Von Csadek can no longer be called "the greatest timber horse never to have won the Maryland Hunt Cup."
The 10-year-old gelding, ridden by college student Patrick Worrall, finally shook off a streak of bad luck in the four-mile timber race and won the 96th running yesterday in a 30-length romp over Pleasant Sea.
The victory, in his third attempt in four years over the challenging course, fulfilled a lifelong dream for the Doug Worrall family of Butler, which has tried off and on to win the race for nearly 30 years.
"You don't live in this area, and love horses, and not want to win the Maryland Hunt Cup," said Margaret Worrall, who is part-owner of Von Csadek, wife of his trainer, Doug Worrall, and mother of the jockey. "This ranks as one of the greatest thrills in our life."
The Worralls own the horse in partnership with D. Herbert Sheppard, Mrs. Worrall's uncle.
In his first attempt in 1989, Von Csadek, who had demonstrated his staying power and skill over fences, fell at the fourth jump.
The next year he was well on his way to a record-setting win and had opened up an enormous lead when Patrick Worrall fell off after the horse balked at the water jump, the 21st of 22 fences.
Last year, Von Csadek missed the race because of a fractured splint bone in his left foreleg.
And three days ago, his starting status in the race was suspect.
The horse had a swollen left ankle when Doug Worrall went to the barn Thursday morning. He considered scratching the horse until veterinarian Fred Peterson gave his OK yesterday.
"We finally determined that it was a superficial bruise, and nothing more," Worrall said. "But we still had our doubts."
Cabral, ridden by Blythe Miller, was the early pacesetter in yesterday's race, until he was joined by Von Csadek after the third fence.
"I was content to get a lead over the first couple of jumps," Patrick Worrall said. "I followed Uncle Merlin [the 1989 winner] into the third fence, thinking he was a good safe jumper."
But Uncle Merlin fell right in front of Von Csadek. "He just didn't jump high enough," said his jockey Louis L. "Paddy" Neilson III.
Von Csadek avoided the fallen horse, which got up and finished the race riderless.
Soon Von Csadek joined Cabral and they opened up about a 15-20 length lead over the field, running as a pair with Von Csadek slightly in front.
At the 14th fence, Worrall thought that Miller had eased back.
"But I buried him [Cabral] in too close to the jump, and he fell," Miller said.
After that, the race was virtually over. Von Csadek galloped alone as much as 50 lengths in front, until Liz McKnight on Pleasant Sea began to make a run down the hill after the 19th fence.
But she simply had too much ground to make up.
Coming into the 21st fence, Worrall said he had "a nerve-wracking 100 yards. I didn't want a repeat of what happened there two years ago."
Von Csadek popped high over the fence and then put in another good-sized leap over the final obstacle.
He covered the four miles in 8 minutes, 39 4/5 seconds -- 6 1/5 seconds off the course record set by Ben Nevis II in 1978.
The rest of the field was strung out behind Pleasant Sea, who finished 35 lengths in front of third-place finisher Snowmaker, ridden by high school student J.W. Delozier.
Kevino, under Irvin Naylor, who trailed the field for most the race, rallied for fourth, about a half-length over Mike Elmore on Tingles Image.
David DeMichele, who fell off Primal Bee at the sixth fence, remounted and finished sixth.
Four of the other five starters fell. After Uncle Merlin came down at the third, Capital K. fell at the 13th, Cabral at the 14th and Gesticulate at the 18th. Ballybranogue refused at the 21st.
Most seriously injured was Gesticulate. He landed on his head when he fell and sprained his neck, said owner-rider Ned Halle. "But I think he'll eventually be all right," Halle said.
Worrall said he plans to try for a third victory with Von Csadek in the Virginia Gold Cup this Saturday in The Plains, Va.
1. Von Csadek (Patrick Worrall)
2. Pleasant Sea (Liz McKnight)
3. Snowmaker (J.W.Delozier)
Winning time: 8:39 4/5.
Also ran: Kevino (Irv Naylor), Tingles Image (Mike Elmore), Primal Bee (David DeMichele). Fell: Uncle Merlin (Louis Neilson III), Capital K. (Joe Gillet), Cabral (Blythe Miller), Gesticulate (Ned Halle). Refused: Ballybranogue (C.J. Meister III).