Getting past two horses at the last fence, Randleston Farm's Top Of The Bill took the $75,000 Carolina First Carolina Cup (NSA-II) at Springdale Race Course Saturday.Ridden by Carl Rafter, the winner accelerated past early leader Good Night Shirt and The Next Man at the 10th and final fence to win by 1 1/2 lengths. The Next Man (Rob Massey) finished second with Good Night Shirt (Xavier Aizpuru) third. Jimmy Day trained the winner, who covered the 2 1/8 miles in 4:00. Day shipped Top Of The Bill from his Virginia base, and the 5-year-old delivered a powerful performance."I was running on to heels coming into the turn and I thought about going inside, but it was probably best I didn't," said Rafter. "It got a little bit tight, but they separated just a bit and gave me an opportunity to go up in there. He likes that, he's a tough little horse and he responded when I asked him. It was a good feeling."
Top Of The Bill shook off the stout early pace of a strong Good Night Shirt and conserved enough energy to outrun the leader and The Next Man in the stretch.The Carolina Cup, run for the 74th time, was installed as the first leg of the Steeplechase Triple Crown this year and hosted a field of nine "novice" hurdlers. The novice races are for horses in their first and second years of steeplechasing. Randleston Farm's Jim and Melinda Carter purchased Top Of The Bill from Gainsborough Farm and have seen the horse win two of three starts and earn $59,400. He made his steeplechase debut last fall, winning a maiden hurdle at Montpelier, Va.Top Of The Bill heads to the second stage of the Triple Crown, to be run at Middleburg, Va., on April 22.