“He’s a very superior horse, I think. We just have to keep his trainer from messing up and we’ll be in business.”
That comment from Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard sums up rising steeplechase star Winston C. Despite picking up an additional 10 pounds from his A.P. Smithwick Memorial (NSA-G1) victory, the 1-2 favorite ran out an even more imperious winner of Thursday’s $150,000 New York Turf Writers Cup H. (NSA-G1).
The first to turn the Spa steeplechase double in 20 years, since Campanile (1999), Winston C was patiently handled by Thomas Garner. The 154-pound highweight bided his time near the back of the pack as stablemate All the Way Jose showed the way. Only in the midst of the final circuit did Winston C improve his position on the backstretch.
By the time Hinterland picked up the baton from All the Way Jose nearing the last turn, Winston C was already on the scene and ready to take command himself. The Rip Van Winkle gelding opened up upon straightening and amassed an 8 3/4-length advantage at the wire, covering 2 3/8 miles on yielding turf in 4:38.16.
Gibralfaro, always handy, salvaged second by a nose from Belisarius. Hinterland faded a further 11 lengths back in fourth, followed by All the Way Jose, Modem, No Wunder, and the eased Peppay Le Pugh. Portrade was scratched.
“Ten pounds is a pretty good shift,” Sheppard said of Winston C’s increased impost, “but he was able to overcome it fairly easily. They were just a tad closer earlier this time. It was probably a little slower pace and he was able to have some closer contact to the leaders.”
“I had a very willing partner,” Garner said. “The horse did everything right. I couldn’t put him wrong, really. He’s such an honest, classy little horse. I think there is a lot more to come from him. He’s still improving.”
Winston C was making just his third start for his new connections in the United States, and eighth try since switching codes from the British Flat to hurdles. Initially trained by Michael Bell for Bill and Tim Gredley – the same team behind 2017 Gold Cup (G1) hero Big Orange among others – the bay won twice but didn’t progress in handicaps. He was sold under Bell’s Fitzroy House Stables banner at the 2018 Tattersalls February Sale for 30,000 guineas ($44,777) and joined Harry Fry.
Third in in his hurdling debut at Huntingdon last December, Winston C reeled off a hat trick over hurdles in a Wincanton maiden, Sandown novice, and Kelso handicap. His skein was snapped when fifth in a Grade 1 novice hurdle at Aintree April 5, his only unplaced effort so far in this discipline.
Winston C was acquired by Hudson River Farms and transferred stateside to Sheppard. After a promising third in the May 11 Marcellus Frost Champion Hurdle S. at Percy Warner, the five-year-old gelding has put it all together at the Spa.
Bred by Patrick Kelly in Ireland, Winston C is a half-brother to two black-type performers, Irish stakes scorer Snow Watch and Group 3-placed Vilasol. His dam, the winning Machiavellian mare Pitrizza, is herself out of Unopposed by Sadler’s Well. With Winston C being by the Galileo stallion Rip Van Winkle, he sports 3×3 inbreeding to Sadler’s Wells.
Later in the $100,000 Riskaverse for three-year-old fillies, 4-5 favorite Catch a Bid got up in time to deny front-running Dalika the 20-1 upset. Owned by Klaravich Stables and trained by Chad Brown, the bay clocked one mile on the yielding inner course in 1:36.31 with Irad Ortiz Jr.
Catch a Bid just began her career on June 6, rolling to a 4 1/2-length maiden win at Belmont Park. The daughter of past Brown celebrity Real Solution next missed by a neck in a Saratoga allowance to Varenka, the dead-heat winner of last Saturday’s Lake Placid (G2). Varenka was also entered in the Riskaverse but scratched. Catch a Bid has bankrolled $122,900 from her 3-2-1-0 line.
A bargain $30,000 purchase as a Fasig-Tipton Kentucky October yearling, Catch a Bid was bred in the Bluegrass State by Ken and Sarah Ramsey. She is out of the winning Elusive Quality mare Elusive Champagne, her second dam is Grade 3 victress Belong to Sea, and as a descendant of 1975 Kentucky Oaks (G2) heroine Sun and Snow, she hails from the family of Grade 1 scorer Nereid.