For many years, one race has eluded trainer Doug Fout—The $75,000 Carolina Cup. He has tried to capture the title in Camden, S.C., as a rider, then again as a trainer, but until March 31, it had just slipped through his fingers.
But this time, with EMO Stable’s Orison, Fout picked the best horse for the course, and it was one of three wins for Fout’s stable that day.
“A long time coming,” Fout said after his win. “It feels great to get this one. I tried to win it when I was riding, and I came so close. Hirapour was my best shot a few years ago as a trainer. This year we finally came into this race with a horse that would take this hard ground and be consistent over the fences.”
The field was a small six, due to the dry conditions. The Springdale Course had not seen a good soaking rain for months, and the turf was brown for the most part, with a heavy dusting of tree pollen coating the cars and wreaking havoc with race-goers.
Among the contenders hoping to capture the first leg of the Steeplechase Triple Crown were frontrunners Shelia Williams’ Rare Bush (Xavier Aizpuru) and Sarah Lyn Stables’ Quem Se Atreve (Paddy Young). Quem Se Atreve was quite rank before the start and took off at flag fall without any additional goading, setting the blistering pace over the 21⁄8-mile hurdle course.
Tightly bunched, the field followed Quem Se Atreve and Fout’s other horse, Brigadoon Stable’s Gliding (Chip Miller). Hudson River Farms’ Sovereign Duty (Danielle Hodsdon) and Orison were close at hand in the back with Kinross Farm’s Extra Check (Carl Rafter).
After fence 14, Quem Se Atreve fell. Rare Bush and Gliding took over the lead, dragging the rest of the field with them. By the last, it appeared Rare Bush was going to own the race, but Orison was hardly finished. Finding a hole on the inside after the fence, McCarron snuck up on the pair and deftly moved the flashy chestnut into the perfect spot to win by a neck over Rare Bush in the second-fastest time on that course at 4:034⁄5.
Fout had wanted Orison to be a little closer to the frontrunners. “We knew Jack [Fisher]’s horse [Rare Bush] was the top front runner and wanted to go quick,” he said. “To be honest, we really wanted him to lay third, but we were getting run off our feet. He has always been a good jumper; he’s 10 lengths better than he was last year.”
The hard going was a concern for Fout. “I knew Orison would handle it, but my other horse Gliding was not going to like it,” Fout said. “I almost scratched him. It was such a beautiful race to watch. They were all so close, and it’s a good thing they are all nice jumpers.”
McCarron was very pleased with the 5-year-old son of Pulpit. “I think just letting him be happy allowed him to find the strength in the stretch and have enough in the end,” McCarron said. “Most of it was luck. I was able to get the holes, where some of the other horses did not find the holes. He doesn’t like this going, but he’s an honest, game horse.”
Orison has one major vice, which makes standing with him in the winner’s circle very tricky. “He will kick the living daylights out of you and is mean as a snake,” Fout said. “He’ll corner you, pin you to a wall. That’s why I cut him right after I got him.”
McCarron can attest to his swift hindquarters. “On the course he’s the professional,” McCarron said. “But he’s so ornery in the morning. He bucks and squeals and will kick you as soon as look at you, both barrels too. But when you get on his back, he’s like a pony; I could put my son on him. If you walk up behind him, however, you’re dead. But other than that he’s a consummate professional. He ran seven times last year and was never off the board.”
Fout’s second win came with Beverly R. Steinman’s Dark Equation and visiting New Zealand jockey Isaac Lupton in the training flat. The pair took the lead and never looked back. William Pape’s Mixed Up (Hodsdon) was second.
McCarron got Fout’s third win of the day in the $25,000 Sport of Kings maiden hurdle with Eldon Farm Racing Stable’s Pukka. The little New Zealand-bred has had a slew of bad luck in past years but made up for all of it with this race.
Nestled up close in the field of nine, Pukka kept to the inside for most of the running, then made his move
just before the last. As he came off the hurdle, he tripped badly and looked like he was going to get passed by all, but he managed to pull his head out of the turf, kick on and win by a length over Mede Cahaba Stable’s Class Deputy (Richard Boucher).
Fout bought him in 2005, and he ran second and fourth before heading to Saratoga (N.Y.) to help fill a race. “He got jumped into at Saratoga and all cut up. I had to put 10 stitches in his tendon,” Fout said. “So we lost that time. Then we ran him back at Little Everglades [Fla.] last year, and he was second and he got hurt again for another year.”
At Aiken (S.C.) this year he finished second again. “We have always liked him,” said Fout. “He’s not a serious stakes horse, but he’s dead honest and jumps so well. He was beat in the stretch when he tripped, crossed his knees and everything, but he still came back. You have to love a horse like that.”
Getting It Done
This time, it was a very different outcome for Jody Petty. In last fall’s Carolina Cup, Petty was riding for Augustin Stables and looked like the race was his on Ghost Valley. Then he dropped his whip and was bested at the wire by Hall Of Angels (Young).
This year, Petty was not going to let this race get away from him. He followed behind Vesta Balestiere’s gray Shady Valley (Russell Haynes) and Irvin S. Naylor’s Patriot’s Path (Will Haynes). Aboard former hurdler Irish Prince for trainer Sanna Neilson Hendriks, Petty took over the three-mile timber race about halfway through and won by more than 2 lengths in the fast time of 6:14 flat.
“He had one point-to-point start a week ago,” Petty said. “He jumps so well. I think this was the fastest timber race I have ever been in. His jumping was what got him there. I started in the back, and he jumped his way through. This time I got the job done.”
Petty went on to win the $20,000 Sport of Queens filly and mare maiden hurdle with Augustin Stables’ Imagina by 10 lengths over John Haley’s Northern Gale (Russell Haynes), also for Hendriks.
Trainer Paul Rowland of Pennsylvania was a little unsure how Cary W. Jackson’s Big Is Best would handle the much larger hurdles in the $20,000 starter hurdle but was pleasantly pleased with the outcome.
Big Is Best (Young) still had a full tank at the wire, winning over Eve Fout’s Hidden Key (McCarron) by more than 2 lengths.
“I think he liked it, Rowland said. “The funny races [in which horses jump both hurdles and timber] are my plan. The only one I am worried about is Middleburg [Va.] with the tight U-turn. He has to have blinkers on, because he really looks around and is a tremendously nervous horse. Paddy does so well keeping him calm and focused.”
Sarah L. Greenhalgh