Rising star Abaan takes biggest prize on busy weekend

Abaan (#1) and The Hero Next Door (#2) © Tod Marks

By Tod Marks

Eleven races worth $270,000 were up for grabs during the only triple header of the spring, with an estimated 40,000 fans on hand for the 89th running of the Carolina Cup Races.

Only four horses went postward in the $75,000 Carolina Cup novice stakes at Springdale Race Course in Camden, S.C., but the race itself was anything but ho-hum. Michael Smith’s The Hero Next Door, under Jamie Bargary, assumed the lead from the break, with Bruton Street-US’ Neotropic, Hudson River Farms’ L’Imperator, and Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Daigneault Thoroughbreds’ Abaan following leisurely behind.

There was no significant change in the running order as the quartet swung into the stretch the first time around the course, as only about three lengths separated them from front to back.

With three-quarters of a mile to go, L’Imperator, under Parker Hendriks, edged into second. The Hero Next Door was still three lengths ahead with two jumps left. And that’s when Abaan and jockey Bernie Dalton made their move to the outside of the leader.

Nearing the final fence, The Hero Next Door maintained a narrow advantage along the inner rail, and after the pair went up and over the 10th and final hurdle, the battle was on. It was still anyone’s race through Springdale’s long stretch, but with around 100 yards to the wire, Dalton steered Abaan farther to the outside, taking charge and drawing clear by 2 1/4 length, waving his outstretched fist as he crossed the finish line.

A multiple stakes winner on the flat and over jumps of more than a half-million dollars, Abaan is the son of 2013 Travers winner Will Take Charge. He came off the flat (where he was trained by Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher) late last summer, breaking his maiden at Colonial Downs in Virginia. In his next start, he overtook The Hero Next Door, trained by Leslie Young, to capture the Foxbrook Champion Hurdle stakes by 3 lengths at Far Hills in October.

Abaan’s victory was a popular one with the hometown crowd, estimated at 40,000 by Executive Race Director Toby Edwards, as Dalton and his wife, trainer Kate Dalton, are locals, and the community celebrated with the couple and their connections. Last year’s novice champion, L’Imperator, made a belated run to finish close behind The Hero Next Door for Camden-based conditioner Arch Kingsley.

Here’s how the remainder of the card played out:

Sherkali takes maiden claimer opener

Hurricana Farm’s Sherkali, making his first start in over a year, was rested and ready to go in the opener, a $30,000 maiden claiming hurdle.

With Parker Hendriks riding for Arch Kingsley, the Irish-bred eight-year-old stalked Ice Bar in the field of eight for much of the going, took the lead at the sixth fence, and repelled a lengthy challenge from Gill Johnston and Sharon Sheppard’s King of Tsavo (Jamie Bargary) to edge clear by two lengths. It was far back to R and K Racing’s Bless Bless in third.

“Lightning” strikes in $30,000 Dale Thiel maiden hurdle

Owner Clarke Ohrstrom and trainer Laird George teamed up with jockey Gerard Galligan to engineer a narrow come-from-behind victory in the second race with Lightning Rod.

For the six-year-old Maryland-bred son of Bellamy Road, it was just his third start over hurdles following 13 tries on the flat, and his first trip to the post since November 2022.

Galligan sat in midpack for most of the trip, with Mark Buyck’s Memento and Joseph Fowler’s Southpaw Mike showing the way. With about three-quarters of a mile to go, the field tightened up, with just eight lengths separating the runners from front to back. Nearing the last fence, Galligan moved Lightning Rod into contention and from there the race was on, with the winner extending his lead to about a length over Memento (Parker Hendriks). Upland Flats Racing’s Hidden Path (Harry Beswick) got up for the show spot.

Feeling Festive gives Kingsley, Hendriks a double on the day

Richard Colton’s Feeling Festive, a lightly raced Irish-bred point-to-pointer, made his NSA debut a winning one with a hard-fought score over Riverdee Stable and Joe Fowler’s Snow Geese in the $30,000 DuBose Cup maiden hurdle.

With Parker Hendriks again riding for Arch Kingsley, the five-year-old son of Shantou shadowed Gill Johnston’s Irelands Call for much of the contest then engaged Snow Geese (Bernie Dalton), who asserted himself with two fences to go.

Festive Feeling remained slightly behind Snow Geese at the final fence, eventually overtaking his foe to score by a half length.

For Hendriks and Kingsley it was their second victory in the first three races on the card. Hendriks almost made it three in a row, but fell a length short of Lightning Rod in the Dale Thiel maiden.

Tease and Seize crushes field in handicap

Jockey Gerard Galligan joined fellow riders Bernie Dalton and Parker Hendriks in doubling on the Carolina Cup card with a blowout victory aboard Jacqueline Ohrstrom’s Tease and Seize in the $30,000 Kirkover-Woodward Cup handicap for horses rated at 115 or less.

Coming off of three straight in-the-money finishes (a first, second, and third) in 110 and 115 handicap company in 2023, the French-bred six-year-old son of Motivator, trained by Richard Valentine, lagged behind the pace set by KMSN Stable’s Lightning Ridge. Lightning Ridge, who was making his seasonal bow following a sensational victory on the Alston Cup stakes for three-year-olds at Charleston last November, maintained a clear advantage under Graham Watters as Tease and Seize gradually moved into contention.

With two fences to go, Lightning Ridge was still on top by a length or so, with Tease and Seize in close pursuit and the rest of the field far behind. Turning into the stretch, Tease and Seize suddenly accelerated and swooped past Lightning Ridge, opening up by about 10 lengths at the last jump and widening his lead to nearly 20 at the wire. Neil Morris’ Dante’s Fire, under Harry Beswick, got up for second.

China Beach take flat finale

Making his first NSA appearance after 25 tries on the flat, St Rita Racing’s China Beach gave jockey Bernie Dalton his riding double with a facile score in the Camden Plate, a 1 1/2-mile training race over Springdale’s flat turf course.

Trained by Tennessee-based Ted Thompson, the six-year-old Florida-bred son of Treasure Beach was one of four contenders prepping for future opportunities. The field remained fairly close together for much of the running. After some jockeying for position, Atlantic Friends Racing’s Our Boy Wes, who was second in his U.S. debut in the Gladstone three-year-old stakes at Far Hills in October, and Jacqueline Ohrstom’s Blue Nile hooked up on the lead with China Beach and Greg Hawkins’ Camcha in close pursuit.

Dalton made his move aboard China Beach with about three-eighths of a mile to go, swooping to the lead and striding clear easily by about four lengths. Our Boy Wes was second under Teddy Davies.

And at Blue Ridge and Cheshire

Also on Saturday, about 450 miles north of Camden in Berryville, Va., the 75th running of the Blue Ridge Hounds Point to Point featured a pair of NSA sanctioned $15,000 races restricted to amateur or apprentice riders and open to horses who hadn’t won a stakes race in 2023. In the first race at 2 miles over hurdles, jockey Dan Nevin had his first mount since piloting Vintage Vinnie to a third-place finish in the 2023 Maryland Hunt Cup, and was victorious aboard Daniel Baker’s Decisive Triumph for trainer Mark Beecher. Decisive Triumph stalked Hickory Made Stables and Celtic Venture Stable’s Eye of Gunfighter (Virginia Korrell), circled the pacesetter on the final bend and drew clear by 4 lengths. Armata Stable’s Imperial Assassin was a half length back in third.

In the second event, at 3 miles over timber, Andy Burke Ott piloted Upland Partners’ Bob’s Bar to an 11 ½-length tally over Fat Chance Farm’s Salamanca School (Freddie Procter) for trainer Todd McKenna. The eight-year-old Irish-bred, who broke his maiden over timber at Winterthur last May following a European campaign, settled in third for the first circuit, took the lead with a half-mile to go, and drew off handily. Salamanca School, the pacesetter, took the place spot, several lengths clear of Chaser Dream Stables’ Eryx under Evan Dwan.

On Sunday, three sanctioned 3-mile timber events were on tap in Unionville, Pa., for the 77th Cheshire Races at Plantation Field.

In the $20,000 open timber race at 3 miles, Leipers Fork Steeplechasers’ 10-year-old veteran Court Ruler, ridden by Freddie Procter, made it four victories in his last six starts dating back to 2022, with a 22-length, wire-to-wire romp over Charlie Fenwick’s 10-year-old Royal Ruse (Parker Hendriks). The latter was coming off of a victory in the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup last November. Armata Stable’s Fashion Line (Gerard Galligan) was third. Leslie Young trained the winner.

In the $15,000 contest for non-stakes winners in 2023 and restricted to apprentice riders, Riverdee Stable’s Include It, a Maryland-bred nine-year-old, made it four straight victories dating back to 2021. Under a well-timed ride by Elizabeth Scully, Include It advanced on the far turn and closed well to overtake and draw clear of Nancy Reed’s Awesome Adrian (Conor Tierney) by four lengths. Armata Stable’s Chosen Mate was a distant third. Todd Wyatt trained the winner.

Keystone Thoroughbreds’ Hard Strike closed out the day with a win in a $15,000 maiden timber event for owner-trainer Todd McKenna and jockey Harry Beswick – both of Noah and the Ark fame.  For the six-year-old Kentucky-bred son of Hard Spun it was his first trip to the NSA winner’s circle. Beswick settled his mount in the early going, moved into contention during the second mile, then launched his bid in the stretch before pulling away by about five lengths. A familiar face over hurdles, William Russell’s Animal Kingston, who snatched the lead at the 2 ½-mile mark, was second under Parker Hendriks; Daniel T. Doane’s Theda’s Boy (Brett Owings) was third.

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