By Tod Marks
Call it a carbon copy of last week’s opener at Colonial Downs. In his patented front-running style, jockey Mark Watts gunned Carrington Holdings’ Hurtgen Forest to the lead of today’s $40,000 maiden special weights hurdle and never looked back, scoring by two lengths in the full field of 10.
Trained by Arch Kingsley and owned by Bill and Carrington Price, the New York-homebred son of Americain won for the first time in nine tries.
At the break, Sharon Sheppard and Gil Johnston’s King of Tsavo had the advantage, but it didn’t take long for Hurtgen Forest and Watts to assume control. From there, the duo set the pace, leading by as much as five or six lengths over the spread-out field, maintaining that cushion at the top of the stretch, when Watts looked over his shoulder to assess his competition.
King of Tsavo stalked the winner throughout the contest, but gave way late to Del Rio Racing’s Pacifist, with Bernie Dalton aboard.
For Hurtgen Forest’s connections it was the second win in as many weeks at the New Kent, Va., course. The team opened the summer season last Monday with a victory using similar catch-me-if-you-can tactics with Ancient Times.
Simply Devine: Theocrat Rallies to Take Colonial Handicap
Talk about coincidence. Just as the same owner, trainer, and rider combination won the first race last Monday and today at Colonial, so did the winners of the second jump race on the card.
Atlantic Friends Racing’s Theocrat, an Irish-bred five-year-old who made 21 starts in the UK with two victories, put on a show in his U.S. debut this afternoon under leading rider Parker Hendriks to take the $35,000 handicap for horses rated at 115.
Coming from well off the pace, the Keri Brion-trainee prevailed by a length over Pathfinder Racing’s determined Bet the Pot, ridden by Ross Geraghty, who unleashed a rally of his own turning for home in the 2 1/4-mile contest.
Under Jamie Bargary, The Fields Stable’s Circus set the pace for most of the going, with Potter Group USA’s Don’t Shout sitting in striking position, and Bruce Collette’s Eryx breathing down his neck in third. The rest of the field was spread out.
Heading into the far turn, Circus was still up by about two or three lengths, as Bet the Pot, Brownland Farm’s Jump Ship, and Theocrat on the far outside gobbled up ground and took aim at the leader. With about three sixteenths remaining, it became a two-horse race as Theocrat and Bet the Pot battled until the former assumed command to score by a length. Circus was far back in third.
Last Monday at Colonial, Hendriks, Brion, and owner Molly and Paul Willis — who are an integral part of the Atlantic Friends Racing team — won with New Appointment, another Irish-bred making her first NSA start.