It’s a late October tradition at Great Meadow in The Plains, similar to the first Saturday in May, when thousands of people — family, friends, business associates — gather for the sporting celebration known as the International Gold Cup Races. Entertainment includes terrier races, tailgate competition, hat contest, pari-mutuel betting, shopping, people-watching and the horses, of course – beautiful Thoroughbreds, racing over timber, hurdles and on the flat.

Michael Wharton’s Grinding Speed, trained by Alicia Murphy and ridden by Mark Beecher, bested the competitive field of 10 to win his third International Gold Cup. The 9-year-old gray gelding earned the lion’s share of the $75,000 purse, along with a well-deserved place in the National Steeplechase Association’s record books as the 2015 champion timber horse.

In the feature, Personal Brew went way out in front to set the pace for most of the 3½ mile race. Showing heart, stamina and dogged determination as well as his athletic jumping style, Grinding Speed took over the lead in the final mile. In a thrilling, hard-fought drive to the wire, Grinding Speed crossed the finish line 1 1/2 lengths in front of challengers Dakota Slew and Straight To It. In the NSA report, Don Kiplinger pointed out that they have posted the same order of finish in the last two International Gold Cups and in the 2015 Virginia Gold Cup.

The lone local horse in the trio, Dakota Slew, is owned by Magalen O. Bryant and trained by Richard Valentine. The other two are based in Maryland. With a total of five stakes wins on the Gold Cup course — 2012 IGC, 2013 VGC, 2014 IGC, 2015 VGC, 2015 IGC — Grinding Speed has proven that he’s totally at home at Great Meadow.

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