Monday, May. 27, 2024

Good Night Shirt Works For Colonial Cup Victory

His fifth major win of the year turns out to be his toughest.

Good Night Shirt and jockey William Dowling won their second $150,000 Colonial Cup in a row, giving the pair an unprecedented fifth grade I victory for the year. But this win was not so easy.

Fortunately for the huge chestnut, the Springdale Race Course in Camden, S.C., tends to be fast and has a long stretch run, favoring a horse with a good close.



His fifth major win of the year turns out to be his toughest.

Good Night Shirt and jockey William Dowling won their second $150,000 Colonial Cup in a row, giving the pair an unprecedented fifth grade I victory for the year. But this win was not so easy.

Fortunately for the huge chestnut, the Springdale Race Course in Camden, S.C., tends to be fast and has a long stretch run, favoring a horse with a good close.

As expected, the 10-year-old front running Preemptive Strike (Jody Petty) shot to the lead in the Nov. 16 feature, jumping the best he has all season and forcing all of the others to catch up or be out of the money.

Dowling tried to keep Good Night Shirt in Preemptive Strike’s shadow, but with every jump he found his horse was losing ground and he had to work even harder in between the fences.

By the last hurdle, Good Night Shirt was uncharacteristically behind the leader. Dowling asked for a little bit more from the 7-year-old son of Concern, and the horse responded. But it took the entire length of the stretch to close the deal.

At the finish, Good Night Shirt had managed to stick his neck out over the wire and won by just that much over Preemptive Strike. Best Attack (Paddy Young) placed third.

“Thank God the stretch is endless,” Dowling said. “It’s almost two furlongs, and we needed every bit of it. We gave them a real horse race.

“Jody really made me work for it,” he added. “Preemptive Strike ran well and jumped so much better than my horse did. I was losing half a stride or more at each hurdle. The fences seemed larger this year, and my horse was not handling them well.”

Dowling said he thought they were going to lose as they approached the last fence. “It was a bit of a shock,” he said. “It just was not going well. I think Jody and Sanna [Hendriks] had this idea that they were going to outgun my horse, and it very nearly worked.”

Not Meant To Be

Preemptive Strike has had a long, storied hurdle career and made his stable quite a bit of money over the years, but this was just his third race back after a spring injury.

Trained by Hendriks, Preemptive Strike was on the road to a good season after winning at Aiken (S.C.) in March, but just before the $150,000 race at Keeneland (Ky.) in April, the Pennsylvania trainer saw something suspicious on his leg. She pulled the horse out of the rotation for a seven-month lay-up.

The 10-year old son of Roanoke came back this fall to place second in a $50,000 race at Far Hills (N.J.) on Nov. 18 and then third in the $40,000 Noel Laing at Montpelier (Va.) on Nov. 1 after leading the entire way.


Petty would have liked to have given his horse his first grade I win, but he was still pleased at the Preemptive Strike’s run.

“He ran his eyeballs out,” Petty said. “He ran so huge and jumped so well. I am very proud of him. Twice in the stretch I thought we had Good Night Shirt, but it was not meant to be.”

Winning Ways

This fifth grade I victory hands Good Night Shirt the National Steeplechase Association horse of the year title for a second consecutive time and makes him a virtual lock for a second Eclipse Award.

Trained by Jack Fisher of Monkton, Md., and owned by Virginian Harold “Sonny” Via, Good Night Shirt broke the record he set last year of winning more than $300,000 in a single year by earning $485,520 with his five victories. Along with the Colonial Cup win, Good Night Shirt swept the $100,000 Georgia Cup, the $150,000 Iroquois Stakes (Tenn.), the $150,000 Lonesome Glory at Belmont (N.Y.) and the $250,000 Grand National at Far Hills (N.J.). Good Night Shirt proved he can run over any course, in any position, at any distance.

Via said owning “The Shirt” has been one wild ride. “It’s almost like The Shirt was not satisfied with last year and set out to beat all his records,” Via said. “He just wouldn’t be denied. Owning a horse like this is better than I could have ever dreamed it could be.”

But Via said there is a downside to being the favorite. “It’s really hard to keep your mind straight. It’s a huge effort not to pass out before, during or after the race,” Via said laughing. “But when I look at The Shirt in the paddock, he’s always so calm, standing on three legs, just resting. It’s like he’s just waiting for someone to tell him what to do. He never feels the pressure or the excitement. He really is an awesome character.”

Southern Runner

One could spend hours trying to figure out why the quirky timber champion Bubble Economy likes some courses better than others. Perhaps it’s as simple as geography because he seems to always perform better south of the Mason-Dixon Line these days.

Bubble Economy won two major timber races in Virginia this season, helping him clinch the NSA timber horse of the year title. However, he failed to bring home hay money in Pennsylvania, refusing to run at Radnor in May and then at the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup, Nov. 2.

So back south he was sent, and once again he became the shining star for owner Arcadia Stables in the open timber.
Also trained by Fisher, Bubble Economy had a new pilot on his path to redemption. Fisher put leading jockey Xavier Aizpuru aboard with the usual instructions: don’t start any fights.

Fisher was worried that Perry Bolton’s recent timber winner Scuba Steve (James Slater) might be the speed and told his jockey not to stay too far out of it.

The race unfolded perfectly for Aizpuru, and by the second-to-last he had put away the competition and coasted home over Irvin S. Naylor’s Patriot’s Path (Darren Nagle), giving Bubble Economy his second timber win at Colonial Cup.

This is the first time Aizpuru had sat on Bubble Economy in a race. He was impressed by the 9-year-old son of Rakeen and has joined a host of other jockeys who have fallen for the bay veteran when he is spot on.


“He’s a champion for a reason,” Aizpuru said. “It was a great ride. He’s probably the most experienced horse I have ridden over timber, and he put on a clinic in jumping on Sunday. I was just the passenger, and it was a pleasure to sit on him.”

Known for his bad pony ways, Bubble Economy was on his best behavior and didn’t try his usual trick of dumping his jockey on the way to the start.

“I know all about his quirks,” Aizpuru said. “Luckily, I did not see any of them. I tried to do as little as possible with him and give him no opening.”

Even if Aizpuru sat out the final meet of the year in Palm Beach (Fla.), Nov. 29, he has the leading jockey championship locked up with 21 wins. Petty is in second with 14 wins.

“It’s nice to go into the last meet with it all done and dusty,” Aizpuru said. “It has been another great year for me. I was fortunate to be able to stand in for Padge [Whelan] when he got hurt and ride for Mr. [Tom] Voss. He has some really nice horses.”

Although Bubble Economy has the timber championship sealed, his owner Arcadia Stables was unable to surpass Naylor’s hold on the leading timber owner category this year.

Naylor, who has won this title four times in the past five years, made $177,400 over Arcadia’s $120,750 with his team of Allimac, Askim, Hot Springs and Patriot’s Path.

Lots Of Class

Mede Cahaba Stable’s 3-year-old Class Bopper (Richard Boucher) trounced his competition in the $25,000 hurdle stakes for 3-year-olds. This is the second win this fall for the young star.

Trained by Lilith Boucher, of Unionville, Pa., Class Bopper is one in a string of horses that have come to fruition this year for owner/breeder Mignon Smith. Boucher tried something a little bit different this year and started pulling Smith’s flat horses that were not quite getting the speed early and training them over jumps instead.

The result has been a great many horses with the first name of Class (descendants from the stallion Class Secret) in steeplechasing winner’s circles.

Currently, Class Shadow is the leading filly in the filly/mare series; both Class Bopper and Class Real Rock have 3-year-old stakes races under their girths. Class Bop, Class Crimson, Class Crash and Class Disco are all coming around.

“It has been a good year,” Boucher said. “We have really tried to stick with the program. Mignon’s breeding program is about making super athletes. Whether they are show horses, eventers or race horses they are bred to jump well and look good. They could have been anything, they are that versatile. I have just been fortunate to have a great many of them racing with me.”

Sarah Libbey Greenhalgh




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