Al Skywalker Beats Tres Touche in Carolina Cup

Playing his usual game of 'catch me if you can,' Al Skywalker dominated every step of the $100,000 Carolina First Carolina Cup(gr. I) steeplechase stakes before a crowd of 72,000 at Springdale Race Course.

Co-owned by English sportsman Michael Watt and trainer Jennifer Majette, the winner opened an immediate lead on co-favorite Tres Touche and was never seriously challenged while winning by 6 3/4 lengths under regular jockey Tom Foley. Tres Touche (David Bentley) was second with Turkish Corner (Robbie Walsh) third. The winner, who also won this race in 2001, covered the 2
3/8 miles in 4:23 4/5.

Al Skywalker, a 10-year-old son of Skywalker, mixed bold jumping and a strong gallop to control the pace. The early lead was 15 lengths at the third of 14 fences, but had decreased to three lengths at the race's midway point. Down the backstretch, Al Skywalker accelerated and the race was essentially over.

"He's probably the most natural jumper I've ever seen," said Foley. "I just try not to fall off. He pulls me along and comes right up in my hands when he jumps. They were about two or three lengths off me turning down the backside, but he saw the first fence and said 'the show's on.' He just took off."

The victory, worth $60,000, was the 11th of Al Skywalker's career and pushed the horse's lifetime steeplechase earnings to $387,456 (16th on the all-time list). He improved to 2-for-2 this year, and is unbeaten in his last three U.S. starts (Al Skywalker was pulled up in England's Victor Chandler Bula Hurdle in December).

Bred in California by Evergreen Thoroughbreds, Al Skywalker raced unsuccessfully on the flat with trainer Jenine Sahadi and was sold for the price of a van ride from California to North Carolina. In his hurdle debut in 1997, the bay gelding ran for an $8,000 claiming price.

The Carolina Cup was the first of nine grade I steeplechases on the 2003 calendar. The Carolina Cup is scheduled to be televised on the NTRA's Wire to Wire racing news program Tuesday at 1 p.m. EST on ESPN2.