The Aiken Trials, Aiken’s day of racing for young Thoroughbreds, will have 35 entrants and six full races this year. This will include three races for 2-year-old maidens, two for 3-year-old maidens, and the featured City of Aiken Trophy for winners, 3 years and up. This is the largest entry that the Trials has had in many years, and the first time in almost a decade that there have been enough Thoroughbreds entered for six races. There have usually been six races, but in recent years these have included a race for polo ponies or one for pony horses.
The large number of entrants has organizers and those connected with the Aiken Training Track and the Aiken Trials both relieved and elated. Entries have been down at the Trials, and for the past few years, several of the races have been more or less exhibitions put on by Darley, which was the largest training operation at the track. When Darley announced that it would be closing its Aiken stables last summer, it was feared that there would not be enough horses entered to hold the Trials, and that a 74-year-old tradition would be no more.
But the Aiken Trials committee was not about to let that happen. They made a request to the City of Aiken for funding to promote the Trials, and opened the competition to horses training at other tracks. With a $10,000 grant from the city, they were able to place advertisements seeking entries in several publications geared to Thoroughbred trainers and to send direct mail solicitations to members of the North and South Carolina Thoroughbred Owners and Trainers Association. They were also able to offer trainers who came to Aiken some funding to cover their expenses — the Trials have no purse money.
The effort was a success. Of the 35 entries this year, 13 are coming from outside the Aiken Training Track, including several trained at the Palmetto Thoroughbred Training Center north of Aiken. There are also horses coming from Camden, St. Matthews and North Carolina. Suzy Haslup, a realtor with Meybohm and a Thoroughbred trainer, was one of the people who spearheaded the effort to save the Trials. She said that she had hoped to get 10 outside horses,and that 13 exceeded her expectations.
The Aiken Trials were started in 1942 as a way to give young horses that train at the Aiken Training Track over the winter a first taste of racing in front of a crowd before they are shipped out to the parimutuel tracks to begin their careers in earnest. The Aiken Training Track has long been a kindergarten for top horses that have gone on to race, and win, in America’s most prestigious races, including the Triple Crown events and the Breeder’s Cup. For this reason, they are always exciting for spectators, who watch and wonder which of the horses they see might one day go on to be famous. The Trials are not official races, and do not count on the horse’s permanent race record, but they can be a good way to see what animals might have exceptional ability.
Those who follow racing in Aiken will be interested to know that there are several 2-year-olds on the card that are sired by Aikenite, a top racehorse formerly owned by Dogwood Stable and named for the city. Aikenite, trained by Todd Pletcher, earned $875,385 in his career, which included five wins, four seconds and three thirds from 23 starts. He retired to stud at Calumet Farm in Kentucky and his first crop hit the ground in 2014. This will be their very first races anywhere.
The Aiken Trials will be held Saturday, March 19 at the Aiken Training Track on Two Notch Road. Gates open at 10 a.m. and the post time for the first race will be 2 p.m. The cost is $10 in advance, or $75 for entry into the tent party in the infield near the finish line. The Trials are the first leg of the Aiken Triple Crown, three consecutive Saturdays of equestrian sport that mark the beginning of spring in the city. The next two legs are the Aiken Spring Steeplechase (March 26) held at Bruce’s Field on Powderhouse Road and Pacers & Polo (April 2) held at Powderhouse Field, also on Powderhouse Road.
For more information, visit www.aikentrainingtrack.com.
AIKEN TRIALS ENTRIES
First Trial: The Gaver Trophy, ¼ mile, for 2-year-old maiden fillies
(Post position, horse, owner, trainer, jockey)
1. Coolhandtrix, Doris Tummillo, Kenny Huffman, Marcus Ryan
2. Enchanted Evening, James Wojczynski, Justin Wojczynski, Jose Luis
3. Mygirlfriday, George Sikora, Kenny Huffman, Kayla Phillips
4. Unnamed filly by Hansen, John Behrendt, Arch Kingsley, Rebecca Lavarre
5. Clever Serve, Barry Doss and Jerry and Cheryl Smith, Brad Stauffer, Sarah Hansel
6. Unnamed filly by Dominus, Allen Poindexter, Cary Frommer, Rigoberto Robles
Also eligible – Unnamed filly by The Factor, Mark Grier, Ron Stevens, Gene Tucker.
Second Trial: The Coward Trophy, ¼ mile, for 2-year-old maidens
1. Unnamed colt by Macho Uno, Mark Grier, Brad Stauffer, Gene Tucker
2. Country Dash, Travis Durr and Dale Martin, Travis Durr, Alfredo Roman
3. Unnamed colt by Stroll, Stone Farm, Brad Stauffer, Whitney Lassiter
4. Unnamed gelding by Not For Love, Dubarton Stable, Cary Frommer, Jose Luis
5. Aikenetta, Dogwood Stable, Ron Stevens, Kylie Cahoon
6. Brassy Rose, Barry Doss and Jerry and Cheryl Smith, Brad Stauffer, Sarah Hansel
Third Trial: The Post Trophy, ¼ mile, for 2-year-old maidens
1. Playful Sunrise, Doris Tummillo and Tom Taylor, Kenny Huffman, Kayla Phillips.
2. Unnamed colt by Street Hero, Webb Carroll, Travis Durr, Alfredo Roman
3. Unnamed filly by Aikenite, The Club, Cary Frommer, Rigoberto Robles
4. Tresso, Wendy Hendricks, Cary Frommer, Jose Luis
5. Ty’s Song, Doris Tummillo and Tom Taylor, Kenny Huffman, Marcus Ryan
6. Artillery Ridge, Halsey Minor, Arch Kingsley, Rebecca Lavarre
Also eligible – Midnight Moonlight, John Adger, Brad Stauffer, Gene Tucker
Fourth Trial: The von Stade Trophy, 4 ½ furlongs, for maiden fillies, 3-year-olds and up
1. Galway Glitter, Curtis Dean, William Allyn, Marcus Ryan
2. Dancin Street, Eileen K. Gilbert, Brad Stauffer, Kylie Cahoon
3. Sweet Crimson, Gustav Schickendanz, Mike Keogh, Tim McKinsey
4. Royal Cashmere, Quiet Winter Farm, Glenn Thompson, Rigoberto Robles
5. Miss Stetson, Mr. and Mrs. Ismael Gomez, Ismael Gomez, Ismael Gomez
Fifth Trial: The Iselin Hall of Fame Trophy, 4 1/2 furlongs, maidens, 3-year-olds and up
1. Wildcat Dance, Curtis Dean, William Allyn, Marcus Ryan
2. Bordagaray, Dogwood Stable, Brad Stauffer, Sarah Hansel
3. Donaghy, Dunbarton Stable, Cary Frommer, Jose Luis
4. Daggers Tail, Doris Tummillo, Kenny Huffman, Kayla Phillips
Sixth Trial: The City of Aiken Trophy, 4 ½ furlongs, winners, 3-year-olds and up
1. Enoree, Gustav Schickendanz, Mike Keogh, Tim McKinsey
2. Money Changer, Dogwood Stable, Ron Stevens, Kylie Cahoon
3. Glowing Ember, Dogwood Stable, Brad Stauffer, Sarah Hansel
4. Sweet Grass Creek, Gustav Schickendanz, Mike Keogh, Jose Ramos
5. Jersey Jet, Quiet Winter Farm, Glenn Thompson, Rigoberto Robles
6. Aiken’s Dream, Henry Sanchez, Kenny Huffman, Kayla Phillips