Diplodocus scores front-running victory in Budweiser Holiday Cup
The 27th Aiken Fall Steeplechase provided a new experience for John Cushman on Saturday at the Aiken Horse Park Foundation’s Bruce’s Field.
A former leading rider over jumps, Cushman got his first victory as an owner when Diplodocus captured the $30,000 Budweiser Holiday Cup.
The 5-year-old chestnut gelding grabbed the lead immediately and never relinquished it during the 2¼-mile event for horses that had never won before over jumps.
“He took a little bit of a hold at the start, so I just let him get into his rhythm, and he jumped very well,” said Diplodocus’ rider, Thomas Garner.
The gelding’s winning time was 4:46 1/5.
Diplodocus carried the colors of Morningstar Farm.
Cushman said he and his wife, Sandy, own Diplodocus in partnership with the gelding’s trainer, Ricky Hendriks, another former top steeplechase rider.
“He did it awfully easy,” said Cushman of Diplodocus. “It looks like he just went out for a big gallop. He’s not even breathing heavily.”
Cushman is the vice chairman of the Carolina Cup Racing Association in Camden, he also serves as the executive race director for the not-for-profit corporation.
From 2015 until July of this year, Diplodocus competed on the flat, and he ran at such major tracks as Belmont Park in New York and Santa Anita Park and Del Mar in California.
In his steeplechasing debut on Oct. 13, Diplodocus finished sixth in a 2⅛-mile race in Middleburg, Virginia.
Eve Ledyard, an assistant trainer who works for Hendriks, saddled Diplodocus for the Holiday Cup.
Hendriks, who is in a battle for the steeplechase training titles for both wins and money won, was at the International Gold Cup in Virginia.
Ledyard praised Garner for his effort aboard Diplodocus in the Holiday Cup.
“He did a fantastic job of getting the horse settled and jumping well,” she said. “He gave him loads of confidence. I think he (Diplodocus) will only improve off of this.”
Another horse trained by Hendriks and ridden by Garner, Rosbrian Farm’s Barhanpour, also was a winner on the Aiken Fall Steeplechase card. The 5-year-old gelding captured the $20,000 Juac Hollow, a 2¼-mile claiming race over jumps.
Irvin S. Naylor’s Av A Word won the $15,000 Cathedral Aisle, a 2¼-mile maiden claiming race over jumps. Graham Watters rode the 4-year-old gelding, which is trained by Cyril Murphy.
Virginia Lazenby Racing Stable’s Our Frosty captured the $20,000 Thomas Hitchcock, a 2¼-mile maiden race over jumps. Bernard Dalton rode the 4-year-old filly, which is trained by Kate Dalton.
Rafael Fernandez’s Tobias won the Calico Creek, a 1¼-mile race on the flat. Paul O’Neill rode the 9-year-old gelding, which is trained by Fernandez.
The Aiken Steeplechase Association is the organizer of the Aiken Fall Steeplechase and the Aiken Spring Steeplechase.