Jeff Murphy was the king of Great Meadow at the International Gold Cup.
Choosing to remain in The Plains, Va., for the International Gold Cup instead of traveling north to Far Hills, N.J., for the Far Hills Race Meet proved to be a rewarding decision for Jeff Murphy.
With two major meets running on Oct. 17, Murphy capitalized on the jockey deficit by picking up two rides for Maryland trainer Jack Fisher.
Fisher put him up on Great Meadow founder Arthur Arundel’s Seeyouattheevent, who won the International Gold Cup in 2007. Just two weeks before this year’s win in the feature race, he finished second behind Erin Go Bragh at the Virginia Fall timber stakes with William Dowling in the irons.
With a $50,000 purse at stake, Fisher also entered Arcadia Stable’s 2008 Gold Cup winner, Bubble Economy (James Slater). Both horses had to contend with their old nemesis Salmo, owned by Irvin Naylor and ridden by Darren Nagle of Ireland.
Nagle was away all summer after a visa mishap and just returned to the United States. He guided Salmo to the win in the $75,000 Virginia Gold Cup on May 2, defeating Seeyouattheevent and Bubble Economy, and Salmo was considered a favorite coming into the race.
Music To My Ears (George Hundt, Jr.) and Incaseyouraminer (Ben Swope) took the lead early with Salmo close at hand. At many of the fences, Nagle rode Salmo on a different line than the others in order to keep his horse on better footing. Murphy let Seeyouattheevent settle into an easy gallop just behind the leaders.
In the final circuit of the 31⁄2-mile timber course, Gum Tree Stables’ Uppercut (Jake Chalfin) led the field to the last fence. Magalen Bryant’s Erin Go Bragh looked to be in contention, but he slipped badly in the turn and was pulled up by Carl Rafter.
Seeyouattheevent jumped to the lead after the last fence and crossed the finish line 31⁄4 lengths in front of Bubble Economy. While Uppercut came under the wire in third, a foul claim on Chalfin was filed, and a review of the race tapes revealed that Chalfin had cut a flag. The pair was disqualified, and Chalfin was fined $500.
“I don’t know if Jake just didn’t see the two flags or what,” Murphy said. “But there’s a brown one and a white one, and he was clearly on the wrong side of it. That’s how he got to the front so fast.”
Anne Haynes’ Shady Valley (Russell Haynes) moved up to third with Jubliee Stables’ Woodmont (Will Haynes) taking fourth. Salmo placed fifth and last. Dawn Williams’ Bon Caddo (Jacob Roberts) fell over a fence about 2 miles in, while Music To My Ears jumped Hundt off a short time later.
“Jack said not to go to the front and that he needed a good lead,” Murphy said. “I was a little worried about the footing. The week before you could not get a heel into it, it was so dry. With all the rain on Friday and Saturday it was soft on top but still hard underneath. It was pretty slick. I just tried to stay to the inside.”
Dowling also gave Murphy a few tips.
“Willie really loves this horse,” Murphy said. “It’s his ride, and I was just borrowing him. He told me to look after him. He did caution me that he gets really washed out (lathered up) in the paddock and at the start, and that is his way, and if you don’t see that, it could be a problem. I was a little worried because he didn’t look washed out, but it could have been just because of the rain. My horse just exploded at the last. He’s so cool. They weren’t going to catch him.”
Major Malibu Surfs To Steeplethon Win
Murphy’s second win came with Mrs. Henry Stern’s Major Malibu in the $25,000 steeplethon, which includes several different kinds of obstacles, such as timber, hurdles, large banks, stonewalls and a large expanse of open water.
In the spring steeplethon, May 2, Major Malibu placed a distant second to Perry Bolton’s serious frontrunner Scuba Steve, but with Scuba Steve scratched, there was no pace.
Murphy, who always does his homework, watched tapes of Major Malibu’s races to learn his jumping style. The horse had just come off his first win at the Virginia Fall Races on Oct. 3.
His studying paid off, as Major Malibu galloped around the course with authority. At the end Joseph F. Kornfeind’s Swimming River (Mark Watts) only came within 8 lengths of the 5-year-old gelding. Anne Haynes’ timber mare Won Wild Bird (Will Haynes) took third.
“He really is a beautiful jumper,” Murphy said of Major Malibu. “He’s very bold. Jack told me to keep him in behind, but he jumped up to the lead and was relaxed so I didn’t mess with him. As we were pulling up, Swimming River galloped by, and he took off with me. He’s really competitive and could have gone another mile, easy.”
While Murphy enjoyed his two pick-up rides, he doesn’t expect to sit on them again this year. He is looking forward to riding his usual mount Woodmont over bigger timber for trainer Ted Thompson.
Sonic Charm Rallies For Win
Sonic Charm should be called the “comeback kid.” The 5-year-old gelding battled bucked shins as a 2-year-old, recovered from colic surgery at 3, conquered pneumonia shortly thereafter, and then developed a blood clot in his jugular.
After some major time off and a lot of crossed fingers, Diana Gillam guided him to a win in the maiden hurdle for owner Russell Cline and trainer Don Yovanovich.
“Diana told me she was just the passenger,” Yovanovich said. “He really ran well, especially after all the problems he has had. I have no idea where we will go. He has to come out of this 100 percent for me. There are not a lot of places left to go with a horse that just broke his maiden.”
Oakwood Stable’s Country Cousin (Carl Rafter) roared into the long stretch with Sonic Charm on their heels. Sonic Charm overtook them to win by more than a length at the wire.
While the 14-horse field encountered the worst weather of the day, everything looked good until the final turn for home, where Landslide Farm’s Saber Song (Tom Foley) slid and fell. Soon after that Bay Cockburn’s Mighty Valdiar (Sam Cockburn) fell at the last, breaking his shoulder in the process. He was later euthanized.