Jump-racing fans at the Grand National Steeplechase Races at Butler today will see a familiar sight.
After a two-year absence, Charles Fenwick Jr. returns to ride in the featured Grand National Point-to-Point, attempting to win the three-mile timber race for an unprecedented 10th time.
It will be Fenwick's 15th trip around the 18-jump course, spanning a 21-year period.
If he has a good trip today aboard the 6-year-old gelding Buck Jakes, Fenwick could attempt his sixth Maryland Hunt Cup win next Saturday, which would tie him with Mike Smithwick's record.
"But it's dubious," Fenwick said. "This is still a young horse. He's going to have to be impressive today for me to attempt it."
The 46-year-old amateur jockey, who also trains a 22-horse jumping string -- which ranked second in the country last year in number of wins -- acquired the grandson of Alydar for the Arcadia Stable partnership a couple of years ago and initially ran him over hurdles. "He won a couple of times, but the races were a little too quick for him to handle mentally. I think he was also too big to be really effective as a hurdler," he said.
So Fenwick converted him to the longer, slower timber races, which require more jumping skill.
It's the horse's first try over the Grand National course, which locally is surpassed only by the Maryland Hunt Cup in difficulty.
Fenwick, who set the Grand National course record aboard Ben Nevis II in 1977 that still stands, said he missed the past couple of races "because I didn't have the right horse." But he has faith in Buck Jakes. "He's easy to ride. He's a good jumper. He's big and strong and I think it's going to be an enjoyable trip," he said.
Who is the horse to beat today? In Fenwick's estimation it's former Timber Horse of the Year, Joe's O.K., who was second in the 1992 Grand National.
In the supporting feature, Irvin Naylor's Tarsky tries to duplicate his victory last weekend at My Lady's Manor for rider-trainer Jack Fisher in the Benjamin H. Murray Memorial.
Then in the amateur flat race, trainer Joe Gillet sends out Irvin Crawford II's Motorcade, the nation's best novice hurdler of 1993, for a tuneup before he makes his first 1994 start over jumps.
Activities also include a car raffle to benefit the American Horse Trials Foundation.
Post time for today's first race is 3:15 p.m.