Timber features on tap at Geneseo, Middleburg

A pair of timber stakes featuring veteran jumpers headline this Saturday’s National Steeplechase Association doubleheader in New York and Virginia.

Andi’amu and Freddie Procter, second in the Brown Advisory Legacy Chase at Shawan Downs, will take on four competitors at the Genesee Valley Hunt Races on Saturday. ©Tod Marks

By Tod Marks

At the Genesee Valley Hunt Races in Geneseo, N.Y., the only steeplechase in the Empire State away from the flat tracks, three races have been carded, all over timber. Topping the day is the $25,000 Genesee Valley Hunt Cup, at 3 ½ miles. The other races are a $15,000 maiden and a $10,000 allowance restricted to amateur or apprentice riders. Both of those events are at 3 miles.

In the feature, the standout is Ballybristol Farm’s Andi’amu, the 2019 NSA timber champ, trained by Leslie Young. Andi’amu has two stakes wins and two seconds as a 12-year-old this season. In his first race back after taking the $100,000 Virginia Gold Cup in May, Andi’amu was second best to Sheila Williams and Northwoods Stable’s Storm Team in the Brown Advisory Stakes at Shawan Downs on Sept. 24. With Storm Team opting to head to Virginia this weekend, four others have lined up to take on the 12-time winner of $443,000. 

Rather Be Racing’s Our Legend, a maiden winner over timber for Hall of Fame trainer Jack Fisher, was no match for the top-two finishers at Shawan. Armata Stables’ Goodoldtimes, trained by Alicia Murphy, got the best of timber ace Mystic Strike in last year’s Pennsylvania Hunt Cup, and has never been off the board in nine starts, including a third in his most recent outing, the Maryland Hunt Cup, in April.

Upland Partners’ eight-year-old Shootist, trained by Todd McKenna, who recently upset Snap Decision with Noah and the Ark in the Grade 1 Lonesome Glory hurdle stakes, captured back to back races (maiden and allowance) before being eased in his stakes debut in Andi’amu’s dominant Virginia Gold Cup performance in May.

Kinross Farm’s lightly raced Pocket Talk, a 12-year-old trained by Joe Davies, makes only his 10th career start. He’s been competitive in maiden and allowance ranks, but struggled in the Grand National and Maryland Hunt Cup last spring.

The races are only part of festivities at Geneseo. Leashed dogs are welcome, and there are canine events such as terrier and wiener-dog races, a jumping contest, agility courses, sled-dog demos, plus a parade of the Genesee Valley Hunt foxhounds. For kids, there are stick-horse races and pony rides; adults can partake in wine and craft beer tastings. The festivities began at 10 a.m., with the first race post time at 1 p.m.

For full entries, click here: https://nationalsteeplechase.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/10/GVH-Overnight-WedEntries.pdf

Storm Team and Graham Watters, who captured the Brown Advisory Legacy Chase, will head to the National Sporting Library & Museum Cup timber stakes at Middleburg on Saturday. ©Tod Marks

And at Middleburg…

Nearly 400 miles south of Geneseo, the Virginia Fall Races at Glenwood Park in Middleburg will be run for the 68th time. Eight races worth $150,000 are on the line in a mix of timber and hurdle races, anchored by the $30,000 National Sporting Library & Museum Cup timber stakes at 3 ¼ miles.

The aforementioned Storm Team, 8, has put forth two big efforts this season, besting Andi’amu in the Middleburg Hunt Cup at Glenwood Park in the spring, and defeating that foe again in the Brown Advisory Stakes at Shawan Downs last month. Though he’s collected $271,000 in a long and productive career, the eight-year-old son of Candy Ride didn’t win his first stakes race over timber until last year’s running of the the National Sporting Library & Museum Cup.

Seven-year-old Cracker Factory made his first trip to the winner’s circle in nearly four years with a facile score in a timber maiden at Shawan. Owned by Daisy Fenwick’s The Hundred Acre Farm and trained by Mark Beecher, it was Cracker Factory’s best effort in a dozen U.S. starts following a career in the UK.

Upland Partners’ Mystic Strike, a nine-time winner on the NSA tour, is now 13, and has been competing for a decade. The son of Smart Strike is trained by Todd McKenna and has won or placed in a dozen stakes, and captured last year’s Genesee Valley Hunt Cup. Mystic Strike has started just once this season, finishing a closing second to wire-to-wire winner Tomgarrow in the My Lady’s Manor Stakes. Fat Chance Farm’s Flaming Sword, trained by Richard Valentine, is looking for his first tally in nearly three years, but has hit the board in six of his eight career starts. He rallied for third, beaten around seven lengths, in the Brown Advisory at Shawan, and should benefit from the slightly longer distance of Saturday’s race.

Charlie Fenwick’s Royal Ruse finished a good third in the 2021 running of the National Sporting Library and Museum Cup, his stakes debut, then followed it up with a pair of allowance wins. Though he hasn’t won since, Royal Ruse, trained by Sanna Hendriks, has flashed signs of competitiveness.

Ballybristol Farm’s Boutonniere came off a 20-month layoff in April to break his maiden at the Grand National Races by a widening eight lengths in a crowded field that included Cracker Factory. Trainer Leslie Young wheeled the six-year-old back two weeks later in an allowance race at Winterthur, where he made a big move at the second to last fence only to fall at the final jump.

The remainder of the program includes a $30,000 maiden special weight hurdle; $25,000 handicap for horses rated at 115 or less: two $15,000 maiden starter allowances; $15,000 timber maiden; $20,000 steeplethon over mixed obstacles; and a training-flat contest.

Gates open at 10 a.m., and first race post time is 12:30 p.m. For full entries, click here: https://nationalsteeplechase.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/10/VAFall-Overnight-WedEntries.pdf

You can watch Saturday’s races via live stream from the link on the NSA homepage, www.nationalsteeplechase.com. The stream, sponsored by Brown Advisory, is offered through Mandolin, which hosted the NSA spring meets. There is a fee to watch the stream, and meets can be viewed and paid for individually or for the entire Fall season.

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