By Tod Marks
In the first steeplechase of the National Steeplechase Association summer season, Carrington Holdings’ Ancient Times, a five-year-old New York-bred, went wire-to-wire under Mark Watts to score by 2 ¾ lengths in a $40,000 maiden special weights hurdle at Colonial Downs in New Kent, Va.
Riverdee Stable and Ten Strike Racing’s Awakened, ridden by Jamie Bargary, rallied over the last half mile from sixth to second, to finish a neck ahead of Bonnie Rye Stable’s Quid.
Before making the switch to jump racing, the lightly raced son of Carpe Diem made just two starts on the flat, breaking his maiden in a state-bred maiden on the turf at Saratoga last September.
Ancient Times made his NSA debut at the Queen’s Cup Races in April for owners Carrington and Bill Price and trainer Arch Kingsley, and was racing on the lead and appeared to have plenty left in the tank when he unseated his rider at the seventh fence.
On Monday afternoon, under a confident ride by Watts, Ancient Times broke fast and didn’t look back. He was never seriously threatened.
For Watts, who has ridden only sporadically in recent years, it was his first victory since piloting Balance the Budget to victory in the Grade 1 $150,000 Colonial Cup at Springdale Race Course in Camden, S.C., on March 31, 2018.
In the day’s other hurdle contest, a $40,000 maiden restricted to fillies and mares, Paul and Molly Willis’ New Appointment came from far off the pace under leading rider Parker Hendriks, to score in her American debut.
The four-year-old Irish-bred filly, trained by Keri Brion, was making her first start in more than a year, following five tries without a win in her homeland. She is a full sister to multiple stakes winner Historic Heart, who is owned in part by the Willis’ and runs under the banner of Atlantic Friends Racing.
Signal Hill Farms’ Peace Nicker, ridden by Ross Geraghty and trained by Julie Gomena, grabbed the lead at the start of the 2-mile race, breaking free of the pack by as much as five lengths.
With one furlong to go, Peace Nicker still looked strong, as New Appointment unleashed a furious rally on the outside. At the wire, the winner was three-quarters of a length clear of her game rival. It was another 4 ½ lengths back to the show horse, Ashwell Stable LLC’s Eponine, ridden by Nathan Brennan. It was Brennan’s first NSA mount.
For Hendriks, it was his NSA leading 13th winner of the season.
Full results from Monday’s racing at Colonial Downs can be found HERE.
Racing resumes at Colonial next Monday. The first Saratoga steeplechase is July 20, and it’s a big one: The Grade 1 $150,000 AP Smithwick.