By Tod Marks
Bickley comes from off pace to break maiden
Gill Johnston’s Bickley unleashed a bold rally turning for home in today’s opener at Colonial Downs, and fended off a challenge from Bonnie Rye Stable’s late-running Quid to win going away by five lengths.
The six-year-old Kentucky-bred son of Flashback, ridden by Jamie Bargary and trained by Jack Fisher, had been knocking at the door in two starts this year — finishing second both times — but left no doubt that he was clearly the best in the $40,000 maiden special weights contest, which was run at 2 1/4 miles over nine fences at the New Kent, Va., course.
For most of the going, Hurricana Farm’s Sherkali, ridden by Bernie Dalton, and King of Tsavo, owned jointly by Johnston and Sharon Sheppard, set the pace, running one-two.
Heading up the backside the final time, Sherkali actually extended his lead to about two lengths, as King of Tsavo (Freddie Procter) slipped through on the inside to challenge the leader. But that’s when a trio of horses made even quicker moves to overtake the pacesetters.
Entering the stretch, it was Grey Illusions (Parker Hendriks) and Uco Valley (Tom Garner) on the outside, and Bickley on the inside, with the latter assuming command along the rail and extending his lead as he crossed the wire. Ross Geraghty aboard Quid make their own belated rally to get up for the place spot.
Ludicrous Mode digs in, draws off to give Bargary riding double
Making only his second start over jumps following a long career on the flat, Lucy Goelet’s Ludicrous Mode stayed out of trouble by avoiding a loose horse and repelled a lightning-quick move by QR Stable’s La Hara to take today’s $30,000 maiden starter hurdle.
With Jamie Bargary riding for trainer Mark Beecher, Ludicrous Mode stalked Ashwell Stable’s Twenty One Guns, the race leader, in the 2 1/4-mile race for horses who have been entered for a tag of $25,000 or less.
The field of seven was quickly reduced to six as Edith Dixon’s Fog Bound unseated Ross Geraghty at the first jump. Fog Bound made his presence known during the entire journey as he continued to race in close proximity to the field, zigging and zagging.
Ludicrous Mode assumed command entering the stretch during the final loop, and looked strong. With three jumps remaining, though, La Hara and Barry Foley made a monster move on the outside, blitzing past the leader by about four lengths, with Kate Dalton’s Pull Rank far back in third.
But Ludicrous Mode didn’t give up, accelerating into the far turn and drawing even with his foe. The duo continued to duel into the lane until Ludicrous Mode assumed command with three-sixteenths left, and prevailed by about three lengths. Still, there was plenty of drama as riderless Fog Bound split the two leaders nearing the wire, though there was no interference. William Russell’s Seismic Wave, ridden by Gerard Galligan and trained by Neil Morris, got up for second. La Hara held for third.
For Ludicrous Mode, a Maryland-bred five-year-old who began his jump racing career on Aug. 1 with a fourth in a maiden special weights contest, it was an auspicious start to his second career following 30 trips to the post on the flat, mostly in claimers at Laurel.
For Jamie Bargary, it was his second winner of the day, having taken the opening steeplechase aboard Gill Johnston’s Bickley.
The replay of both races can be watched here: https://youtu.be/nKGBX3W44zk
Full results can be found here: https://nationalsteeplechase.com/racing/