Indigo Heart rolls to victory in the Budweiser Imperial Cup at the Aiken Spring Steeplechase

March 24, 2019

Running Indigo Heart in the $30,000 Budweiser Imperial Cup wasn’t originally in trainer Ricky Hendriks’ plans, but it turned out to be the right decision.

The 9-year-old bay gelding cruised to a 4½-length victory in the two-mile race over jumps during the 53rd Aiken Spring Steeplechase on Saturday at Bruce’s Field.

Rosbrian Farm’s Barhanpour, also trained by Hendriks, finished second, a half-length in front of Dapper Dan.

Bobabout was fourth, and L’Aigle Royal was pulled up by his jockey, Alex Leventhal, and didn’t finish.

Oskar Denarius, Kensington Court and Giza were scratched.

“Wow, that was exciting and surprising,” said Hendricks, who is based in Pennsylvania. “I thought the other horse would beat him.”

“We had been pointing Barhanpour for this race specifically, and then we figured we might as well bring Indigo Heart, too.”

Ridden by Jack Doyle, Indigo Heart turned in a time of 3:40 4/5.

Top-weighted Bobabout, who carried 158 pounds, was the early front-runner in the Imperial Cup, but Indigo Heart was close behind, stalking him.

As the field passed in front of the VIP and Guarantor Tent area for the second time, Indigo Heart battled Bobabout for the lead and eventually pulled ahead.

At the final jump, Bobabout had faded to fourth, and Indigo Heart was in command.

Barhanpour and Dapper Dan tried hard to catch Indigo Heart as he charged toward the wire, but the gelding, which was carrying 153 pounds, drew away from them easily.

“He likes this course, and he just ran beautifully,” said Hendriks of Indigo Heart. “Jack rode him fantastic. He had a nice long hold on him, and he (Indigo Heart) was just galloping along. He made a nice move down the backside, and then he was gone. It was very, very nice. I was very pleased with how Barhanpour did as well.”

Hendriks owns Indigo Heart and races him in the name of Morningstar Farm.

Last March, when Price-Richardson Stable owned Indigo Heart and Arch Kingsley Jr. trained him, the gelding finished second in the Imperial Cup.

Able Archer defeated him by 10½ lengths.

Later in 2018, “I bought him (Indigo Heart) privately for Rosbrian Farm for a specific race at Shawan Downs (in Maryland), and he won that nicely,” Hendriks said.

Rosbrian’s George Mahoney then decided he wanted to reduce the size of his stable by several horses, and one that he wanted to get rid of was Indigo Heart.

“I’m like, ‘Well, I’ll take him,’ and I bought him from George,” Hendriks said.

Hendriks saddled two other winners – Debra Kachel’s Capo Dei Capi and Argentic – on the Aiken Spring Steeplechase’s six-race card.

Capo Dei Capi captured the W.C. Jackson by a length, and Argentic defeated All Out of Aces by three-quarters of a length in the James W. Maloney.

Ross Geraghty rode both winners in the 1¼-mile events on the flat.

Capo Dei Capi completed his race in 2:03 2/5, and Argentic turned in a time of 2:07 4/5.

Trainer Katherine Neilson saddled two winners of two-mile races over jumps.

Soluble, who is owned by Neilson, scored by 3¼ lengths in the $30,000 G.H. Bostwick, and Irvin Naylor’s Change of View captured the $20,000 Ford D. Conger by 4½ lengths. Sean McDermott rode both geldings.

The winning times for Soluble and Change of View were 3:40 2/5 and 4:04 1/5 respectively.

In the $15,000 Charles S. Bird III, another two-mile race over jumps, Naval Gazer barely beat Maccabee across the finish line.

But the stewards declared Maccabee the winner after disqualifying Naval Gazer, who was ridden by Kieran Norris, for interference in the stretch and placing him second.

Maccabee’s jockey was Richard Boucher, who is the husband of the 6-year-old gelding’s trainer, Lilith Boucher.

Mason Hardaway Lampton owns Maccabee.

The race’s final time was 3:47 1/5.

Paul Sauerborn, president of the Aiken Steeplechase Association, which conducts the Aiken Spring Steeplechase, estimated that there was a crowd of between 30,000 and 35,000 at the event.

The Aiken Spring Steeplechase was the first race meeting of the National Steeplechase Association’s 2019 season.