Joe's O.K., Maryland's latest Cinderella horse that was considered too slow to run at the flat tracks but proved a big success over jumps, makes his first start of the year this weekend at the Elkridge-Harford Point-to-Point.
The three-mile race, held at Atlanta Hall Farm in Monkton, is the first of four weekends of steeplechasing in the Baltimore area. The series, which includes five different race meets, ends with the Maryland Hunt Cup at Glyndon on April 27.
Joe's O.K. never started on the flat and was only a moderate success over hurdles. But when switched to the more demanding timber fences, the 8-year-old gelding became a star. After winning three of six starts over timber last spring, he won three straight timber races in the fall, ending the season with a victory in the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup. He subsequently was named Timber Horse of the Year. He is owned by Oliver Keelan, of Spring Lake, N.J., but is trained locally by Alicia Murphy of Parkton. His regular rider is Johnny Bosley, a former Maryland Hunt Cup winner who is also a flat trainer at Pimlico.
Maryland's perennial timber champion, Von Csadek, who was expected to race against Joe's O.K. this spring, has been sidelined with a leg injury.
Murphy had cross entered Joe's O.K. on Sunday at the Marlborough races in the featured Roedown Cup but said she definitely plans to run at Elkridge-Harford.
"We might run him in the Grand National [April 20]," Murphy said. "And the Elkridge race might be a little better indicator of how he'll do over the big Grand National fences. At Elkridge-Harford the fences are higher, and the race requires less speed and more jumping ability than the quicker pace that will be set at Marlborough.'
There will be eight races on the Elkridge-Harford card. Ten horses have been named to face Joe's O.K.
The Marlborough races on Sunday, held at Roedown Farm near Davidsonville, drew a total of 155 entries for a 12-race card. There are five flat races, three hurdle races, two timber races and two races for junior riders. Committee chairman Christy Clagett expects a turnout of between 6,000 and 8,000 steeplechasing fans.
Listed is the schedule for Maryland's April steeplechase circuit:
* Elkridge-Harford Point-to-Point: Tomorrow (1 p.m.) at Atlanta Hall Farm in Monkton. For information, call 771-4688.
* Marlborough Hunt races: Sunday (12:30 p.m.) at Roedown Farm in Davidsonville. For information, call 741-5408.
* My Lady's Manor Point-to-Point: Saturday, April 13 (3 p.m.) at the Elkridge-Harford Hunt Club in Monkton. For information, call 557-9570 (9 a.m.-5 p.m.).
* Grand National Point-to-Point: Saturday, April 20 (2:30 p.m.) at Griswold-Fenwick Farms in Butler. For information, call 666-7777 a.m.-5 p.m.).
* Maryland Hunt Cup: Saturday, April 27 (4 p.m.) at Snow Hill-Worthington Farms in Glyndon. For information, call 666-7777 a.m.-5 p.m.).