Tag Archives: Virginia Connections


runaway groom


(Blood Horse – edited) Albert Coppola Sr., a longtime owner/breeder who raced grade I winner and Canadian champion Runaway Groom, died Dec. 29 in Virginia.

“It was the highlight of his career, winning the Travers Stakes (gr. I),” said Albert Coppola Jr., who attended the 1982 Mid-Summer Derby with his father when Runaway Groom defeated heavily favored Conquistador Cielo. “In the month of August, he was a regular at Saratoga, even before Runaway Groom came along.” Coppola Sr. had grown up in Schenectady, N.Y., about 30 miles south of Saratoga Springs.

The son of Blushing Groom, bought by Coppola as a yearling for $39,000, would overtake both Preakness Stakes (gr. I) winner Aloma’s Ruler and Conquistador Cielo in the final sixteenth of a mile to win by half a length. Prior to the Travers, Runaway Groom had won two jewels of the Canadian Triple Crown—the Prince of Wales Stakes and the Breeders’ Stakes—and had finished second in the Queen’s Plate. His feats for the year earned him the Sovereign Award as champion 3-year-old male.

According to Sports Illustrated, Runaway Groom, a 12-1 shot, was entered in the Travers only because his owner grew up in nearby Schenectady and went to the Saratoga whenever he could. “You could say I entered my horse for vanity’s sake, to see my colors in the race I love the most,” Coppola said afterward. “I thought we might be able to finish third or maybe fourth. There’s nothing wrong with that. Runaway Groom runs from far back, and I thought he might benefit from a speed duel.” Coppola paused for a moment, tugged on his horn-rimmed glasses and said, “I just did that, didn’t I? I won the Travers.”

Coppola, 89, of McLean, Va., had been an active owner and breeder since he bought his first Thoroughbred in 1979 and eventually breeding the stakes winners, too, including Air Rocket, Bates Mirage, Brett’s Favrette, Crown Point, Doradoradora, and Frisco Belle. He was also partners with Charlie Deters in a grade I-winning son of Runaway Groom named Down the Aisle, who won the United Nations Handicap (gr. IT) and the Bougainvillea Handicap (gr. IIIT).

“He was involved in the business right to the end,” said Coppola Jr. His father kept eight broodmares on a 70-acre farm near Upperville, Va.

Coppola Sr.’s health had been good in early December, and he had been busy spending time with family and attending his grandchildren’s soccer games. He began to rapidly decline toward the end of the month.

“He had a full life,” Coppola Jr. said. “It was definitely a life well-lived.”

Because Coppola Sr. is a World War II veteran, he will be interred at Arlington National Cemetery. He is survived by his wife of 63 years, Katherine; five children, Albert Jr., John, Maria, Katherine, and Valerie; plus 12 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Visits: 4253


powell(Fauquier Now – edited)  Dedicated horseman Robert “Bob” Powell, 82, of Middleburg, passed away Jan. 11, 2014, at Reston Hospital Center following a brief illness.

Powell was born  Oct. 18, 1931, and grew up in Alexandria, VA.

A lifelong dedication to the Thoroughbred and equestrian communities, took Powell and his family to many places throughout his life. He began his journey following high school when he came to Middleburg, VA and worked for Mrs. A. C. Randolph. He then worked for Waverly Farm in Warrenton, VA. He also worked for Arthur Godfrey in Leesburg, VA and Bobby and Sallie Motch at Coleswood Farm in Charlottesville, VA.

Afterward, Powell worked for equine sales company Fasig-Tipton, inspecting horses in many areas throughout the country.

Powell also later worked as farm manager for Mike and Florence Rutherford’s  Manchester Farm in Lexington, Ky. In 1992, he returned to Middleburg to manage Hermen and Monica Greenberg’s at Rutledge Farm.

In 2008, Powell was inducted into the National Horse Show Association’s Hall of Fame.

His great work ethic, determination, dedication and loyalty to what he loved afforded him the ability to work at Rutledge Farm until the time of his passing.

Survivors include his wife of nearly 59 years, Joahn Powell; two sons, Robert “Bobby” Powell and wife Jody of Lexington, Ky., and William Powell of Orange; six grandchildren, Tracy Breeden of Middleburg, Megan Powell of Tampa, Christopher Powell of Nashville, Steven Powell of Muncie, Ind., Hannah Powell of Orange and Payton Powell of Lexington, Ky., and two great-grandchildren, Andre Corum and Adriana Corum of Middleburg.

The family will receive friends from 6 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 14, when a service will begin at Royston Funeral Home in Middleburg.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Middleburg Humane Foundation, P.O. Box 1238, Middleburg, Va. 20118.

Visits: 78


BOBBY-PILLION-2009(Blue Ridge Hunt) The foxhunting community lost a beloved member Sunday, January 12, in the passing of Robert Joseph “Bobby Joe” Pillion, 79, of Millwood, Virginia.

Bobby was born July 23, 1934 in Rose Hill, Virginia, son of the late White Ray Pillion and Sallie Emma Pauley Pillion. He was a horseman for Shan Hill Farm in Millwood; was a member of Blue Ridge Hunt; a ring master with Upperville Colt & Horse Show for 40 years; was in the Virginia Horseman Association Hall of Fame; and Whipped in Blue Ridge Hunt from 1966 until his retirement. He married Iona Ferguson Pillion on March 13, 1970 in Boyce, Virginia. Surviving with his wife are three daughters, Cathy Anne Pillion-Dorsey of Charlottesville, VA, Rebecca Louise Mason of Winchester, VA and Sarah Dunbar Yost of Winchester, VA; a son, Michael Ray Pillion of Culpeper, VA; a sister, Hope Irene Gregg of Lovettsville, VA; a brother, Harvey Eugene Pillion of Delaware, OH; eight grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren. A son, Robert Douglas Pillion, preceded him in death.

This always jovial, soft spoken, so very kind gentleman will be sorely missed by many, many people.

A memorial service will be held 4:00 P. M. Friday, January 17, 2014 at Long Branch Plantation, Millwood, with The Rev. Karin MacPhail officiating. Burial will be private.

Condolences, stories, documents and photos may be posted in the guestbook online at Enders and Shirley Funeral Home: http://www.endersandshirley.com

Memorial contributions may be made to Blue Ridge Hospice, 333 W. Cork St., Winchester, VA 22601.

Visits: 67



BAYONNE (Jim McCue/MJC Photo)

On January 19, 2012, Virginia horseman Jeff Cramer claimed the four-year-old mare Bayonne after she finished second in a race at Penn National. At that point he haltered Bayonne, by Dances With Ravens, out of Too Fast to Catch by Nice Catch, for $6,250. At the time, she had made 12 starts with four wins and four seconds and earnings of $63,800.

At the time, Bayonne, who was bred in Maryland by Dark Hollow Farm and Herringswell Stable, was a half-sister to two stakes winners – Storm Punch (Two Punch) and Eighttofasttocatch (No For Love).  Storm Punch had won the Primer at Laurel, finished second in the Stanton Stakes at Delaware Park and third in the Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash Gr.1  and Eighttofasttocatch was a multiple stakes winner of $266,200.

Eighttofasttocatch would go on to amass a total of $914,585 including wins in the Harrison E. Johnson Memorial, the Jennings Handicap in 2012 and the Henry S. Clark Stakes, the Maryland Million Classic, the Jennings (again) and the Broad Brush Stakes.

Byonne would prove to more than just a fancy pedigree for Cramer, she won a starter optional claiming race in July at Charles Town in August, an allowance race in August before topping the $70,000 Pink Ribbon Stakes at the West Virginia track and the $40,000 Kattegat’s Pride Starter Handicap on Preakness Day at Pimlico last year.

Under Cramer’s watch, Bayonne earned an additional $137,983 to total $201,783 in earnings that also included two thirds in stakes races.

The now six-year-old mare recently sold at the Keeneland January sale for $65,000 (more than 10 times the original claim paid by Cramer) as a broodmare prospect to Thornmar Farm.

Visits: 48


Clifton 1994 Jt. Meet

(Douglas Lees Photo)

Bay Cockburn, a well-known Virginia horseman, died December 25 at Loudoun Hospital due to complications from melanoma. He was born at Glebe Farm, Shuckburgh, England on May 18, 1956 to Anne Blaker and the late Edmund Crosby Cockburn. –

Cockburn was a longtime participant in steeplechase racing and rode in sanctioned races from 1991 through 1997. He riding career, which included 12 victories, ended when he was paralyzed in an riding accident that damaged his C6 and C7 vertebra in 1998. At the time, he was the huntsman of the Loudoun West pack in Leesburg, Va.

He maintained his training license and was active through 2013. He had seven victories to his credit, most recently with his Maximize in a claiming hurdle at Colonial Downs in 2011.

Cockburn told journalist Ross Peddicord that training horses meant relying on people to do things for him “that (he) used to take for granted.” But he further explained, he learned “patience and how to delegate.”

Cockburn was quick to note his gratitude for the support he and his family had received from the community, adding, “but, they can only do so much for you. Then, you’ve got to do things for yourself. Basically, you’ve just gotta get on with life. Really, there’s no choice.”

Cockburn’s Equibase jockey stats from 1988 through 1997 credit him with 13 wins, 15 seconds and 9 thirds with career earnings of $115,016. His best year was 1991 when he made 31 starts and won eight races while earning $51,745.

There will be a memorial service for him at Buchanan Hall, Uppervlle, VA January 10, 2014 at 3 PM. He has had Hunt Staff Benefit Foundation financial support since his accident and instead of flowers, please send your donations, in his name to the Hunt Staff Benefit Foundation, HSBF, P.O. Box 363, Millwood, VA 22646.

Visits: 49


BakerAward3Former manager of the late Edward P. Evans’ Spring Hill Farm Chris Baker has accepted the position of chief operating officer at Three Chimneys Farm, the Thoroughbred operation near Lexington announced Dec. 21.

Baker has more than 30 years of experience in the Thoroughbred industry. He spent 11 years as general manager at Virginia’s premier nursery in Virginia, followed by two years in the same role for WinStar Farm near Versailles, Ky. He joins an established team managing Three Chimneys, the business owned by the Borges Torrealba and Clay families after the recent acquisition of numerous high-quality mares.

“I could not be more excited about this opportunity to assist Three Chimneys in building on the 40-year legacy they have created in the Thoroughbred industry through strong relationships with great horses and great people,” Baker said in a press release. “Now is an optimistic time in the horse business overall, but an especially optimistic time at Three Chimneys as we set out to be stronger than ever. I can’t wait to get started.”

Baker graduated from the University of Maryland in 1986 with a bachelor of science degree in agriculture and initially worked for Lane’s End Farm in its broodmare, stallion, and training divisions. Seeking international experience, he got into training in several different racing jurisdictions such as Australia, New Zealand, and England. Back in the States, Baker worked in California as an assistant trainer to Hall of Famers Neil Drysdale and Richard Mandella, working with such champions as A.P. Indy, Kotashaan, and Phone Chatter before training on his own. A return to farm management brought him back to Kentucky and eventually to Evans in Virginia.

“Chris and I met in Bage (Brazil) last October and our beliefs on how to raise top class racehorses were amazingly similar,” said Three Chimneys’ Gonçalo Torrealba. “At Spring Hill, Chris’s program produced over 100 stakes winners, including Saint Liam and Quality Road. They were TOBA National Breeders of the Year in 2009 & 2010.

Visits: 44


Virginia-breds Aix En Provence (Jim Falk, Sr.) and Autumn Affair (Holy Ridge Farm) look to take on Virginian David A. Ross’s Florida-bred Joyous Music who has been installed the morning line 4-5 favorite in tonight’s $35,000 Mint Mission Handicap sprinting over 4.5 furlongs.

Jim Falk Sr.’s homebred Aix En Provence, ridden by Gustavo Larrosa and trained by Simon Hobson, comes into the race with 2 career win and $71,480 in career earnings. The five-year-old Rock Slide mare, out of Parisiana by Mutakddim, has two thirds and a second in her last three tries at the West Virginia Oval.  Although winless since breaking her maiden and winning an allowance a month apart in the late winter of 2012, Aix En Provence has logged six thirds and two seconds since then. Las out she was third beaten 1 ¾ lengths in a $27,000 allowance going 5.5 furlongs on the dirt.

Alice Overton’s Holly Ridge Farm LLC’s Autumn Affair, by Black Tie Affair (IRE), out of Gold Leaf by Slew o’ Gold, comes in the race at morning line odds of 12-1.  The six-year-old mare, ridden by Jesus Sanchez and trained by Timothy Collins, brings a hefty bankroll of $180,109 in the event.  Her resume includes six wins, seven second and five thirds in 39 lifetime start.

Last out, Autumn Affair was second in the $51,000 My Sister Pearl Stakes at Charles Town losing to Red Hot Diva by a neck.  That race was run over 9 furlongs and Autumn Affair was fourth in the $35,000 Ann Hilton Handicap run over 6.5 furlongs who starts prior to that one and was third in the $50,000 Sadie Hawkins Stakes back in August.

Virginian David A. Ross brings the early favorite into the race with 11 career victories and $248,396 in earnings.  The five-year-old Florida-bred will be ridden Jonathan Joyce for trainer Hugh I. McMahon.  She comes into the feature with a win in an allowance race at Timonium and two seconds at Delaware Park back in the summer.

Visits: 20


“I own a very tiny fraction of Honor Code. Bill (Farrish of Lane’s End Racing) said, ‘Sarge don’t tell people how little you own, just tell them you own a piece!’” – Virginia Racing commissioner J. Sargeant Reynolds Jr on being a partner in Woodford Racing which owns 10% of the graded stakes winning two-year-old.

Honor Code


Visits: 54

WILLIAM R. HARRIS 1929 – 2013

harris-pic(Blood Horse & Richmond Times Dispatch) Noted Mid-Atlantic-based owner-breeder William R. Harris died Nov. 8 at his home in Mineral, Va., according to trainer Chris Grove. He was 84 years old.

Harris bred and owned multiple stakes winners Sweet Goodbye ($692,772), Five Steps ($413,746), and Deer Run ($408,530).All three of those horses were bred in Maryland.

“He was always the biggest client in the barn,” Grove said. “In our heyday he owned 22 or 23 horses in our 50-stall barn at Bowie, so he got a lot of my attention. We talked on the phone just about every other day. I worked for him since 2000 but only saw him six or seven times but we talked on the phone religiously.

“He was really like a grandfather to me. He was a big supporter and had a lot of faith in me. I cannot say enough good things about Mr. Harris. He stuck with me through the good times and bad.”

Deer Run, by Deerhound, finished second in the 2002 Frank J. De Francis Dash (gr. I). Sassy Hound, a horse bred by Harris, finished third in that same race.

“That would have been a great race for him to win because he was actually there,” added Grove. “He only came to five races in all those years. He went to Colonial (Downs) twice and to Philadelphia (Park) to watch Deer Run. The last time he watched a race was when Sweet Goodbye won the Maryland Million Oaks (2008).”

Sweet Goodbye, by Louis Quatorze, won eight stakes races during her 23-race career with her biggest victory in the Fritchie at Laurel Park

Harris was president of Harris Heating and Plumbing Co., Inc., a Hanover-based mechanical contracting firm, and was an accomplished residential developer and builder in Central Virginia. He served on the Board of Directors of F&M National Corp., now BB&T Corp., and most recently was a founding director of Peoples Bank of Virginia.

Harris was a lifelong farmer and felt most at home in the fields of Louisa and Hanover Counties.

Sweet Goodbye

Visits: 107


BELMONT PARK, Race 9, Athenia Stakes Gr.3, $200,000: #1 Embarr (VA) (Susan Cooney, Susan S. Cooney) – Unhurried early on, rode the hedge until midway down the backside when shifted three to four wide in the far turn, came under a ride three furlongs from home, spun four to five wide into upper stretch, made mild progress late while unable to make an impact. Finished SEVENTH beaten 8.5 lengths. (Equibase Chart)

KEENELAND, Race 10 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup Stakes Grade 1: #3 Caroline Thomas (KY) (Joyce B. Young, Bonner Young) – Outrun three wide while on her own courage, lagged for six furlongs, launched her rally leaving the second turn and finished fast. Finished THIRD beaten .75 lengths. (Equibase Chart)

PARX, Race 9, Cornucopia Stakes $75,000: #6 Wardelle (VA) (Peter Kazamias, Audley Farm) – Prompted the early pace then weakened. Finished EIGHTH beater 8.25 lengths. (Equibase Chart)

Visits: 36
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