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McLane's Picks for SOTA - Carolina Cup

1st Race 1:30PM 

MAIDEN CLAIMING $30,000 2 1/8 Miles (Hurdle) A wide open race here with a few knocking around the maiden levels, a couple coming off long layoffs, along with some horses dropping in for the claiming tag for the first time at this $30k level. Has the makings to a very interesting beginning to the spring. A good chance some of these horses could be changing teams at the end of their contest here.

Top Selections: #6 Mr. Jefferson, #3 King of Tsavo #5 I Am Fortunata 

  1. GO TAKE CHARGE – This will be his third try over hurdles, first time Lasix and first time Galligan. Uncompetitive in first try over fences, LR next out. Good run just up for 2nd in a flat run last November at Laurel Park for Maiden $40k.

  2. JUULSTONE – First time over hurdles for son of American Pharoah. Converted to the fences by Brion, Laberge and USA Steeplechase. Strong flat form 3 for 19 with $120k earned. Waters picks up the mount. Should be competitive in for the $30k claiming tag

  3. KING OF TSAVO – Has had several tries at the maiden level, drops the the $30k claiming rank here to start the season. Well-bred 6 yr. old son of Dubawi for partners Sharon Sheppard and Gillian Johnston. Best effort two starts back July ’22 at Colonial. We’ll see if he’s ready off the long layoff. 

  4. BLESS BLESS – Steps back up in class from the $15k claiming level. Has posted three consecutive thirds for three different claiming levels. Maybe the 6 yr. old by Temple City has improved in the off season. Entered last week but scratched for $20k claiming tag.

  5. I AM FORTUNATA – Improvement last out. Sourced from Gordon Elliott. The shorter trip may not suite him here. Hendriks calls on veteran R. Boucher.

  6. MR JEFFERSON – A faller last week, drops to claiming level for the first time. Earner of over $100k on the flat. Blinkers and Beswick go on. Doesn’t quite seem like he’s gotten the hang of the hurdles.

  7. ICE BAR – Adds blinkers after a 7th last week at Aiken. Stepping up from $20k to $30k claiming level here.

  8. SHERKALI (IRE) – Comes off 18 months after a 4th at Charleston in Nov ’22. Goes in for the $30k tag for the first time. Barn came out strong to start the season last week. 

2nd Race 2:05PM 

MAIDEN 2 1/8 Miles(Hurdle) Purse $30,000  A very competitive group of non-winners over fences with some new commers and some coming off layoffs. Tough race to pick a winner but I’ll stick with some recent form in my selections of Lightning Rod. Hopefully the two newcomers I picked underneath can rise to the occasion out of their flat prep last week. Another I thought strongly about was the #7 he posted a good effort in that US debut back in ’22. If he finds a hint of that he should be very tough against this bunch.

Top Selections: #1 Lightning Rod, #2 Hidden Path, #6 Memento

  1. LIGHTNING ROD – Comes in off nice 2nd last year at Montpelier behind a nice hors in Modus Operandi. Preped with a winning run 2 weeks ago at Warrenton Point to Point under P. Hendriks. 

  2. HIDDEN PATH – Won the first race last week on the flat in preparation for his hurdle debut here. Comes in with strong flat form put on display last week. Hopefully takes to the jumping well here.

  3. SOUTHPAW MIKE – Begins 4 yr. old season here amongst maiden company after high hopes in his debut at Far Hills over the fences. This will be his third start over hurdles and hopes to build off a decent effort first out.

  4. ROYNE – A multiple winner on the flat with earnings of almost $200k makes his 2nd start over hurdles here. An unsuccessful first try sent him back to the flat for two tries over the summer. This will be his first start back since July. Owners Molly and Paul Willis sourced the Strawbridge bred son of Ghostzapper from the legendary Michael Dickenson.

  5. PARISH DELIGHT (IRE) – Makes his first start back since Oct. ’22. Three seconds at the maiden level, we’ll see if he can overcome the long layoff and spotty form to get it done here today. 

  6. MEMENTO (FR) – A strong second place finish in the flat race last week behind Hidden Path. Should be prepped and ready for his American Hurdle debut. 

  7. KELMSCOTT (IRE) – Makes third start in America. Has not raced in almost 2 years. 3rd last out in May ’22 at Great Meadow behind two decent horses. 

3rd Race 2:40PM 

MAIDEN 2 1/8 Miles(Hurdle) Purse $30,000 The second division of the Maiden hurdle. This with six runners, a heavy favorite seems to be the #1 St. John. He meets some quality maidens here. A couple imports making their first US starts after some experience in Irish point to points. Others with some experience over fences but looking to improve upon those over the Springdale course. 

Top Selections: #1 St. John, #6 Feeling Festive, #2 Irelands Call

  1. ST. JOHN'S – Nice maiden flat win last September at Kentucky Downs on the. Came back for Hurdle debut at Far Hills and was pulled up on yielding ground. One start on the flat at the end of last turf season posting a closely beaten 4th. Begins 4 yr. old campaign here stepping down amongst maidens. Son of Hard Spun sire of Champion Snap Decision for the same connections.

  2. IRELANDS CALL (GB) – Five-year-old son of Jack Hobbs (GB) and point-to-point winner in Ireland, lost his rider in US debut last October at Great Meadow. Bargary gets the call today for campion trainer Leslie Young and Mrs. Johnston

  3. GIANTSBANE – Two starts over hurdles, Unlucky with a slip on the bend at Great Meadow in debut. Still a maiden on the flat from 15 tries. Hopefully the Ohrstrom homebred has found a competitive spirit in the off season.

  4. SNOW GEESE – Two competitive thirds last season for Mr. and Mrs. Bernard Dalton’s homebred. Keep an eye on this locally trained four-year-old son of Breeders Cup winning, Tourist. Hopefully he has taken a step forward in the off season and can best this group on his home track. 

  5. CUPPATEAMAN (IRE) – First time starting in America. 2 runs in Irish point to points, 4th in most recent start beginning of December ’23. Faller in heavy ground on debut Nov 19th ’23. Imported by Paul and Molly Willis and The Interns. Teddy Davies gets the leg up from trainer Brion. 

  6. FEELING FESTIVE (IRE) – Another import making his American debut. This five-year-old son of Shantou was 2nd in his first and only start Irish point to pointing last April. He comes here for local trainer Arch Kingsley and owner Richard Colton Jr., Parker Hendriks in the irons.

4th Race 3:15PM 

Ratings Hurdle Handicap, For Four Year Olds and Upward which are rated 115 or lower. 2 1/8 Miles (Hurdle) Purse $30,000. 

A very strong field of horses rated 115 or lower. Lightning Ridge makes his 4 yr. old debut of the back of an impressive 3 yr. old season last fall. He’s met by a group of familiar 6 and 7-year-old hurdlers including the mare Cainudothetwist. 

Top selections: #4 Lightning Ridge, #6 Oscar Winner, #3 Tease and Seize

  1. DANTE'S FIRE – Won last out in second try over hurdles at Colonial last summer. Seven-year-old son of Temple City looks to improve while stepping up against winners after a seven-month layoff. Very productive flat form with earnings of over $100k from 4 wins 4 seconds and 4 thirds from 27 starts.

  2. L'OR DES ROSES (FR) – A two-time winner over hurdles from 8 runs under rules in Ireland. One start in the US last fall at Foxfield never in contention.   

  3. TEASE AND SEIZE (FR) – Should be close to the pace, just beaten in last start by fellow competitor here, Oscar Winner. Gerard Galligan gets aboard for connections. Won previous start at Colonial last summer, Oscar winner 3rd. Looks to be improving and should be a good gage on that against familiar competition. 

  4. LIGHTNING RIDGE – A close runner up in last year’s 3 yr. Champion title. Winning impressively in both his debut at Shawan Downs and his most recent start to close the season with a decisive victory in the Alston Cup at Charleston. Starts his 4 yr. old and novice season here against the 115 rating level here.

  5. MASTER MCGRATH – A nice win at Colonial last summer with two disappointing efforts following to close out the fall season. Blinkers on and 10lb weight allowance from apprentice rider Sara Cundith. 

  6. OSCAR WINNER – Most recently beat the #3 and #9 last November. Just missed in a duel before that. If he can come back to recent form after the off season, should be a strong competitor here.

  7. BEE MAJOR – Son of English Channel has not shown much in a few tries over fences.

  8. BELLARMINE HALL – Winner last out for Maiden Claiming $20k at Aiken in November. Dalton climbs back aboard the 7-year-old son of Bellamy Road. 

  9. AGITARE (IRE) – Third behind Oscar Winner and Tease and Seize last out at Aiken in November. Won down in Georgia two back for Maiden Claiming $25k. Blinkers go on.

  10. CAINUDOTHETWIST – Drops out of female stakes company to take on the boys here. A winner over jumps and on the flat, she runs well fresh and could best this group if she’s in form.

5th Race 3:50PM 

The 89th Running of the Carolina Cup. Four Year Olds and Upward which have not won over hurdles prior to March 1, 2023 or which have never won three races, other than three year old. Purse $75,000 Guaranteed 2 1/8 Miles (Hurdle) 

Short field but a highly competitive bunch that should have an honest pace most likely set by The Hero Next Door. These are the next generation of American Steeplechase Stakes horses with not much between them. Very interesting contest to determine the leader of the novice division. 

Top Selections: #1 Abaan, #2 The Hero Next Door, # 3 L’Imperator

  1. ABAAN – A two-time winner from three hurdle starts last year after a 2nd on debut. The son of Will take Charge has earned over $530k in purse money competing in graded stakes company on the flat. Very impressive last year let’s see if he can carry that form into this season.

  2. THE HERO NEXT DOOR (IRE) – The son of Jet Away was impressive in his first two starts in the US. He’s beaten Neotropic and L’Imperator but was beaten by Abaan at Far Hills. Winner over this course in Maiden last year in a decisive 19 length victory.

  3. L'IMPERATOR (FR) – Beaten by both Abaan and The Hero Next Door last out at Far Hills the French bed looks to turn the tables in the start their novice season. Strong form on the flat and over jumps. Will be interesting to see if he takes that extra step forward going into this season. He was a close second to stablemate and Steeplechase Champion Merrymaker in the G1 Lonesome Glory at Aqueduct last September. This will be a good gauge on where he is compared to last year against familiar company. 

  4. NEOTROPIC – The grey son of Tapit won in nice style to close his season last year at Great Meadow. He led all the way in that last start so look for him to contend for the lead early with The Hero Next Door. Second behind him in last April at Middleburg. 

6th Race 4:25PM 

The Camden Plate Training Flat ALLOWANCE 1 1/2 Miles (Turf) For Three Year Olds and Upward.

A top-notch group of 4 battle it out for the Camden Plate. The only winner of the group is the veteran six-year-old China Beach. Two newcomers to the scene with strong families in the outside posts 1 Camcha and 4 Blue Nile. Our Boy Wes preps here after a nice start to his American transition last fall finishing a close 2nd behind Three-year-old champion Kyogo at Far Hills. Tough to pick a winner in this one but I’m going for the second time starter Blue Nile with the apprentice rider up.

Top Selections: #4 Blue Nile, #1 Camcha, #2 Our Boy Wes

  1. CAMCHA - A homebred of Mr. Hawkins made his first two starts on the flat for Christoph Clement. Both were at Saratoga last year, second in his first startg going long on the turf for NY state bred maiden claiming $40k. Faltered as the favorite next out to finish 11th at the end of the meet in Sep. at the same level. Changes trainer to Hall of Famer Janet Elliot. This 4 yr. old son of Got Stormy comes from the family of familiar names on the NSA circuit; Webb, Saigon, Mekong, and Kiyomori. All winners over jumps under NSA rules aside Mekong who was placed over timber around the testing Pennsylvania Hunt Cup course last November. Mekong runs at Cheshire over timber Sunday.

  2. OUR BOY WES (GB) - A strong second in the 3 yr. old Gladstone at Far Hills last year. Begins his 4-year-old year with a flat prep here. He has experience on the flat in Ireland but hasn’t put his nose in front after 9 runs lifetime. Best result was 3rd as a 2 yr. old going 7f at Leopardstown. 

  3. CHINA BEACH – The six-year-old son of Treasure Beach adds blinkers here.  A three-time winner on the flat with 4 seconds and a 3rd coming from 25 lifetime starts. His last run was on the dirt going a mile for $6,250 claiming where he was bumped at the start and finished 5th beaten 12 lengths. Possibly prepping in transition to the hurdles. The oldest horse in the field ridden by the eldest jockey in the field. Let’s see if these wily veterans can show the youngsters how it’s done.

  4. BLUE NILE – The five-year-old son of Pioneer of the Nile made a nice first start last June at Indiana Grand placing 3rd going long on the dirt. Previously trained by Brad Cox he has not run since then. Bred by Godolphin out of a 3-time winning Tapit mare the strong breeding should suit the trip here. Another possibly prepping for a jump career. Locally trained by Richard Valentine and ridden by apprentice Sarah Cundith. 

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