Friday, May. 24, 2024

Good Night Shirt Wears The Title At Colonial Cup

With three Grade I wins, he looks like a top candidate for an Eclipse.

Good Night Shirt left little doubt he was the strongest horse in the $150,000 Colonial Cup, Nov. 18, winning with authority and snatching the National Steeplechase Association Horse of the Year
title simultaneously.
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With three Grade I wins, he looks like a top candidate for an Eclipse.

Good Night Shirt left little doubt he was the strongest horse in the $150,000 Colonial Cup, Nov. 18, winning with authority and snatching the National Steeplechase Association Horse of the Year
title simultaneously.

Owned by Harold “Sonny” Via and ridden by Irishman William Dowling, Good Night Shirt had plenty of horses challenging his prowess. Trainer Jonathan Sheppard loaded up the eight-horse field with four from his stable—Hudson River Farm’s Sovereign Duty (Xavier Aizpuru), Lucy Lindsay’s Luongo (Chip Miller), Timber Bay Farm’s Underbidder (James Slater) and one of Sheppard’s own, Three Carat (Danielle Hodsdon).

Doug Fout entered two from this year’s Triple Crown steeplechasing series—EMO Stable’s Orison (Matt McCarron) and Brigadoon Stable’s Gliding (Paddy Young).

And, of course, there was Michael Moran’s titan McDynamo (Jody Petty). Trained by Sanna Hendriks, the Breeders’ Cup (N.J.) champion and three-time Colonial Cup winner has always been strong on the dry Bermuda turf and sandy going of the Springdale track in Camden, S.C.

At flag fall, Good Night Shirt went straight to the lead with bottomless energy, tracked by Three Carat and McDynamo. He showed no mercy over the large Colonial Cup hurdles, jumping well and losing little ground.

After the last, a wall of driving horses followed the flashy chestnut down the stretch, but Three Carat was the only horse to get close, more than 2 lengths back. Sovereign Duty placed third, Gliding fourth, Orison fifth and a tired McDynamo held on for sixth.

When Good Night Shirt won the $150,000 Iroquois Stakes (Tenn.) in May, Dowling did not think they would end up with the horse of the year title.

“We thought the win in Tennessee was a fluke,” Dowling said. “But you just don’t know. It’s a privilege to ride a horse like this. You wait a long time in Ireland to ride a horse as good as that. It has been an amazing year.”

Good Night Shirt’s journey to the title started with a second-placed finish to William Pape’s Mixed Up in the $150,000 stakes at Keeneland (Ky.) in April. He won Iroquois, had most of the summer off, then came back to win $150,000 Belmont (N.Y.) and was fourth in the Breeders’ Cup.

The 6-year old son of Concern won more than $314,163 and clinched a single season NSA earnings record to boot.

Not Quite The Plan

Dowling said the plan at Colonial Cup was actually not to go wire-to-wire.
 
“We wanted to ride him like we did at Far Hills and sit in behind McDynamo. Obviously, he was too keen early on so I had to go to the front,” Dowling said. “This was the first time for him over this course and these types of fences. He would hear the other horses running behind him and start to run off with me.”

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Trained by Jack Fisher, Good Night Shirt’s win puts him on the fast track to the coveted Eclipse Award. While the NSA Horse of the Year award is based solely on money, the Eclipse Award is voted on. Three Grade I wins and the most money should solidify the vote Good Night Shirt’s way, but there have been times when the horse with the most money has not won the prestigious bronze trophy.

“He’s the obvious choice,” Fisher said. “My horse beat McDynamo twice and has the most Grade I wins.”

If voting goes his way, this would be the first Eclipse-winning horse for Fisher, who has a record number of timber victories but has yet to have a hurdle horse win an Eclipse.

Actually, many years have passed since a Marylander has held the prize at all. For the past 20 years the
majority of winners have hailed from Pennsylvania. The last Maryland trainer to receive one was Charlie Fenwick Jr., with Dogwood Stable’s Inlander in 1987.

Fisher’s father, Dr. John R. S. Fisher, won the NSA horse of the year award in 1976, but the Eclipse votes went instead to another Maryland trainer, Mikey Smithwick and his horse Straight And True, owned by Lillian Phipps. The late Phipps owned 10 NSA horses of the year.

Good Night Shirt’s only other competition for votes is McDynamo, who retired sound after 10 years of racing with a NSA record of more than $1.3 million. Moran said he is retiring to a life of luxury highlighted by a little fox hunting with Mr. Stewart’s Cheshire Foxhounds (Pa.).

“It’s a shame to take McDynamo’s crown, but he had a long go of it,” Dowling said. “My horse is a nice stakes horse, and he’s only 6. McDynamo beat us soundly in his backyard in the soft ground on his course. Good luck to McDynamo. He had a great career, and I hope my horse turns out to be half as good as he is.”

Top Jock

Going into the Colonial Cup it was nearly impossible for any other rider to beat English phenom Aizpuru in the standings. But the 32-year old leading jockey picked up two more wins for the year, making the count 22 for the season.

His first win of the day was with Via’s Fantorini in the $25,000 maiden hurdle, for Fisher. The 5-year-old son of Theatrical has been a bridesmaid all year so this time the Fisher camp decided to do something different.

“We put him in the back. Usually we have him up in the first five or six, but he has not been finishing his races that strong. We decided with a big field today to give him all the horses to run at, and it made a huge
difference,” Aizpuru said. “The further we went and the more horses we passed, the more and more confidence he got.”

Good Night Shirt’s win and Fantorini’s was just enough to put Via over the top to clinch the NSA Owner of the Year with $370,013 over William Pape’s $368,515. Fisher grabbed the NSA trainer, races won, title with 24, but Sheppard squeaked by with the NSA trainer, money won, championship ($919,944 over Fisher’s $916,637).

Aizpuru’s second win came with Alnoff Stable’s Be Certain for trainer Tom Voss in the $25,000 hurdle stakes for 3-year-olds.

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The second-time starter proved himself, battling well in the stretch with Barracuda Stable’s CR’s Deputy (Miller).

“Voss is very easy to ride for. He just tells you what you need to know about the horse, and if he trusts you he leaves you to your own devices,” Aizpuru said. “I am sure if I did something wrong he would let me know, so I could put it right the next time.”

Timber Bay Farm’s Slew’s Peak was the deciding factor for the Sheppard championship. The scopey granddaughter of Seattle Slew dominated the $25,000 stakes race taking the win over Mimi Voss’ Lair (James Slater).

Slew’s Peak took Hodsdon for a wild ride before the race started, nearly taking out her assistant in the paddock then running off before the start, but Hodsdon would not have it any other way.

“She’s a blast to ride,” Hodsdon said. “She’s super tough before the race, but once she gets in it she relaxes into her gallop and is a tremendous jumper. I have never stood off so many fences in a row as I have today.
She always runs off with me before the race and is a handful at the start. She just wants to get going. Otherwise she is quiet as a lamb in the stable.”

The NSA filly/mare series wraps up with Arcadia Stable’s Footlights the winner. The 10-year-old granddaughter of Northern Baby has $143,780 for the year and gets a free mating at the Northview Stallion Station of Maryland for her effort.

Almost Like New

Timber champion Bubble Economy looked like his old self again in the $20,000 open timber at Colonial Cup. The 2004 timber horse of the year has had a rocky go of it this fall, including refusing in the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup.

But with his former jockey Paddy Young in the irons he was moving nothing but forward and won by 14 lengths over Anne Haynes’ mare Won Wild Bird (Will Haynes).

Fisher said the game plan was pretty simple; worry Irvin S. Naylor’s Bon Fleur (Jeff Murphy). A month earlier, Bon Fleur had won at Great Meadow (Va.) by 62 lengths so Fisher did not want to give his horse too much to do.

“Bon Fleur ran really well at the steeplethon,” Fisher said. “I told Paddy, the way to beat him is to stick Bubble’s nose up his tail and pressure him to make a jumping mistake, and that’s what he did. If Bon Fleur had been able to be alone on the lead we would have had a problem.”

Young said Bubble is slowly getting there. “He was much better today. He seems to like these fences better than the bigger ones. He can really get going on the backside of the course,” he said.

Bon Fleur’s fall effectively took out Naylor’s bid for the NSA timber championship. Naylor has won it for the past three years, but this year it will go to Augustin Stables, who also owns the timber horse of the year, Irish Prince.

Sarah L. Greenhalgh

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