Forty-eight hours before the close of entries for Saturday's Virginia Gold Cup, the 52d edition of the classic has generated more talk and speculation than any other timber steeplechase here in recent years.
The absence of any standout like Leeds Don, King Of Spades, Annual Meeting or Chapel Street, may account for the many surmises heard around Warrenton this week.
Is Barros Negros definite? Will Manco Capac II challenge Barros Negros to settle the hot "which is best" issue that arose when the latter was named horse of the year over the speedy French import?
Will the two young reformed hurdle horses, Master's Degree and Sabinus, attempt the brutal four miles and 22 jumps of the Broadview course? Will Semington return to attempt a repeat of its 1976 upset victory? Is the glamour of the race strong enough to lure Gil Flautt and his 1973 winner, Porotbello III, for another try?
The point-to-point horses all have raced over timber this spring and all should be in condition. But will that long last uphill run to the wire after the 22d jump scare them off? Idol Fellow, Captain Carlo. Decisive Action. Bel Esprit II, Too Far Gone. Ask The Price and Score Sheet - will they go?
The countdown to the big race, scheduled to go off around 5 p.m. Saturday, is now on. The Gold Cup is one of six races on the card, which opens at 2:30 p.m. with a maiden steeplechase.