Carolina Cup preview

Six races worth $160,000 are on tap for Camden’s annual rite of spring and one of South Carolina’s premier social events.

The Carolina Cup trophy on display at the 2022 races. ©Tod Marks

by Tod Marks

Racing returns to historic Springdale Race Course in Camden, S.C., on Saturday for the 88th running of the Carolina Cup Races. Anchored by the $50,000 Carolina Cup, which this year will be run as a stake for novice jumpers ages four and up at 2 1/8 miles, the card includes four other hurdles, all of which will be contested at the same distance. Gates open at 9 a.m.; first race post time is 1:30 p.m.

Four horses will face starter Stirling Young in the Carolina Cup, and a lot of attention will likely be on Sonny Via’s Welshman, trained by Hall of Famer Jack Fisher and ridden by Graham Watters. After coming off the flat in 2021, the son of Flintshire made seven starts over hurdles last year. The four-year-old broke his maiden at first asking at Foxfield in the spring by nearly nine lengths and, after gaining experience in a couple of tough spots at the Iroquois Races and in Saratoga, put it all together in the fall. He romped by eight lengths in a handicap for horses rated at 115 or less at Virginia Fall in Middleburg, then concluded the season with a determined victory in the $75,000 AFLAC Supreme novice stakes at Callaway Gardens, topping a strong field that included stakes winners Ljay and Theocrat.

Like Welshman, South Branch Equine’s Who’s Counting switched to jump racing last year after beginning his career on the flat in 2021. And since day one, he’s been money in the bank. In five hurdle starts (to go along with a pair of return appearances on the flat), the Maryland-bred, trained and ridden by Sean McDermott, had two wins, two seconds, and a third. In his final 2022 start, in the Harry Harris Stakes for four-year-olds at Far Hills, Who’s Counting closed stoutly to finish second, beaten a half length by Ljay, and a half length ahead of eventual novice champion Proven Innocent.

Louisiana-bred Step to the Bar has two NSA victories since joining the circuit in 2019, both coming at Shawan Downs (a maiden and non-winners of two allowance). Following the latter last fall, the then-six-year-old, who runs in the colors of Del Rio Racing under the tutelage of trainer Kate and jockey Bernie Dalton, stepped up to stakes company in the AFLAC Supreme, but wasn’t a factor. Likewise he failed to threaten in his only other stakes appearance, which came in last year’s Carolina Cup, won by Atlantic Friends Racing’s Historic Heart.

The wild card in the Cup is first-time NSA starter Caramelised, a veteran British-bred and raced five-year-old hurdler owned by Sharon Sheppard and Gill Johnston, and handled by leading 2022 conditioner Leslie Young. The son of Dansili has four wins in 16 starts and will be ridden by David England, an experienced 36-year-old from the UK, who made his NSA debut at Aiken last week.

Saturday’s card also includes two $30,000 maiden-special-weight hurdles; a $25,000 maiden claimer; a $25,000 handicap for horses rated at 115 or less; and a training-flat event. For full entries, click here.

If you can’t make it to the races in person, you can watch the free live stream via the NSA website. The live stream is sponsored by Brown Advisory.

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