A day of firsts at Casanova - Fresh faces in Buckland Farm winner's circle

A day of firsts at Casanova - Fresh faces in Buckland Farm winner's circle

Submitted by: Betsy Burke Parker
Email Address: betsy(at)virginiaequestrian.com
Date Added: 2/25/2009

Forgive the clutch of hardy steeplechase fans at Saturday's point-to-point races that they didn't recognize most of the day's winners. Of eight victors, five were first-timers to the winner's enclosure.

The Casanova Hunt Point-to-Point was held Feb. 21 at historic Buckalnd Farm east of Warrenton. It was the hunt's 50th race meet; the event traditionally opens the 13-week Virginia spring steeplechase season.
In the featured novice timber, all eyes were on graded hurdle stakes winner Orison, making his first start over the lumber. Ernie Oare's chestnut Kentucky-bred son of Pulpit faced two equally inexperienced rivals in the three-mile contest: Donna Rogers' Glide King (Richard Spate up) set the early fractions but proved little match for Orison when jockey Paddy Young urgedOrison after the fourth-last. "He jumped great," Young said. "Really professional." Glide King was six lengths back in second, with Fortunate Code (Jacob Roberts) third.

A standout jumper in his hurdle days, Orison won the 2007 graded Carolina Cup over Camden's big, stuffed fences and finished second behind champ Good Night Shirt in a Grade I hurdle stakes later that year. The 7-year-old never grabbed that momentum last year, finishing off the board in four 2008 starts before placing second in the Noel Laing at Montpelier last November. Three weeks later, Orison lost rider Matt McCarron with an uncharacteristic jumping mistake in the $75,000 Palm Beach Stakes in Florida, breaking McCarron's neck and multiple ribs and forcing the one-time champion jockey's retirement.
Trainer Doug Fout called it a pivotal moment in the horse's career.

"We decided to try him over timber," said The Plains-based trainer. "I started hunting him this season."
Fout rode Orison with the Piedmont Foxhounds, finding the horse well-behaved, and – after a slip and fall due to inattention on just his second hunt – "he really started to pay attention to where his feet are."
High school sophomore Sam Cockburn, 16, also found the winner's circle in his first try in open competition. Champion in the junior racing series twice, Cockburn steered his Old Fellow to victory in the amateur hurdle series race. Cockburn's father Bay was longtime huntsman to the Loudoun Hunt near Leesburg, and a champion jockey on Virginia's competitive steeplechase circuit until a training fall left him paralyzed in 1998.

The junior Cockburn began racing ponies at age 9. "I knew this day would come since he said his first word" as a toddler, said mother Chrissy Keys. "Horse. His first word was horse."

Old Fellow closed late in the deep stretch to nose out two-time Virginia hurdle horse of the year Marino Feliz.
Another newcomer to the winner's circle Saturday was Luray-based owner-trainer-rider Michael Harris after his Pan Adam won the foxhunters' timber. "I finally figured him out," Harris said of the Florida-bred gelding. He explained that the sometimes nervous chestnut often "ties up," or suffers from a debilitating condition that makes his muscles sore due to ineffective release of lactic acid build-up during exercise. "I finally got his diet just right," Harris said, hopefully banishing the tying up to the past.

Not new to the winner's circle but in a new division, Royal We stepped up to the competitive owner-rider timber division, winning a tough contest against rival Cool Fellow in the late stretch. Royal We, a project of Upperville's Zimmerman family – dad Tad (master of the Piedmont hunt) is the owner, mom Cathy the trainer and son Teddy the jockey. Royal We is another horse that took some figuring out, Teddy Zimmerman said. "But we finally got it." Also a nervous horse, Royal We would put his tongue over the bit, rendering any guidance or steering (or stopping) impossible to the rider, and making the horse uncomfortable. After trying a myriad of various bits, tongue ties and bit ports, Zimmerman said that he finally found that a simple "spoon bit," with a metal "fooler" in front of and behind the bar of the bit (that lie along the tongue) keeps the black gelding's tongue correctly under the bit and makes him "a totally different horse, completely cool," Zimmerman said.

In the 2 -mile Seven Corners series event, Royal We and Cool Fellow took turns setting the pace. The last time around Cool Fellow went to the lead, but couldn't hold off Royal We, who took the lead at the second last fence and won easily by nearly three lengths.

Other winners on the day included maiden hurdle mare Scandalizer for owner-breeder Peter Hitchen for Middleburg trainer Dot Smithwick. Smithwick also saddled ladies timber winner Antonio Star, repeating his 2008 victory here with Diana Gillam. Turf winners included Cash Broker (Jacob Roberts up) in the Virginia-bred dash, Zulla Road for trainer Charlie McCann in the maiden turf and Harry's Crown for trainer Pete Aylor.

The circuit takes this weekend off – Rappahannock usually fills the circuit's second weekend but will not be held this year. Next is the March 7 Blue Ridge Hunt Point-to-Point near Berryville.

Amateur hurdle. 1 1/2 miles. Time: 3:25 2/5. 1. Old Fellow, o/r Sam Cockburn; 2. Marino Feliz, o/Gary Baker, r/Billy Santoro; 3. Just A Price, o/Indian Run Farm, r/Diana Gillam. 4 started.
over National Fences
Maiden hurdle. 1 1/2 miles. Time: 3:30. 1. Scandalizer, o/Peter Hitchen, r/Richard Spate; 2. Fershaw, o/Margaret White, r/Paddy Young; 3. Heroina, o/Rod Cameron, r/Jacob Roberts. 4 started.
Novice timber. 3 miles. Time: 7:15 3/5. 1. Orison, o/EMO Stables, r/Paddy Young; 2. Glide King, o/Donna Rogers, r/Richard Spate; 3. Fortunate Code, o/Michele Sanger, r/Jacob Roberts.
Ladies timber. 2 1/2 miles. Time: 6:09. 1. Antonio Star, o/John Pettibone, r/Diana Gillam; 2. Etano, o/Turney McKnight, r/Anna McKnight.
Owner-rider timber. 2 1/2 miles. Time: 6:32 1/5. 1. Royal We, o/Tad Zimmerman, r/Ted Zimmerman; 2. Cool Fellow, o/r Ken Shreve; 3. Assembly, o/r Matt Hatcher.
Foxhunters' timber. 2 1/2 miles. Time: 5:43 3/5. 1. Pan Adam, o/r Michael Harris; 2. Quick Line, o/r Noel Ryan. 3 started, 1 lost rider.
Virginia turf. Purse: $2,000. 7/8 mile. Time: 1:16 2/5. 1. Cash Broker, o/Richard Harris Jr., r/Jacob Roberts; 2. Dr. Nitro, o/Warren Owens, r/Carl Rafter; 3. Wild Ball, o/Randy Rouse, r/Roderick MacKenzie. 8 started.
Maiden turf. 1 1/4 miles. Time: 2:16 2/5. 1. Zulla Road, o/Celtic Venture, r/Diana Gillam; 2. Smart Green, o/James Falk Sr., r/Jeff Murphy; 3. Eastern Starlett, o/Marethon Farm, r/Aoife Brazil. 5 started.
Open turf. 1 1/4 miles. Time: 2:15. 1. Harry's Crown, o/W.L. And D.J. Aylor, r/Carl Rafter; 2. Belknap County, o/r Gregg Ryan; 3. Endless Mountain, o/Indian Run Farm, r/Richard Spate. 7 started.

All photos copyright 2009 Betsy Burke Parker

Photos in order of appearance:

1. Orison – EMO Stable's Orison, Paddy Young up, jumps to win Saturday at the Casanova Hunt Point-to-Point races. It was Orison's first try over timber after a graded stakes-winning career over hurdles for trainer Doug Fout. The races were held at Buckland Farm near Warrenton.

2. Old Fellow – Sixteen-year-old Sam Cockburn made his debut on the open steeplechase circuit, winning aboard his Old Fellow in the amateur hurdle. Cockburn is the son of Bay Cockburn, longtime huntsman of the Loudoun Hunt and a champion on Virginia's steeplechase circuit until a training fall left him paralyzed in 1998.

3. Pan Adam – Michael Harris of Luray jumps with his Pan Adam to win the foxhunters' timber.

4. Antonio Star – Champion timber horse on the Virginia circuit last term, Antonio Star repeated his ladies timber victory Saturday, with rider Diana Gillam in the irons.

5. David Bourke – Trainer David Bourke leads in turf winner Jacob Roberts.

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