Carolina Cup tops weekend triple header

Abaan and The Hero Next Door © Tod Marks

By Tod Marks

Six races worth $190,000 are on tap for South Carolina’s premier spring social event, while a pair of point to points in Virginia and Pennsylvania host five additional contests, mostly over timber.

Racing returns to historic Springdale Race Course in Camden, S.C., on Saturday for the 89th running of the Carolina Cup Races. Anchored by the $75,000 Carolina Cup, which this year will be run as a stake for novice jumpers ages four and up at 2 ⅛ miles, the card includes four other hurdle races, 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 be on Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Daignault Thoroughbreds’ Abaan, a multiple stakes winner on the flat and over jumps of more than a half-million dollars. Trained by Kate Dalton and ridden by her husband, Bernie, the son of 2013 Travers winner Will Take Charge came off the flat late last summer to make three starts over hurdles. After finishing a close second in a field of 10 in his debut at Colonial Downs, Abaan broke his maiden impressively over the course, then overtook highly regarded The Hero Next Door to win the Foxbrook Champion Hurdle stakes at Far Hills to end the season.

Michael Smith’s The Hero Next Door, trained by Leslie Young, will attempt to turn the tables on his foe in Camden. He ended his 2023 season with a pair of seconds, in the Foxbrook and AFLAC Supreme novice stakes at Callaway Gardens, and he was on his way to a clear victory in the Green Pastures stakes at the Iroquois Races in May when he fell at the final fence. The field also includes last year’s novice champion, Hudson River Farms’ L’Imperator, trained by Arch Kingsley. Another multiple stakes winner (on the flat) of more than $500,000, the French-bred son of Holy Roman Empire was third in the Foxbrook and second – beaten a half-length by stablemate and Eclipse Award winner Merry Maker – in the Grade 1 Lonesome Glory at Aqueduct. Hall of Fame conditioner Jack Fisher sends out Bruton Street-US’ up-and-comer Neotropic, who concluded his five-year-old campaign in October with a score in a non-winners of two allowance race at the International Gold Cup Races.

The remainder of the card consists of two $30,000 maiden-special-weight hurdles; a $25,000 maiden claimer; a $30,000 handicap for horses rated at 115 or less; and a training-flat event. For full entries, click here.

Also on Saturday, about 450 miles north of Camden in Berryville, Va., the 75th running of the Blue Ridge Hounds Point to Point will for the first time feature a pair of NSA sanctioned races: a $15,000 handicap hurdle at 2 miles and a $15,000 allowance race over timber at 3 miles. Both races are restricted to amateur or apprentice riders.

The event takes place at historic Woodley Farm, a 383-acre site at 490 Woodley Lane, just south of Berryville. It was originally bought by Daniel Sowers in the 1830s from George Washington’s cousin and has been used for fox hunting since. One of the unique attributes of the property is that it allows spectators to see the entire course at one time.  The two sanctioned races are sponsored by the Virginia Equine Alliance.  Gates open at 10 a.m. and the sanctioned races are scheduled for 1:35 p.m.and 2:45 p.m.

The point-to-point will have other entertainment, too, such as a parade of foxhounds and another of beagles, stick horse races for kids, a car show, and carriage parade. Attendees are welcome to picnic on the general admission hillside, and food vendors will also be on site, along with a vendor village with craft and other items for sale.

On Sunday, racing resumes in Unionville, Pa., in Chester County for the 77th Cheshire Races at Plantation Field on Route 82. The day’s activities include pony races, a parade of Mr. Stewart’s Cheshire Foxhounds, a side-saddle race, and three NSA sanctioned timber races at 3 miles: a $15,000 maiden, $15,000 allowance for apprentice riders, and the featured $20,000 Cheshire Bowl open allowance. The pony races kickstart the day at 10:45 a.m. The NSA races are scheduled to go off at noon, 12:30 p.m., and 1 p.m.

If you can’t make it to the races in person, you can watch the live stream via the NSA website.

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