THE PLAINS, Va.--Despite horrendous weather, a large crowd turned out at the Virginia Gold Cup at Great Meadows on Saturday, May 7 to see Keri Brion and Leslie Young battle it out, trading wins back and forth, with Brion celebrating her birthday by eventually coming out on top, winning the seventh race for a total of four wins to Young's three.
Brion and Young between them won every race on the card, but as one of Brion's wins was in the $50,000 Flat Stakes it didn't count towards National Steeplechasing's Trainer, Races Won total.
So at the end of the day, Brion remained one up in Races Won over Young, but Young won one timber race the next day at Winterthur to leave the two of them tied with 13 wins apiece with three meets left in the spring season.
Parker Hendriks, who at only 18 years of age leads by large margins in both Jockeys, Race Won and Money Won, thanked both the owners and the Gold Cup's management team after two of his three wins on the day with a graciousness and poise amazing for anyone, much less one so young.
"Parker is the best rider out there," said Brion of her stable jockey. "He's also the best person out there."
Brion started the day by saddling Buttonwood Farm's Baltimore Kid (Ire), ridden by Hendriks, to win the $30,000 Maiden Hurdle by 3 lengths over Project Two (Ire), trained by Young.
BALTIMORE KID, who went off as the 6 to 5 favorite, raced mid pack in the six horse field, moving up to jump the last even with Project Two and kicked on for the win.
"It was a horrible day," said Brion of the weather that featured continuous rain, heavy at times, with temperatures in the upper 40s. "It was the worst day of racing as far as conditions went that I've ever seen in this country. The ground was soft but safe. It was very different from Ireland, where the ground is very heavy, and you sink down into it. This ground had a bottom."
"Baltimore Kid is Galway Kid's half brother," said Brion. "I love this horse. I called Rod (Moorhead, Buttonwood Fsrm's owner) and said we have to have this horse. They both have great attitudes. But I think this horse has more talent than Galway Kid."
"He handled the going well," said Hendriks.
Brion had gotten a number of her horses from Baltimore Farm in Ireland, and its owner, Jack Doyle, was at the Gold Cup.
"It's great to be here and see Baltimore Kid run,"said Doyle. "It's great to see American racing."
Doyle said that people had wondered why his stable is named Baltimore when it's in Ireland.
"My great-great-grandfather went to Baltimore in the States and spent a few years there, and when he came back to Ireland he named his farm Baltimore Farm," said Doyle.
Young saddled the winner in the second race, the $30,000 Steeplethon Stakes.
Silverton Hill's Bodes Well (Ire), ridden by Tom Garner, led for the whole race, opening up his lead after the horses galloped through the lake on the course, and going on to win by 26 lengths over Worzel Gummidge, trained by Mark Beecher.
"He's a cool little horse," said Garner. "The ground was a lot softer than we'd hoped for, but he handled it well."
"He's a super athlete," said Young. "He tries every time he runs. We were worried it would be too soft today, but Tom gave him a great ride."
Brion then saddled Irv Naylor's Howyabud (Ire), ridden by Hendriks, to win the third race, the $40,000 Allowance Hurdle, by 10 1/2 lengths over State of Affair, trained by Todd Wyatt and ridden by Garner, who had led for most of the race.
Howyabud went into the lead over the last fence and just increased his lead to the finish line.
"It went exactly to plan," said Hendriks. "We thought Tom's horse would go out in front. He jumped well in all, although here were a few little niggly errors. Keri said he'd keep coming, so I just went on with him."
"This horse has the same sire as Baltimore Kid," said Brion. "I saw this horse in Ireland and called the Naylors and they didn't even hesitate, they just said `Get him vetted.' We had this race picked out for him months ago.",
Then it was back to Young for the fourth race, the G2, $75,000 David Semmes Memorial Hurdle Stakes, which she won with Sharon Sheppard's Redicean (GB), ridden by Garner, who won by 54 3//4 lengths over Belfast Banter, trained by Cyril Murphy.
But that race was marred by two horses going off course.
Going Country, trained by Brion, had just gone into the lead on the turn into the stretch when City Dreamer, ridden by Graham Watters, who was on his inside, bore out, carrying Going Country with him, so that both horses cut a flag and were disqualified.
"Parker said he was going to win, but there were still two more fences to jump, so who's to know," said Brion. "Going Country enjoys running, and he's eating well and looks good, so he'll go to Nashville in the Novice Stakes. He'll get a nice break after that."
"That was unlucky for those two boys,"said Garner of the pair going off course. "This horse is a barn favorite. He deserves his day."
"He's a sound horse," said Young of Redicean. "He was high weighted at Cheltenham, and he won first time out for us here. He's always there. He'll go to Saratoga. He likes a flat track"."
Young then also saddled Ballybristol Farm''s Andi'amu (Fr), ridden by Freddie Procter, to win the fifth race, the $100,000, 4 mile Virginia Gold Cup Timber Stakes ,by 23 1/2 lengths over Schoodic, trained by Jack Fisher, with Flaming Sword third after the other four entries pulled up.
"We have patient owners to thank,"said Young. "Andi'amu had slight changes to his tendon after this race here last year, so he was out for a while. He loves this going. This was the second time he's won the Gold Cup, and he's also won a steeplethon here."
"He's a big galloping horse," said Procter. "The more rain came down the happier I was. He loves this soft ground."
Brion won the final two races at the Gold Cup, beginning with taking the $50,000 Four-Year-Old Hurdle Stakes with Belle Meade Jokey Club's Ljay (Ire), ridden by Mikey Hamill, who won by 1 length over Who's Counting, trained by Sean McDermott.
"He's just still green," said Brion of Ljay. "He's always learning. He's a nice little horse that I thought could do well, and now he's won a stake. Mikey got another win before going back to Ireland. I have a fabulous team, and it's a team effort to win."
Brion saddled Buttonwood Farms' Sa'ad (Fr), ridden by Hendriks, to win the $50,000,1 1/2 mile Flat Stakes by 1 length over Fearsome, trained by Murphy in a race that drew 12 entries.
"Sa'ad won the flat race at Middleburg," said Hendriks. "He was keen early on. I'm looking forward to getting him over hurdles. I get to ride amazing horses every weekend. I'm just the pilot. Again, massive thanks to the Great Meadows team for putting this on."
"He'll run at Colonial over hurdles," said Brion. "He's a great jumper. We're waiting for the big money with him."
"It's been unreal," said Brion of her last few weekends of winning multiple races at every meet. "It's a testament to the horses and to the owners.These owners let me pick out the races and build the horses to them. With these young horses, it's so exciting to think what's coming. That's what gets me up in the morning,"