Does it get any better?
For Frank Mullins, maybe not.
The new president of the Aiken Steeplechase Association enjoyed what he described as a “fantastic day” during the Aiken Fall Steeplechase.
Mullins is the co-owner of a 3-year-old thoroughbred colt named Topic Changer, who captured the $30,000 Holiday Cup over jumps Saturday.
“I am in like shock,” Mullins said following Topic Changer’s 4 ½-length victory over Beat Le Bon. “This is just wonderful."
Mullins, who became the Steeplechase Association's president over the summer, campaigns Topic Changer in partnership with son-in-law Jordan Wycoff, a Pennsylvania resident.
Prior to the Holiday Cup, Cross Border and Hilliard were scratched, reducing the field to six horses, none of which had ever won a race over hurdles.
For Topic Changer, it was the first time he had ever competed over jumps.
Before Wycoff struck a deal to purchase the colt privately, Topic Changer had won twice during five races on the flat in New York.
Wycoff thought the bay thoroughbred would be able to learn how to soar over hurdles without too much trouble because of his breeding.
“Flintshire, the father of Topic Changer, has done remarkable things as a sire of steeplechasers,” Wycoff said.
Ridden by Barry Foley, Topic Changer galloped along off the pace early before charging past and pulling away from front-running Beat Le Bon while approaching the finish line.
Topic Changer completed 2 1/8 miles in 3:55 2/5.
Lumberjack was third, followed by Honor Up.
Tiger to Remember and Flying Scotsman failed to finish.
Sponsored by A is for Advertising, the Holiday Cup was the afternoon’s richest contest.
“I was a little bit surprised,” said Wycoff of Topic Changer’s victory. “He’s only been jumping for three weeks, so that was a tough ask. We hope to bring him back next year for the Aiken Spring Steeplechase because he loves this course. He is a really nice horse.”
Keri Brion trains Topic Changer.
The Aiken Fall Steeplechase was held for the first time at the Aiken Steeplechase Association's new venue at 2020 Richland Avenue East, and there were five races in all.
In the Calico Creek, at 1¼ miles on the flat, Be Yourself, who is owned by part-time Aiken resident Adam Newman, was the winner.
“I had been renting here, but I enjoyed myself immensely in Aiken last winter, so I bought a home, a nice little cottage right in town,” said Newman, who lives the rest of the year in Saratoga Springs, New York.
“Aiken is a lovely place to spend the colder weather months,” he continued. “It’s small, friendly and horsey – all the things that I’m looking for.”
Newman campaigns Be Yourself in the name of Flying Elvis Stable.
The 4-year-old gelding’s jockey in the Calico Creek was Gerard Galligan.
Be Yourself’s trainer is Neil Morris, who told the Aiken Standard that he plans to have a stable of horses in Aiken this winter.
Be Yourself defeated Secret Soulmate by a half-length and turned in a winning time of 2:22.
Plans call for Be Yourself to race over jumps for the first time during the Steeplechase of Charleston on Nov. 13.
“He’s been schooling over fences and by all reports is doing really well,” Newman said. “This was sort of a tune-up for that.”
Even though the Calico Creek didn’t offer any purse money, Newman was happy.
“It’s always nice to win, and it’s always nice to see the positive attitude that he (Be Yourself) showed,” Newman said.
Wycoff, Brion and Foley also teamed up for another win with Clara Belle in the $15,000 Cathedral Aisle over jumps.
A 3-year-old filly, Clara Belle covered 2 1/8 miles in 3:59.
She finished 2 ½ lengths in front of Hail to the Chief, a 5-year-old gelding.
Ballybristol Farm’s Soramond cruised to victory by 15 ¼ lengths in the $20,000 Juac Hollow over hurdles.
In what was the day’s longest race, the 5-year-old mare completed 2 3/8 miles in 4:19 3/5.
Leslie Young trains Soramond, who was ridden by Freddie Proctor.
In the $25,000 Thomas Hitchcock over jumps, Cainudothetwist triumphed by four lengths and covered 2 1/8 miles in 3:57 4/5.
The 5-year-old mare is trained and owned by Archibald Kingsley Jr.
Jack Gilligan rode Cainudothetwist to victory.
In addition to A is for Advertising, Aiken County Farm Supply, Aiken Regional Medical Centers, Honda Cars of Aiken and Budweiser sponsored races.