THE PLAINS, Va.--In a stunning display of brilliance, Rosbrian Farm's Optimus Prime, trained by Ricky Hendriks and ridden by Ross Geraghty, won the $75,000, G2 David Semmes Memorial at the Virginia Gold Cup on May 4, winning by 8 3/4 lengths without ever appearing to have to get into top gear.
"The race went the way we had hoped," said George Mahoney, owner of Rosbrian Farm. "This horse is a very special horse. He's a very fast horse, and now he has shown he can carry weight. He carried 12 pounds more than the second and third placed horses."
Optimus Prime carried 156 pounds, with Portrade, who pulled up before the finish, carrying 148 pounds and all the others in the six horse field carrying 144 pounds.
"I'm fortunate to have Ricky and his team," said Mahoney. "If Optimus Prime stays sound, he could be anything."
"He's special," said Mahoney. "He puts out his own press releases. He walks around the paddock like a perfect gentleman."
MAHONEY pointed out that, in his last race before this one, he had run over the same course to win the Zeke Ferguson Memorial Hurdle on Oct. 27, 2018, both races at 2 1/8 miles, and that he had won last year by 18 lengths in 4:13:40 and that he had won this year by 8 3/4 lengths but in 4:06, seven seconds faster.
Optimus Prime galloped around the course in mid-pack , easily going to the front over the second to last fence and cruising to an easy victory in a very impressive performance.
"I don't think Ross ever even chirped to him," said Mahoney.
Sempre Medici, owned by Irvin Naylor, trained by Cyril Murphy and ridden by Graham Watters, set the pace for most of the race and finished second, and Straylight Racing’s Invocation, trained byWilliam Santor and ridden by Sean McDermott closed from the back of the field to finish third.
"Ross gave him a beautiful ride," said Hendriks. "He ran well. He's a special horse."
Hendriks said they had given Optimus Prime some time off after the Ferguson and then trained him through the winter at his Morningstar Farm in Unionville, Pa.
"Next, he's going to Saratoga for the A.P. Smithwick and the Turf Writers," said Hendriks.
ANDI'AMU, owned by Ballybristol Farm LLC, trained by Leslie Young and ridden by Jack Doyle, won the $100,000 Virginia Gold Cup Timber Stakes by 3 lengths over Le Chevalier, owned by Michael Smith, trained by Julie Gomena and ridden by Kieran Norris, with Naylor's Super Saturday, trained by Kathy Neilson and ridden by Gerard Galligan, third.
The favorite, Charles Fenwick's Doc Cebu, stumbled badly over the second to last and finished fourth.
"I had to go to the front today," said Doyle. "He was taking too much out of himself in behind. He's a very classy horse. He didn't come out of second gear until the second to last fence."
"He's an unbelievable horse," said Doyle. "I've ridden him five times and won five times."
'I'm delighted," said Young of her first time winning the Gold Cup. "He's a gift that keeps on giving. I got him as a 3-year-old. He won the steeplethon here last year, but he had a hairline fracture of his hock after the race, and he went to New Bolton. That's why you didn't see him last fall."
"I didn't want him to do the steeplethon again after he was hunt in it, and he jumped timber well, so we put him in this race," said Young.
"We'll put him away for the summer and run him in the fall, probably again at the Gold Cup," said Young.
JONATHAN SHEPPARD saddled Buttonwood Farm's Clondaw Camp (Ire), ridden by Tom Garner, to win the $40,000 Maiden Hurdle by 7 1/2 lengths over Brianbakescookies, trained by Jack Fisher.
"I was just a passenger," said Garner. "He jumped very well for his first time over hurdles. He's definitely one for the future. I pushed him out a bit at the end as this was his first race and I wanted to teach him to finish hard."
"I found him when I was in Ireland," said Shepard's assistant trainer Keri Brion. "I talked to Jonathan about him, and he said that I had to call Mr. Moorhead (owner of Buttonwood Farm).
Brion called Moorhead and sold him on buying Clondaw Camp.
"He wasn't cheap," said Brion. "It was all my doing, so I was very, very nervous going into this race. I said to Tommy, `He's ready to run.' He came from a point-to-point background, so he's probably not as fast as these American horses. Just use his galloping and jumping."
Michael Mitchell won three races at the Gold Cup to go into the lead in Jockeys, Races Won with eight wins to Doyle's six.
"It's nice to be on top," said Mitchell. "It's more on the horses."
Mitchell won the $40,000 Steeplethon Stakes on Mrs. S.K. Johnston's Days of Heaven (Fr), trained by Jack Fisher, the $25,000 Ratings Hurdle on Mrs. Johnston's Ack Feisty, trained by Neil Morris, and the $40,000 Maiden Hurdle on Woodslane Farm's Other Cheek, trained by Fisher.
With two wins, Fisher increased his lead in Trainer, Races Won to 13 over Neilson and Young with four apiece.