Nov 20
Monday

Latest News from Overcreek Farm

 

  • Balance the Budget wins Imperial Cup at Aiken.
  • Based in Aiken for the winter, horses ready for spring campaign.
  • Balance the Budget wins at Shawan Downs.
  • Country Cousin wins over timber at Virginia Fall.
  • Sporty finishes third in Saratoga Novice Stakes.
  • Country Cousin wins Novice Timber Championship.
  • Cocodimama wins impressively at Middleburg Spring.

 

Over Creek Farm

Middleburg, VA
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Tod Marks

Latest News


Balance the Budget wins Imperial Cup

Proving yet again that wintering in Aiken works, Balance the Budget won the season opening stakes, upsetting the $50,000 Budweiser Imperial Cup for Stonelea Stable. Ridden by Kieran Norris, the son of Bellamy Road drew off to win by 21 lengths. Yes, 21 lengths, over Street Fight and Absolum.

Claimed for $16,000 in May, 2013, Balance the Budget won for the second time in his eight-race steeplechase career. He's now won $57,000 in his second career.

Earlier on the Aiken card, Gun Point won a training flat race, Atavism finished an encouraging third in his hurdle debut and Arrakis returned to racing with a third

 
Winter Break

The stable enjoyed a successful fall season in 2012 with two wins from Arrakis and a promising maiden win from Sporty. Both former flat horses hinted at big things to come with strong performances.

Owned by Over Creek Farm, Arrakis broke his maiden at Foxfield in September and returned to win an allowance hurdle at Charleston in November. Purchased last fall after winning three races on the flat (Gulfstream Park, twice, and Monmouth Park), the son of Royal Academy made his hurdle debut in the spring and hasn't been off the board since. At Charleston, jockey Roddy Mackenzie rated him well off the pace before skipping to a nearly 6-length win over next-out winner Sunshine Numbers and recently imported Plenty Pocket.

Sporty, a son of Kentucky Derby winner Smarty Jones, won four races on the flat before his conversion to jumping. Owned by Rock Ford Stable, Smarty made his hurdle debut this fall, gradually learned the trade and won with an impressive late rally at Camden.

"We are excited about both horses. They've shown aptitude and talent for their new career," Julie said. "We took our time with both horses and look forward to next year."

Both horses will enjoy a brief freshening before heading south to Aiken to prepare for the rich novice stakes in the spring.

 
Spring has Sprung

Spring is here and Over Creek Farm has been busy after a winter spent in Aiken, South Carolina. The team is back at the homebase in Middleburg, ready to continue a strong spring season campaign before aiming at Saratoga and other major track forays this summer.

Oakwood Stable’s multiple stakeswinner Country Cousin returned from a layoff with a tough second behind champion Black Jack Blues in the Carolina Cup and has his eyes on further spring prizes. The 9-year-old son of Lear Fan increased his career earnings to nearly $200,000.

"He lives in a bubble, don't enter his bubble. He is absolutely worried about everything. Iris and Mike Freeman have a lovely turf gallop where we spend our winters, it has a few fence lines with gates and a few sheds near it, there is nothing worse than riding Country Cousin around the gallops without a lead, I can't even trot around the gallops by myself without nearly getting a stop-and-drop," Gomena said. "He thinks he's a 17-hand stallion, don't tell him he's a 16-hand gelding. He ran well in his return in the Carolina Cup and hopefully he'll continue to have a good season. He's won three stakes for us over three completely different tracks."

Bon Nouvel Chasers’ Alfarabi ran well to finish second at the Carolina Cup and will should graduate this spring.

Rock Ford Stable’s new edition, Twojohnsandajack, won at Warrenton Point-to-Point before finishing fourth in his NSA debut at Atlanta. The son of Malibu Moon was beaten 8 lengths in the Grade II American Derby last summer.

Margaret Littleton’s Atrium won over timber at Warrenton Point-to-Point.

Over Creek’s Arrakis finished second on the flat at Loudoun Hunt Point-to-Point and will make his hurdle debut this spring.

 
Bigshot is Big Shot

At Virginia Fall in October, Julie Gomena aimed for a Theodora Randolph double, riding Mr. Fater in the fieldhunter championship and sending out Bigshot in the maiden hurdle also bearing the longtime steeplechase patron’s name. Gomena failed to land the first one, but nailed the second one when Stonelea Farm’s Bigshot took the tough maiden special, winning on the front end in his debut for jockey Carl Rafter. First-time starter and multiple stakeswinner Ice Bear rallied for second with first-timers Almarmooq third and Researcher fourth.

The race was sponsored by the Bonnie family and won by the Bonnie family, who is part of the Randolph family.

"The whole family has been strong supporters of racing for so many years and it's great to get them involved in a jumper," Gomena said. "They are so enthusiastic about flat racing, steeplechasing, foxhunting, everything. These silks have been around a long time and I'm glad to get them in the winner's circle, especially with such a talented horse."

Bigshot won twice on the flat, including a 12-furlong allowance turf win at Keeneland before being claimed for $40,000 in May. Bigshot routed a tough maiden field that included $1.3 million earner Researcher, Saratoga allowance runner-up Perfect Edge, $950,000 yearling purchase Almarmooq and $872,328 earner Ice Bear.

“With Researcher and Ice Bear in there, I would have been happy with a nice third,” said Gomena, still dressed her hunting clothes. “He started at Blue Ridge, I think that was helpful, put the shadow roll on this time, still strong, Carl felt he should go ahead and stay up front, which was fine. The horse is a fabulous jumper, always has been, honestly, he could have been an event horse, from day one, always forward, happy, jumping, loved it, no problem, easy.”

 

 
Country Cousin wins Ferguson at Colonial Downs

Julie Gomena needed to work Country Cousin and was nearly out of options. The turf was too firm at home, the dirt at Middleburg Training Center isn’t her thing, the neighbor’s gallop doesn’t suit the horse.

Then she made a call to the Colonial Downs racing office.

“I didn’t realize that, for stakes-nominated horses only, the turf course is open one hour on Sundays to work,” she said. “I called and made arrangements and that’s what I did – shipped all the way down there just to work. He was great, did a proper work. It was good for him physically and mentally.”

The extra traveling – 280 miles round trip – and the 7-furlong workout (under Richard Boucher) a week before the race paid off as Country Cousin won the $50,000 Ferguson by a length June 26. Carl Rafter rode the winner, who caught Straight To It and Your Sum Man late to win the New Kent, Va. track’s steeplechase feature by a length in 4:01.17.

Owned by Oakwood Stable, Country Cousin won his second stakes of 2011 and vaulted into the Saratoga discussion with another quality effort. The 8-year-old lost his first six jump starts, but has won five of eight since including a novice stakes last year at Radnor, the Aiken feature in March and now the Ferguson. The victories have come at a variety of courses – rambling Montpelier, hilly Glenwood Park, demanding Radnor, flat and fast Aiken and now a racetrack.

“I still can’t figure him out because he’s won all these different places,” said Gomena. “It took him so long to break his maiden, now he’s winning stakes. The races this fall are 2 1/2 (miles) and longer and I’m not sure he likes that much distance so we decided to point for Colonial.”

The Ferguson attracted a field of six after the late scratches of Percussionist and The Price Of Love. Grade I winners Your Sum Man, Mixed Up and Spy In The Sky took much of the attention along with course winner Straight To It and the hard-hitting Country Cousin.

Bettors sent the whole group off at less than 9-1. Fealing Real set the early pace, followed by Your Sum Man, Straight To It, Country Cousin and Mixed Up. Spy In The Sky
fell at the fifth and Fealing Real dropped back on the final turn. Your Sum Man emerged with a slight lead on Straight To It at the quarter pole, but Country Cousin took aim and collared his rivals inside the final furlong.

“He’s a very solid horse and beat them fair and square,” said Rafter. “He’s a brilliant ride, doesn’t pull, jumps great. He doesn’t like to be crowded in a race, but I’ve got that figured out.”

Country Cousin has no trouble rallying on the inside late in a race, but he’d prefer not to be there in the early going and Rafter thinks his horse might have been closer to Decoy Daddy when third at Nashville. Country Cousin defeated that rival at Aiken in March, but couldn’t catch up in the $75,000 Marcellus Frost in May.

“I was mad about the way that race went,” Rafter said. “I settled my horse down on the inside, got him blinded at a few fences; he didn’t run as well as he can. It was Decoy Daddy’s day, but my horse could have run better.”

 
Country Cousin wins Aiken feature

Another winter in Aiken. Another great start to the season.

Oakwood Stable’s Country Cousin won the Budweiser Imperial Cup at the season’s traditional opener in Aiken.

Rated in the back of the five-horse field, Country Cousin rallied to collar Decoy Daddy and draw off to a comfortable score. It was the fourth win for Country Cousin since coming to Gomena's barn.

Bred by Virginian Bill Backer, Country Cousin won twice on the flat before Gomena purchased him from Speedy Smithwick and David Ross in the winter of 2007-08. Over jumps, Country Cousin needed seven tries to break his maiden. He was worth the wait,  – he’s now won four of his last six, including two stakes. Rafter has ridden him in three of those wins.

“I thought about bouncing out, but everybody wanted to be handy so I decided to sit third or fourth but wound up fifth after getting shuffled back a little,” Rafter said. “Mixed Up was struggling to keep up so I popped and crept past him, I was luckily enough to be on a handy little horse, he did exactly what he did at Radnor, sneak up the inside, he’s a smashing little horse to do maneuvers like that. He’s got a couple of big jumps but you can’t throw him at everything, we met the last pretty long, when I saw his front feet come up I knew he had won. He’s a really cool, fantastic, little, fun horse to ride. He loves it. He’s a barn favorite, he’s a really nice person, he’d lick you instead of kick you. It’s an absolute pleasure to ride him.”

Last year, Gomena used her foray to Aiken to kick off a stellar spring season when five of her first six starters won, including two by Country Cousin. Gomena and trainer Richard Valentine took a couple of their hurdles to Aiken this year so they could do some basic schooling and traveled to Camden for the real thing. Gomena shipped a couple of her maidens home to Virginia where she schooled over Doug Fout’s hurdles in preparation for the Virginia point-to-points.

For the second year in a row, Aiken had done its job.

“I came here as an event rider, 10 years ago, I was one of the first event riders down here and really enjoyed it. With all the snow last year, I told my owners I’ve got to go south or the horses aren’t running,” Gomena said. “I knew Richard had enjoyed Aiken so we decided to come on down, we really enjoyed it last year and had a nice spring so here we are again. I know and appreciate the (Middleburg) training center but I’ve gone around the track many a time. I like terrain and that’s what I’m used to, when the ground thaws, I’m happy with Virginia but Aiken makes it very easy.”

 
Spring is in the Air

As of mid-February, the Over Creek Farm race horses have been enjoying Aiken, South Carolina. It has been lovely down here and we’re planning a schooling trip to Camden next week with our rider, Carl Rafter. The going has been good, the horses are getting fit and we’re already contemplating our return date to Virginia. It sounds like the winter hasn’t been terrible in Virginia this year, so we hope to hit some point-to-points soon.

Veterans Country Cousin and Devil’s Preacher lead a quartet of maidens, The Peloton, Red Ghost, Jack Spratt and Sol A Pino.