Aiken Fall recap
Wycoff, Brion, Foley double; Gilligan earns first NSA win
By Tod Marks
Saturday’s five-race card in Aiken, S.C., was a showcase for several National Steeplechase Association newcomers, including jockey Jack Gilligan.
Gilligan, 19, has been riding for three years and hails from Craughwell, a small village in Galway, Ireland. He has had a dozen rides since launching his NSA career at Foxfield in early October, and the teen broke through at Aiken in a $25,000 maiden filly and mare hurdle aboard Cainudothetwist, who is owned and trained by Arch Kingsley.
Cainudothetwist’s wire-to-wire tour de force capped a bittersweet week for the Kingsleys. The five-year-old New York-bred mare by Americain out of Bourbon Twist, was the older sister to Bill and Carrington Price’s Hurtgen Forest, also trained by Arch Kingsley.
Kingsley lost Hurtgen Forest last week at the International Gold Cup Races, and the win was poignant for the entire Kingsley clan that cared for the horse, including Arch’s wife, Wendy, and daughter, Taylor.
In other action
Clara Belle beats the boys in hurdle debut
New NSA owner Jordan Wycoff was loaded and ready to run on Saturday with six starters, and hit pay dirt in the second race, a $15,000 maiden claiming hurdle, with his three-year-old filly Clara Belle.
Making her first appearance over jumps after 10 tries on the flat at Saratoga, Belmont, Aqueduct, Fair Grounds, Delta Downs, and Evangeline, the daughter of Broken Vow trailed early and advanced steadily with a half mile to go in the 2 1/8-mile contest.
Under Barry Foley riding for Keri Brion, Clara Belle set her sights on Brave Deacon and Twentyoneguns, surging ahead of the duo at the last fence and drawing clear by 2 1/2 lengths. David Hain’s Hail to the Chief rallied for second with Gerard Galligan, while Blythe Miller Davies’ Brave Deacon, under son Teddy Davies riding for dad, Joe, finished third.
Wycoff, Brion, Foley double with Topic Changer in featured $30,000 Holiday Cup maiden hurdle
The owner-trainer-jockey combo followed up Clara Belle’s score with yet another successful first-time jumper making his NSA debut.
Like his filly stablemate, Topic Changer is a three-year-old coming off the flat, where he won a maiden special weight turf race in June and a claimer at Saratoga over the summer, both for trainer Christophe Clement.
The son of Flintshire came from far off the pace to launch a bold bid around the final turn and run down pacesetter, Merriebelle Stable’s Beat Le Bon (with Graham Watters), who looked like a certain winner at the final fence. At the wire, Topic Changer was 4 1/2 lengths in front of Beat Le Bon. It was another 16 1/2 lengths back to the show horse, Tom Rice’s Lumberjack (Tom Garner).
Soramond impresses in bow
The biggest blowout of the day came in the third race, a $20,000 handicap for horses rated at 110 or less.
Ballybristol Farm’s Soramond, a German-bred five-year-old mare making her second U.S. start following a dozen races in England, opened up a commanding lead early and maintained it throughout the 2 1/8 miles.
With Freddie Procter riding for leading trainer Leslie Young, Soramond maintained a lead of at least 15 lengths at every call, and withstood a stumble that nearly unseated the rider at the sixth fence. Undeterred, horse and rider recovered and continued to expand their lead.
Jeffery Morris’ Shaka, with Graham Watters, was second; QR Stables’ Criticize and Gerard Galligan were third.
Be Yourself prevails on the flat
Flying Elvis Stable’s Be Yourself, a four-year-old Kitten’s Joy gelding who has yet to start over jumps, stretched his legs over the Aiken turf course with a half-length tally in a training race.
With Gerard Galligan riding for trainer Neil Morris, the veteran of 18 starts, mostly on the Mid-Atlantic circuit, finished just ahead of Tom Rice’s Secret Soulmate. Maranto Manor’s Auction Kingdom was third.
Full results can be found here: https://nationalsteeplechase.com/racing/