Saturday, Sep. 23, 2023

Good Night Shirt Picks Up Where He Left Off At Carolina Cup

After an undefeated season in 2008, he’s back for more.

The quest for horse of the year officially began at the Carolina Cup on March 28, and Good Night Shirt, the
odds-on favorite for the title, did not disappoint.



After an undefeated season in 2008, he’s back for more.

The quest for horse of the year officially began at the Carolina Cup on March 28, and Good Night Shirt, the
odds-on favorite for the title, did not disappoint.

With the disbandment of the novice Triple Crown series, the historic Camden, S.C., race reverted back to an open hurdle stakes, drawing in such heavy hitters as two-time National Steeplechase Association horse of the year Good Night Shirt (William Dowling), veterans Polaris Stables’ Preemptive Strike (Jody Petty), Octoraro Stables’ Best Attack (Xavier Aizpuru), and distance runner Calvin Houghland’s Dr. Bloomer (Robert Walsh) with novice runner Isti Bee (Paddy Young) rounding out the field.

This is not the first time Preemptive Strike and Good Night Shirt have gone head to head on the Springdale course. Last fall, Preemptive Strike almost pulled off the upset of the year at Colonial Cup, finishing only a nose behind his rival. Petty was looking forward to the match-up again, and even Good Night Shirt’s trainer Jack Fisher wasn’t so sure his star pupil could keep him at bay.

All day, Mother Nature had been threatening to ruin the anticipated battle with intermittent thunderstorms and copious amounts of rain on the sandy course. But by post time, it had backed off to a steady drizzle.

Isti Bee was given the least amount of weight (142 pounds) in this handicapped grade II race, while Good Night Shirt was saddled with 158 pounds and Preemptive Strike 150. And at flag fall, Preemptive Strike predictably shot off to the lead, making the rest of the field work to keep up in the soft going.

The majority of the field was less than graceful over the much larger, stuffed brush hurdles, and Good Night Shirt was no different, losing precious lengths to Preemptive Strike. But by the final turn of the 21⁄4-mile course, Dowling had caught up, and the pair of flashy chestnuts sailed over the last fence, digging in deep on the landing.

Good Night Shirt was able to draw away to win by more than 2 lengths but not before coming over slightly on Preemptive Strike. Stewards asked for an inquiry, and after several anxious minutes, the race was finally called with Good Night Shirt the winner, his seventh victory in a row. Isti Bee took third.

Dowling was not worried the race could have gone to Preemptive Strike in a disqualification.

“I knew I was far enough in front of Jody that it was not a problem,” Dowling said. “And Jody didn’t claim foul. If there was any problem Jody would have said something straight away.”

Although he’s not known for a perfect jumping style, Good Night Shirt’s form has improved.

“I thought he jumped a lot better today than he had in the Colonial Cup,” Dowling said. “I think he was more positive than he has been over his fences. The way the ground turned out it was not in our favor, and I think a lot of horses had a chance of beating us today. I didn’t think we were as good today as we could have been, but he got it done.”


With only a single grade I race to look forward to this spring, Good Night Shirt’s trainer Jack Fisher has decided not to risk getting hampered with added weight at Middleburg Spring (Va.) on April 18 and instead go straight to the main event of the season, the $150,000 Iroquois Stakes (Tenn.) on May 9.

This decision gives other stakes horses a real opening at either the $75,000 Temple Gwathmey at Middleburg or the $75,000 Georgia Cup in Atlanta on April 25 before having to take on the two-time Eclipse Award winner in May.

Two such veteran horses—William Pape’s Mixed Up and Ann Stern’s Paradise’s Boss—already went head to head at the $45,000 Aiken Steeplechase on March 21, with the 11-year-old Mixed Up sliding under the wire by a nose.

Both Paradise’s Boss and Mixed Up are coming back from injuries that sidelined them last year and should prove to be tough for Good Night Shirt and Preemptive Strike as the season gets going.

Pure Honey

One horse that might fit nicely into the rest of the Grade II races this season is the Carolina Cup’s $30,000 allowance starter winner, Whitewood Stable’s Bee Charmer. The big bay grandson of Slew O’Gold made short work of the race, wiring it 7 lengths ahead of Dale Thiel’s Zozimus (Hodsdon).

Trained by Richard Valentine and ridden by Robert Walsh, Bee Charmer appears to be back in good form after a nagging injury.

“With such a short field, I didn’t see any pace. We were a little worried we had to make it in this weather and we did,” Walsh said. “He has such a big stride and settled up front, so instead of fighting him, I just let go. He’s still inexperienced and he’s learning the whole time. He was keener than he has been on other days but jumped great.”

Valentine could not be happier with Bee Charmer’s first outing of 2009 and is thinking Georgia Cup.

“I was very pleased with his run and hope to send him to Atlanta,” Valentine said. “Everyone at Whitewood worked very hard to get him back to the races after a serious bone bruise he got last summer schooling at Saratoga.”

Timber Bound

Walsh had a second win in the allowance timber, this time for trainer Jonathan Sheppard on Houghland’s He’s A Conniver. The horse broke his maiden last fall at Virginia Fall races and ran around the same Camden timber course at Colonial Cup but couldn’t best Arcadia Stable’s timber horse of the year Bubble Economy.


This time it was He’s A Conniver who looked like the veteran. Ears pricked, jumping well, he deftly led the field over the 3-mile course and was only challenged at the last by EMO Stable’s new timber prospect Orison (Paddy Young). He’s A Conniver drew away effortlessly to win by almost 8 lengths and looked like he could have run another mile and change.

A long time steeplechase supporter and owner, Houghland has many hurdle horses, mostly with Sheppard, who promised him a timber horse this year for the $75,000 Iroquois race at his hometown race in Nashville, Tenn.

“He looked good,” Sheppard said of the homebred. “He’s real tall and has been knocking at the door for some time. Once you win one, you end up in all these non-winners of two or open races, and he’s still very inexperienced for that, but I think he’s maturing all the time. We hunted him a few times over the winter, and it seems to have done him some good. Orison made a nice run at him at the end but never really got to him. He was hardly blowing at all.”

Probably one of the best finishes of the day came with Cary Jackson’s Northern Bay (Paddy Young) when he ran down the competition in the stretch.

He looked defeated several times in the race, but the 4-year-old son of Sligo dug in to catch Oakwood Stable’s Country Cousin (Carl Rafter) by a little over a head bob at the wire.

“He actually jumped the road crossing turning into the straight and then landed really heavy on his feet and he had to get going again,” Young said. “Then at the last he buckled on the landing so we lost momentum there. He really tried so hard.

I think to our advantage Carl’s horse started looking at the crowd, but if we had a smoother trip he would have won by more.”

Series Starter

Arcadia Stables has a new charge for the filly/mare series. The 4-year-old gray Diva Maria shut out the rest of the 10-horse field with last year’s leading jockey Xavier Aizpuru in the irons.

With many of the veteran mares retired or out with injuries this year, the series is wide open for a new reigning queen. Arcadia’s former series winner, Footlights, has already had one foal, and last year’s winner, The Fields Stable’s Guelph, was also bred this year. With those two out of the competition Linda Klein’s Orchid Princess looks to be Diva Maria’s biggest competition.

Orchid Princess already has a race under her girth and won in mixed com-pany at Little Everglades (Fla.) on March 8 by a whopping 25 lengths with English import Richard Spate up. New to American steeplechasing, Spate was impressed with the 11-year-old mare.

“She’s an airplane,” Spate said. “Just glides along. Linda asked me to ride her at Iroquois, so I think she is going to be hard to beat.”




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