrinking the lead to about three lengths with a furlong remaining. Afraid Not continued to narrow the gap, but fell a length short of Bourbon Diversion at the wire. Atlantic Friends Racing’s Lacey Underall (Mell Boucher) was another 4 1/2 lengths back in third.