THE PLAINS, Va.--Ricky Hendriks saddled Optimus Prime to win the $75,000, G2 David L "Zeke" Ferguson Memorial Stakes at the International Gold Cup on Oct. 27, and that, combined with two wins on the same day at Aiken moved Hendriks into a two race lead in his battle with Jack Fisher for the Trainer, Races Won title.
Hendriks also moved into the lead in Trainer, Money Won with $894,150 to Fishers $878,350.
Fisher has enjoyed winning both titles for a number of years and builds his stable up to winning the bigger races in the fall, but Hendriks is giving him a serious battle this year, and the title has been swapping back and forth with each weekend.
Owned by George Mahoney's Rosbrian Farm and ridden by Ross Geraghty, Optimus Prime won easily by 18 1/4 lengths over Irvin Naylor's Sempre Medici, trained by Cyril Murphy and ridden by Darren Nagle.
"Optimus Prime has another gear," said Hendriks. "He's got six gears. Other horses have five gears, and he's got six. He's the number one horse in the barn."
Hendriks has a number of top steeplechase horses, including Zanjebeel, who won two G1 stakes this year, Jury Duty, who just won the G1 Grand National at Far Hills and his mother's Surprising Soul, so to say Optimus Prime is the best horse in his barn is high praise indeed.
"We'll probably put Optimus Prime away for the winter and bring him back next year, aiming for the A.P. Smithwick at Saratoga," said Hendriks.
"This horse is so special," said Mahoney. "Words can't describe how I feel about him. This horse is dear to my heart. You saw him in full action today."
"He was going so easy," said Geraghty. "At Saratoga this summer I told Ricky that this is the best horse I've ever sat on. It's always special winning a graded stakes, but after the last fence, he was going so easy."
FISHER also saddled a winner at the Gold Cup but he didn't have any starters at Aiken, so fell behind Hendriks in the Trainers races.
Doc Cebu, now owned by Charles Fenwick Jr., Michael Hankin, and Charles Noell and ridden by Hadden Frost, who brings his show jumpers over from England to compete at shows when he's scheduled to ride Doc Cebu, won the $75,000 International Gold Cup Timber Stakes.
Doc Cebu and Le Chevalier, owned by Michael A. Smith, trained by Julie Gomena and ridden by Jack Doyle, dueled for the lead throughout the 3 1/2 mile race, but Doc Cebu pulled away after the last fence to win easily by 5 1/4 lengths, with Super Saturday, owned by Naylor, trained by Kathy Neilson and ridden by Gerard Galligan passing Le Chevalier in the stretch to take second.
This was Doc Cebu's second win in a row in this race.
"Jack gave me a hard race," said Frost. "He gave me plenty of concern. I thought the race was Doc Cebu's after the last fence. It was tough going, but he handles this going well. I'm going to ride show jumpers now. It's a pleasure to ride this horse."
Doc Cebu was a $4,500 claimer on the flat, but all that changed when he started over fences, and he was Timber Champion last year.
"This is actually the third time he's been on these grounds," said Fenwick. "He came here to be sold in 2016, but no one wanted him."
"This was his best race," said Fenwick. "He's a tough horse."
"Doc Cebu doesn't have the Timber Championship sewed up yet," said Fisher. "Joe Davies has Senior Senator (this year's Grand National and Maryland Hunt Cup winner) entered in the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup."
So the Hunt Cup will decide the championship, as Doc Cebu is also entered.
Elucidation, owned by Naylor, trained by Murphy and ridden by Nagle, won the $45,000 Allowance Hurdle over Go Get the Basil, owned by Eve Ledyard, trained by Hendriks and ridden by Willie McCarthy.
Katnap, owned by Wits Ed Stable, trained by William Dowling and ridden by Nagle, won the $40,000 Steeplethon over Able Archer, owned by KMSN Stale, trained by Jonathan Sheppard and ridden by Mikey Mitchell, while Renown, owned by Merriebelle Stable LLC, trained by Elizabeth Voss and ridden by Jack Doyle, won the $40,000 Sport of Kings Maiden Hurdle over Dynaformmersreque, owned by Noble Stable, trained by Fisher and ridden by Sean McDermott
AT AIKEN, Eve Ledyard saddled Diplodocus for trainer Hendriks and owner Morning Star Farm to win the $30,000 Sport of Kings Maiden Hurdle, and later in the afternoon she also saddled Rosbrian Farm's Barhanpour (Fr) for trainer Hendriks, both horse ridden by T. Garner, to win the $20,000 Conditoned Claiming Hurdle.
Av a Word, owned by naylor, trained by Murphy and ridden by G. Watters, won the Maiden Claiming Hurdle, and Our Frosty, owned by Virginia Lazenby Racing Stable LLC, trained by Kate Dalton and ridden by Bernie Dalton, won the Filly & Mare Maiden Hurdle.