Cabral won the Grand National Point-to-Point in a manner yesterday that suggested he might be compared favorably with some of the sport's great horses.
Ridden by 22 year-old Blythe Miller, the 10 year-old Chilean-bred gelding combined both speed and jumping ability to beat Pleasant Sea by a short head in the 3-mile, 18-fence course in Butler.
He was pushed nearly the whole way by eventual third-place finisher Sensory Perception and then was caught in the stretch by a fast-closing Liz McKnight on Pleasant Sea.
But Cabral had enough left to come on again and beat Pleasant Sea, finishing the race in 6 minutes 4 seconds -- 5 1/5 seconds off the course mark set by Ben Nevis II.
The win started off a banner day for trainer F. Bruce Miller, the rider's father, who also trained Night Train Lane, winner of the secondary timber feature, the Benjamin H. Murray Memorial.
Cabral's victory followed his win last weekend at My Lady's Manor. He became the first horse since Our Ivory Tower 17 years ago to win the two races back-to-back.
If he should win the Maryland Hunt Cup next Saturday, he would become the first horse since Jay Trump in 1964 to win all three races the same year.
Cabral went right to the lead at the start and set a fast pace. "I wanted to try to settle him," Miller said. "But he wants to go the front, and he wants it fast."
He was challenged by Jay Meister on Sensory Perception, but Miller said she wasn't really worried. "I knew I had a lot of horse," she said.
Sensory Perception dropped out of contention at about the 15th fence, when McKnight started her move.
They both jumped the last fence together and McKnight started to pull away in the stretch. But Miller pushed Cabral into another gear and he got up for the narrow win.
"He's just an unbelievable horse," McKnight said about the winner. "She [Miller] used her horse the whole way, but I never even saw her pick up her stick."
Third-place finisher Jay Meister said that his horse ran a super race, "but Cabral ranks in the class of a Von Csadek [a former Timber-Horse-of-the-Year]."
All eight starters finished the race, although the five remaining horses seemed outrun by the top trio. Capital K. (ridden by Joe Gillet) finished fourth, followed by Ivory Poacher (Charles Fenwick, Jr.), Daydream Believer (Paddy Neilson), Kevino (Irv Naylor) and 15 year-old Big Conoy (Bruce Fenwick), who had won the race last year.
Revelstoke was a late scratch. He fell while jumping a small schooling fence Friday and broke his elbow in two places. "He was sent to New Bolton Center [of the University of Pennsylvania in Kennett Square, Pa.]," his rider-trainer Jack Fisher said. "A plate was inserted to hold the fracture together, and we're hopeful for a good recovery."
Fisher was a contender on Free Runner in the Murray Memorial, but was outclassed by Night Train Lane, ridden by Billy Meister, in the run-in. Night Train Lane pulled away to beat Free Runner by 12 lengths. Tom Bob (with Sanna Neilson aboard) finished third, followed by Boom Town Bob (Mike Elmore), Cotuit (Liz McKnight) and Lets Tango (Paddy Neilson).
Three of the nine starters fell. Counsellors' Kids fell at the eighth fence. Both Roman Tent and Our Ski Lift came down at the 16th.
The time for the race was 6:13.