The most wide-open race in years is in prospect Saturday, with 12 steeplechasers expected to take the flag for the 52rd running of the Virginia Gold Cup.
So far, only the one of the orginal 13 named for the four-mile run over 22 jumps has withdrawn, Ronald Platt's Battle Jester will pass up the feature of the afternoon's six-race card at Broadview. A maiden steeplechase opens the action at 2:30.
William Lanahan Jr.'s Semington hopes to become the first horse to score back-to-back victories in the Gold Cup since Leeds Don's triple in 1965-66-67. The 10-year-old Seminole II gelding, trained and ridden by Charles Fenwick Jr. won by eight lengths last year over Captain Carlo, with the favorite Chapel Street another eight lenghts behind in third. The 1976 race was one of the big upsets in Gold Cup history.
Fenwick, the Glyndon, Md., amateur rider, will be seeking to become the first rider since D.M. (Mike) Smithwick to win the Maryland Hunt Cup and the Gold Cup the same year.
Smithwick, America's top trainer, will be sending out the favorite, Happy Intellectual, in the cofeatured William L. Rochester Memorial Steeplechase Handicap.
Captain Carlo, Mrs. John Collins' steady jumper, will be going again Saturday, as will another Maryland horse, Helen Polinger's Gold Cup veteran, Idol Fellow, which fell at the 18th jump in last year's race.
Six big winers during the point-to point season will start ai the race with one, Dr. Ralph Lynch's Barros Negros, going to the post a slight favorite. Among the others, George Ohrstrom Jr.'s manco Capca II, Mrs. Samuel Bogley's Sabinus, Mrs. Robert Crompon III's Master's Degree, Tommy Voss's Aruyouhappy and Mrs. Lewis Ledyard's Abracadabra all won races on spring circuit.
Martin Kramer's Score Sheet, Mrs. H.L. Brukhermier's Pat's Gamble and Thomas Moffet's Bel Esprit II round out the field.