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International Gold Cup promises strong field

The rich stand to get richer this weekend at Great Meadow.

With the lion's share made up by the $50,000 eponymous feature, $135,000 on the line at the International Gold Cup meet Saturday in The Plains makes the local headliner one of the jump race circuit's most lucrative race days.

Though the International Gold Cup entered competition in 1930, first contested at the old Grasslands Downs near Nashville, Tenn. The cup, and the race, moved to Liognier, Penn. in 1946, then to Great Meadow – swapping from natural brush hurdles to timber and dragging the valuable golden cup with it – in 1984.

With 12 of the nation's timber specialists nominated for the headliner, the races are likely to be among the most competitive this fall season.

Post time is 1:30 p.m. for the first of six races at Great Meadow. The International Gold Cup – twin sister to the spring's Virginia Gold Cup over the same course – runs as the day's fifth race.

Entries were not complete at press time, but early-bird nominations give indication that the field for this year's running of the open stake should be one of the most competitive in decades. Still, who's not running commands as much attention as who is.

Last year's race winner Incomplete was injured while winning his final prep race for Gold Cup – last week's Chronicle Cup, and 2012 Virginia Gold Cup runner-up G'Day G'Day (third in last fall's International) was hurt training for the race earlier this month.

Still, the nominations' list includes some heavy-hitters, headed by course specialist Aero. Trained in The Plains by Doug Fout for Warrenton's Al Griffin, Aero finished second last fall to Incomplete, fifth in the spring to the same horse, and rates a long look for Saturday's renewal. Mecklenburg won the Oct. 13 Genessee Valley Hunt Cup, though coming right back off a big effort in the New York 3 1/2-mile 'chase makes him less likely at The Plains. Won Wild Bird finished fifth at Genessee; the only mare in the field, she'd catch a five-pound allowance from the others.

Grinding Speed was just-beat in the Oct. 5 Chronicle (also second at Shawan), with Clarke County-based Triple Dip just behind. Hot Rize was a dull sixth to those two, but the sharpener tightened the Tennessee shipper. Maiden Monte Bianco was fourth at Shawan, Moonsox sixth – again, giving two key preps to International contenders. Atrium broke his timber maiden at Foxfield this spring, with Saluda Sam third in the Alfred Hunt cross-country timber race in April.

Brands Hatch was last out at Willowdale in May (second), having won two this spring, including a competitive allowance at the Grand National meet. The Pennsylvania-trained veteran was just beat, second, in the fall Steeplethon last October but he faces a tall order in the 3 1/2-mile timber classic Saturday.
Heading the undercard are a pair of rich turf races – the $15,000 championship finals of the Old Dominion Turf Series for Virginia-breds, and a $10,000 international invitational. Two hurdle races are carded, along with the $20,000 Steeplethon, a cross-country jumping race over a varied course.

Great Meadow is located halfway between Marshall and Warrenton just off U.S. Route 17 at Old Tavern.

For more ticket information, call the Gold Cup office in Warrenton: (540) 347-2612. For complete race entries, log onto www.NationalSteeplechase.com.
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