Saturday's Grade 1, $100,000 Colonial Cup, the 2 3/4-mile fixture at Springdale Racecourse in Camden, South Carolina, is the last major contest of the 2012 steeplechase season and often plays a role in deciding the year's Eclipse Award winner. However, it was announced last week that leading divisional earner Pierrot Lunaire, who captured both the Grade 1 Grand National and Grade 1 Lonesome Glory this fall, would skip the Colonial Cup.
"He had two tough races, and we just wanted to stop with him," Bruce Miller, whose daughter Blythe trains the horse, told Steeplechase Times. "He came out of Far Hills well and is feeling well. We went back and forth for a while, but he hasn't got much more to prove. We didn't want to get greedy."
The season's other active Grade 1 winners, A.P. Smithwick Memorial winner Spy in the Sky and New York Turf Writers Cup hero Demonstrative, will contest the Colonial Cup. Spy in the Sky was most recently second by a nose to Pierrot Lunaire in the September 27 Lonesome Glory, while Demonstrative was a distant fourth behind that rival in the October 20 Grand National.
Slip Away grabbed year-end honors with his Colonial Cup victory in 2010, and he will be bidding for a second win in the prestigious race. Trained by Tom Voss, Slip Away has missed large portions of the last two seasons and most recently finished fourth in the Noel Laing at Montpelier, Virginia, earlier this month.
Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard will saddle two Colonial Cup contenders, Divine Fortune and History Boy. Divine Fortune, a major stakes winner in 2010 and 2011, ran a strong second in the Grand National after finishing sixth in the Lonesome Glory. History Boy won Saratoga's $75,000 Michael G. Walsh Novice before finishing fifth in the Lonesome Glory. He was pulled up in the Grand National on soft ground.
The sport's other active Hall of Fame trainer, Janet Elliot, will saddle Alajmal and Wild for Gold. Alajmal, a top newcomer to steeplechase racing, won a Saratoga allowance and was second in Belmont's William Entenmann Memorial, a novice stakes, on September 27. Wild for Gold, winner of a Parx Racing allowance in June, fell in the Entenmann.
Gustavian enters the Colonial Cup after making his mark in the novice ranks. He won the Entenmann and subsequently finished second in the Foxbrook Champion Hurdle at Far Hills.
Leading owner Irv Naylor entered a strong contingent headed by multiple stakes winner Decoy Daddy, who finished second in his bid for a third straight victory in the Noel Laing.
The rest of Naylor's starters are relatively new to American steeplechasing. Charminster ran second in the New York Turf Writers Cup before finishing third in the Lonesome Glory and fifth in the Grand National.
Also racing in Naylor's silks in the Colonial Cup are Jack Cool and You're the Top. Making their U.S. debuts in the Grand National, You're the Top finished sixth and Jack Cool was pulled up.