Locals will have rooting interests in Aiken Fall Steeplechase on Saturday
Nearly all of the horses scheduled to compete in the 27th Aiken Fall Steeplechase on Saturday are based in locations outside of this area, including Camden, Pennsylvania and Virginia.
But at least two of them – Devil’s Wrangler and Major Anthem – have strong local ties.
Julie Gomena, who spends winters in Aiken at the Palmetto Training Center, trains Devil’s Wrangler.
Aiken resident George Thomas trains Major Anthem, who is owned by another Aiken resident, James Stainbrook of Stainbrook Farms.
Five races – four over jumps and one on the flat – are on the card for the Fall Steeplechase, which will be held at the Aiken Horse Park Foundation’s Bruce’s Field.
Gates will open at 9 a.m., and there will be a 1 p.m. post time for the first race, the Budweiser Holiday Cup.
With its purse of $30,000, the Holiday Cup will be the afternoon’s richest race. The 2¼-mile steeplechase event is for horses that have never won over jumps.
The six thoroughbreds set to compete include Sam-Son Farm’s Aldous Snow, who will be making his first ever start in a steeplechase.
The 9-year-old gelding has won the Singspiel Stakes at Woodbine in Canada three times. His most recent victory in that race was in July 2017.
Aldous Snow also captured the 2014 and 2015 editions of the Singspiel.
He finished third in the Singspiel in 2016 and was fifth in 2013.
Shane Crimin will ride Aldous Snow in the Holiday Cup. Neil Morris is the gelding’s trainer.
Other horses entered in the Holiday Cup are American Lynx, Diplodocus, Moss Code, Brooklyn Speights and Soluble.
Devil’s Wrangler will be competing in the $20,000 Juac Hollow, a 2¼-mile claiming race over jumps.
Owned by Stonelea Stable, the 6-year-old gelding is familiar with the course at Bruce’s Field.
In 2016, Devil’s Wrangler was the runner-up in a maiden-special-weight race during the Aiken Spring Steeplechase, but he failed to finish when entered in a handicap race at the Aiken Fall Steeplechase.
In 2017, Devil’s Wrangler was third in a handicap race during the Aiken Spring Steeplechase.
For much of last year and this year, the gelding was sidelined with a tendon injury in his left foreleg.
Devil’s Wrangler returned to competition in September. He failed to finish a handicap race in Kentucky and was fifth in another handicap in Virginia earlier this month.
“There was knee-deep mud in Kentucky; it was terrible there” Gomena said. “Then the course was too soft for him in Virginia. In Aiken, the course is usually pretty firm, so I think the race Saturday will be just right for him. He’s a nice horse.”
Bernard Dalton will be Devil’s Wrangler’s jockey.
Major Anthem is entered in the Calico Creek, a 1¼-mile race on the flat. Thomas Garner will be his rider.
Thomas said Stainbrook acquired the 6-year-old gelding after he finished fourth in a claiming race in August at Presque Isle Downs in Pennsylvania.
Major Anthem has started 43 times during his career and has won twice.
“He was bought as a steeplechase prospect,” Thomas said. “He likes to run on the grass and he has a pretty good turn of foot, which means he can run the last part of a race pretty well. The owner (Stainbrook) asked if we could run him here on the flat in the Fall Steeplechase just for fun. Then he’ll start learning jump, and hopefully, he’ll race in the spring (of 2019) over fences.”
Bruce’s Field is at 931 Powderhouse Road S.E.