'Chase Triple Crown Kicks Off at Camden

(from NSA release)
Saturday's $75,000 Carolina First Carolina Cup (Gr. II) at Springdale Race Course in Camden, S.C., kicks off the 2006 Steeplechase Triple Crown series, which also includes stops at Middleburg, Va., on April 22 and Radnor, Pa., on May 20.

The Carolina Cup, contested at 2 miles and 1 furlong over 10 National Fences, attracted a field of nine, including 2005 grade I novice winner Bon Fleur. Other standouts are 2005 NSA 3-year-old champion Ginz, Saratoga winner Good Night Shirt, the stakes-placed Top Of the Bill, and 2006 allowance winner Hip Hop.

By virtue of a win in the U.S. Championship Novice (NSA-I) last fall, Marablue Farm's Bon Fleur stands as the field's most accomplished entrant. Now 6, the homebred thrived on the hilly course that day and outran another good field that included two from Saturday's lineup. Trainer Jonathan Sheppard, who won his 900th North American steeplechase race last weekend, won't make any guarantees about the son of Bon Point, who comes into the race 2-for-4 over hurdles.

"We're in a tough spot," said Sheppard Wednesday. "I don't think Bon Fleur is as good as he can be. He just seems a little flat. He might not get an easy lead like he did at Callaway, but that might suit him better actually."

The field overflows with early speed. Like Bon Fleur, Hip Hop, Latino, and Top Of The Bill do most of their running from the front. The latter two look like true pace threats, with the others content to sit behind quick fractions. Owner/trainer John Griggs' Hip Hop has won his last two in wire-to-wire fashion. Latino set a course record at Colonial Downs last summer and just missed after leading most of the way in a $50,000 handicap at Saratoga.

Kinross Farm's South Of Fifty and Fitzhugh LLC's Ginz make their 4-year-old debuts after standout freshmen campaigns in 2005. South of Fifty scored by nearly 17 lengths at Camden last fall and looks to have a bright future.

Ginz, who races for noted flat-racing owner Robert Meyerhoff, won a $50,000 3-year-old stakes last fall to claim the divisional championship but didn't run again. The son of Broad Brush was gelded in the off-season and returns to action for trainer Tom Voss.

$75,000 Carolina First Carolina Cup (NSA-II), 4 & Up, 17 Furlongs (Turf)
PP. Horse, Owner, Trainer, Jockey, Weight
1. Hip Hop, John Griggs, John Griggs, Chip Miller, 151
2. Latino, Ann Stern, Jack Fisher, Will Dowling, 148
3. Top Of The Bill, Randleston Farm, Jimmy Day, Carl Rafter, 148
4. The Next Man, Barracuda Stable, Ricky Hendriks, Rob Massey, 148
5. Good Night Shirt, Sonny Via, Jack Fisher, Xavier Aizpuru 151
6. Meet At Eleven, Bill Lickle, Kathy McKenna, Robbie Walsh, 151
7. Bonfo, Timber Bay Farm, Jonathan Sheppard, Danielle Hodsdon, 148
8. Ginz, Fitzhugh LLC, Tom Voss, Cyril Murphy, 138
9. Bon Fleur, Marablue Farm, Jonathan Sheppard, Bernie Dalton, 151

The Steeplechase Triple Crown is restricted to "novice" hurdlers, meaning Thoroughbreds in their first or second year of steeplechase racing. The runners cannot have won a jump race before March 1, 2005.