Kensington Court set to make comeback in Budweiser Imperial Cup on Saturday

March 22, 2019

The road to recovery has been a long one for Kensington Court.

But the wait is finally over, and the 7-year-old gelding will return to competition in the $30,000 Budweiser Imperial Cup on Saturday at Bruce’s Field.

The Imperial Cup is part of the six-race card for the 53rd edition of the Aiken Spring Steeplechase.

“He’s a beautiful moving, beautiful jumping horse, and he is quick,” said his trainer, Julie Gomena, earlier this week.

A Virginia-based horsewoman, Gomena spends the winter season at the Palmetto Training Center, which is located on Shiloh Church Road north of Aiken.

“I have a lot of horses down here this year,” she said. “I brought 19.”

Owned by Nicole Perry’s Oakwood Stable, Kensington Court hasn’t competed since finishing third in the 2017 Aflac Supreme Hurdle Stakes in the Steeplechase at Callaway Gardens in Georgia.

Before that, the gelding’s performances over jumps included victories in the Fair Hill Races in Maryland and at Saratoga Race Course in New York.

“I thought quite a lot of him, but then he injured a tendon,” Gomena said. “I think it (the Imperial Cup) will be a good spot for him to make his comeback.”

Kieran Norris will ride Kensington Court, who will carry 155 pounds, in the two-mile Imperial Cup over jumps.

Norris guided Able Archer to victory in the 2018 Imperial Cup.

Bill Gallo, the National Steeplechase Association’s director of racing, described Kensington Court as a “very classy, well-bred horse.”

The gelding’s sire (father), Giant’s Causeway, was a Horse of the Year in Europe and the leading sire in North America in 2009, 2010 and 2012.

Kensington Court’s dam (mother), Backseat Rhythm, was a grade I stakes winner on grass.

Top-weighted Bobabout’s assignment is 158 pounds.

Also scheduled to run in the Imperial Cup are Oskar Denarius, Barhanpour, Giza, L’Aigle Royal, Dapper Dan and Indigo Heart.

Bobabout finished second in the 2018 National Hunt Cup Hurdle Handicap during the Radnor Hunt races in Pennsylvania.

Graham Watters will ride Bobabout in the Imperial Cup, which is an overnight handicap race.

The 6-year-old gelding is owned by Irvin Naylor and trained by Cyril Murphy.

There will be six races in all on the Spring Steeplechase program. Four will be over jumps and two will be on the flat.

In addition to Kensington Court, Gomena will send out Stainbrook Farms’ Major Anthem in the G.H. Bostwick maiden race over jumps, Stonelea Stable’s Naval Gazer in the Charles S. Bird, III, maiden claiming race over jumps and Sara Collette’s Balistes in the Ford D. Conger overnight handicap over jumps.

Conducted by the Aiken Steeplechase Association, the Aiken Spring Steeplechase is the first race meeting in the National Steeplechase Association’s 2019 season.

“The entries overall for the day are terrific, and the weather is supposed to be phenomenal,” Gallo said. “Our horsemen are eager to get going, and there is kind of good feeling out there right now.”

Saturday’s forecast is calling for sunny skies and a high temperature near 67 degrees, according to the National Weather Service in Columbia.

Gates will open at Bruce’s Field at 9 a.m., and the post time for the first race will be 1 p.m.

Bruce’s Field is at 931 Powderhouse Road S.E.

The Spring Steeplechase is the second leg in the Aiken Triple Crown. The Aiken Trials were held on March 16 at the Aiken Training Track. Pacers & Polo is scheduled for March 30 at the Powderhouse Polo Field.