Trainer Fisher in the Hunt with 3 horses

April 30, 1994|By Ross Peddicord | Ross Peddicord,Sun Staff Writer

Jack Fisher has won every major timber race in Maryland except one.

There have been numerous scores as a rider or trainer at My Lady's Manor, a victory in the Grand National Point-to-Point and many wins at the unsanctioned meets at Howard County, Elkridge-Harford and Marlborough.

But a victory in the Maryland Hunt Cup has eluded the 30-year-old horseman, who says he approaches the race with some trepidation.

"This is the one time where I don't ride with as much confidence because the fences are so much bigger," Fisher said. "I think I'm going to die at every jump."

Fisher trains a rare, three-horse entry that includes Revelstoke, Shining Beacon and Sea Speed, in today's 100th anniversary of the 4-mile race. All three horses are well-bred, have won preps for the race this spring and two of them, Revelstoke and Sea Speed, finished second and third, respectively, behind last year's winner, Ivory Poacher.

Louis "Paddy" Neilson III is the last trainer to saddle a three-horse entry. His starters in 1989 included the winner, Uncle Merlin, and Balantic, who finished fourth, and Probon, who fell.

"There have been many multiple entries, but few threeply ones," Neilson said. "When I ran my horses, we figured there would be one lost rider, one horse would fall and the other would be an also-ran.

"But Jack's entry figures to run 1-2-3. Anyone who can get by all of his horses can win the race. He's got a hot hand."

Fisher rides Revelstoke, the speediest of the three horses, "but also the most unpredictable," he said. The horse, owned by his mother, Dolly Fisher, not only has a bleeding problem, but he also fell in a schooling session a few years ago and broke his shoulder. Since then, Revelstoke has made a recovery and won several races. The horse was visited by an acupuncturist on Thursday "who finds trouble areas and realigns and works on them," Fisher said. "It should help him relax."

Shining Beacon, or "Sam," is owned by Fisher's wife, Sheila, who is an important component of the outfit. She works alongside her husband, helping condition the horses, and rides in some of the races. Her grandfather, Stuart Janney Jr., won the Hunt Cup three times during the 1940s and gave Shining Beacon to her as a 2-year-old after he had broken down at the flat tracks.

"Sheila picked out his rider, Sanna Neilson," Fisher said. Neilson has a flawless Hunt Cup record, winning both times that she has ridden in the race, in 1991 aboard Tom Bob and in 1993 with Ivory Poacher.

"Shining Beacon has one late kick," Fisher said. "I told Sanna that if she is within 10 lengths of the leader at the water jump [the next-to-last one], then she's the winner. She is a quiet rider and really suits this horse. I told her to hang out early and then make that one big run."

Sea Speed is owned by a seven-person partnership headed by Beverly Solter of Monkton. The group competes as the Old Line Racing Stable.

"Sea Speed also has a lot of late kick," Fisher said. "I asked Johnny Bosley to ride him because he's a looser, freer rider. And I don't give him any instructions."

Fisher said today's pace will be set by established front-runners Free Throw, ridden by Brooks Durkee, and Reputed Dancer, who has Brian Moran aboard. It is the first Hunt Cup start for both the horses and the jockeys. "So I don't expect them to be going too fast heading into the third fence," Fisher said. He figures he and Bosley will be close behind.

There are 12 horses entered in the race, but three of them -- Imp Chacer, Buck Jakes and Joe's O.K. -- are expected to scratch, although none had been officially withdrawn by last night.

If Joe's O.K., who is ridden and trained by Bosley, starts, then Fisher will scratch Sea Speed and run him in the Virginia Gold Cup next Saturday.

As far as strategy goes, Fisher says he mostly forgets it. "I get nervous before the race," he said, "But I don't get really excited like a lot of other people. I only walk the course once, not three or four times like other riders who really harp on it. I treat it like any other race, except the fences are bigger."

In his first try, aboard Free Runner in 1991, he fell at the 18th fence. "That horse is basically a three-miler, and he just ran out gas," Fisher said. Last year, Revelstoke had to withstand two challenges, first from Bosley on Bold Seven, and then from Billy Meister, who rode Sea Speed. "Billy and I got going too fast down the hill [after the 20th fence] and cooked our horses," Fisher said.

"To me, winning the race requires a lot of luck. First, you have to get around. Secondly, you almost have to forego strategy. I don't worry about what panel in what fence sits higher or lower. I just head right for the middle of it each time. I enter that tunnel," he said, "and just pay attention to the fences."

HUNT CUP FACTS AND FIGURES

When: Today

Where: Worthington Farms, Glyndon

Post time: 4 p.m.

Course: Four miles over 22 timber jumps, mostly post-and-rail with a few plank board fences.

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