Irish interest as US spring jumps season starts on Saturday

The US spring jumps season gets underway on Saturday at Aiken in South Carolina with much Irish interest, both human and equine.

The six-race opening spring meeting of 2024, where the 2-mile one furlong $35,000 Imperial Cup is the feature race on the card, is the first of 16 jumps meetings between now and mid-May.

Former Gordon Elliott horses contest opening day feature

Two Irish-breds, The Insider and Soviet Pimpernel, are among the five-runner field in the Imperial Cup, a four-year-old and upwards handicap hurdle for horses that have never won a stakes race.

The five-year-old The Insider previously won three times for Gordon Elliott, including the Gladstone Hurdle Stakes at Far Hills in October 2022 under the now-retired Davy Russell before moving to the yard of top US jumps trainer, Keri Brion.

The Insider, owned by Hudson River Farms, Madaket Stables, and R and K Racing won last season’s Imperial Cup at Aiken, and will bid for back-to-back successes in the race when ridden on Saturday by Irish jockey Graham Watters.

The other former Elliott inmate, Soviet Pimpernel, previously owned by Robour, was third behind Redicean and Theocrat in the Appleton Hurdle Stakes at Far Hills in 2022, and will be partnered by another Irish rider this weekend, Gerard Galligan.

Irish jockey, Jamie Bargary, will take the mount on the 2023 Carolina Cup novice stakes winner, Caremalised, for last season’s leading trainer, Leslie Young.

West Newton likely favourite 

The race favourite will be the 2023 Daniel Van Clief Memorial victor, West Newton, a British-bred eight-year-old previously trained in England by Roger Charlton. The now Ricky Hendriks-trained gelding, who was runner-up to America’s top-rated National Hunt horse, Snap Decision, in last year’s Grade 2 Zeke Ferguson, will have the support of English rider Harrison Beswick from the saddle.

The other runner in the field is the Arch Kingsley-conditioned former flat performer Cibolian. Fourth in the Grade 3 Louisville Stakes at Churchill Downs before finishing in the same spot in the Grade 2 Belmont Gold Cup Stakes at Belmont, both on the level, won a Maiden Special Weight Hurdle at Colonial Downs last July.

Three Irish-bred in Ratings Handicap Hurdle

Three Irish-bred horses, Frontline Citizen, Minella Plus and Prophets Voice. will contest the Charles S. Bird III (Ratings Handicap Hurdle), Graham Watters rides the 2021 Dawstown point-to-point winner Frontline Citizen, who was formerly trained in Co Cork by Eugene O’Sullivan. Jamie Bargary is on the former John Nallen-trained and subsequent 5-timer winner in Britain, Minella Plus. English jockey Harrison Beswick takes the mount on Prophets Voice, a flat performer for John Murphy and winner of a maiden at Listowel in September 2022.

Shark Hanlon Tramore winner

The $30,000 Maiden Hurdle will have two Irish-breds in the field: the 2023 Shark Hanlon Tramore bumper winner Chef D’Etat, who was ridden to success on the day by young American jockey Taylor Kingsley, and Carloun, a French-raced son of Kingman, with Graham Watters taking the ride for the powerful Keri Brion barn. Bernie Dalton and his trainer wife, Kate, team up with Made The Cut, while Kenilworth King will again see the Bargary/Young combination in action.

The 2022 Galway bumper third Fox in The Park is the only Irish-bred in the Filly and Mare Maiden Hurdle, where Jamie Bargary, Graham Watters and Bernie Dalton will all have mounts.

Irish trainer and jockey link-up

US-based Irish trainer Mark Beecher teams up with Graham Watters in the Maiden Claiming Hurdle with Greylover, while Jamie Bargary rides Secret Soulmate for Leslie Young, Gerard Galligan is on Get Ghozy, while Bernie Dalton is on Trisaetum and Conor Tierney will get the leg up on Ruthenian.

Co Wicklow-born Conor Tierney takes the mount on Willow Wood in the opening James W. Maloney Training Flat Race, while veteran Bernie Dalton will ride Wired In in the same contest.


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