Revelstoke races to Hunt Cup victory

May 01, 1994|By Ross Peddicord | Ross Peddicord,Sun Staff Writer

Revelstoke, considered too slow and nervous to make it as a racehorse at Maryland's flat tracks, had the second-fastest running in the 100-year history of the Maryland Hunt Cup yesterday. The victory was the first for his rider-trainer, Jack Fisher, in the grueling, 4-mile steeplechase at Worthington Farms in Glyndon.

The 9-year-old gelding defeated Florida Law, ridden by J. D. Gillet, by 7 3/4 lengths and completed the 22-jump timber course in 8 minutes, 37 2/5 seconds, 3 4/5 seconds off the record set in 1978 by Ben Nevis II.

"I didn't really think I was going that fast," Fisher said. "If I knew it, I could have really gotten into the horse in the stretch and beaten that time."

Revelstoke bettered Von Csadek's time of 8 minutes, 39 4/5 seconds, accomplished with an 80-length win in 1992, by 2 2/5 seconds.

Two other Fisher-trained horses, Sea Speed, ridden by John Bosley, and Shining Beacon, with Sanna Neilson aboard, finished third and fourth.

An unusual incident occurred during the race when 23-year-old Irish jockey Brian Moran was rallying from fifth place aboard Reputed Dancer after the 20th fence. The horse slipped and fell on the tanbark, which is laid down where the horses cross Tufton Avenue. Moran held onto the horse, remounted and was sixth of the seven finishers.

By winning the race in his third attempt, Fisher, 30, continued a family tradition that is almost as old as the race itself.

His great-grandfather, John H. O'Donovan, won the race three times on Garry Owen in the early 1900s, and his father, John R. S. Fisher, won two Hunt Cup renewals on Landing Party in 1969 and 1971. The elder Fisher set a course record of 8:42 in 1971 that lasted until Ben Nevis II's record-setting run seven years later.

It was the second time a father-son combination had won the Hunt Cup in its long and illustrious history. Frank Bonsal, the winner on Bon Master in 1927-28, and his son, Frank Bonsal Jr., who triumphed aboard Lancrel in 1956, were the first.

Fisher altered Revelstoke's running style after he finished second on the horse in 1993. Last year, Revelstoke set the pace for most of the race, then tired and was beaten four lengths by Ivory Poacher.

This time Fisher took Revelstoke back to fourth off the pace set by unexpected early leader Sea Speed and didn't get to the front until approaching the 21st fence, known as the water jump.

Fisher said that Revelstoke "didn't jump all that well" in front last year, "and I didn't really want go out there."

There was no preconceived strategy for Bosley to serve as "a rabbit" and set the race up for him, Fisher said. "I don't tell Johnny what to do."

Bosley said he didn't "want to tamper with" Sea Speed and allowed him to go to the front. He was pressed by Brooks Durkee on Free Throw until that horse was pulled up after the 13th jump.

Durkee said Free Throw, winner of the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup last year, hit his stifle going over the 12th fence. "I went ahead and jumped the 13th, but he felt funny, so I pulled him up," he said.

Sea Speed opened up a long lead with Florida Law, who was running and fencing well, in second place.

"We put blinkers on this horse for the first time, and he was a lot keener," Gillet said about Florida Law, who finished seventh last year. "He jumped brilliantly behind Sea Speed."

When Sea Speed began to falter at the 18th fence, Gillet and Fisher began their moves and caught him by the 21st fence. Florida Law took the lead briefly before being quickly passed by Revelstoke.

An expected strong late run by Sanna Neilson on Shining Beacon never materialized.

"He didn't seem particularly comfortable with the course," Neilson said. "He spooked at the third fence and was pretty much spooked after that. He was losing time at every fence, and then, when he did start to make a little run [after the 20th fence], Reputed Dancer fell right in front me. That horse really ran by me. If he didn't slip, I thought he might have won it or at least been third."

Of the nine starters, seven finished. Bruce Fenwick fell at the fourth fence with Body Music after the horse slipped on takeoff. Neither horse nor rider was injured. Then Free Throw pulled up after the 13th fence. The order of finish after Revelstoke, Florida Law, Sea Speed and Shining Beacon was Hello Hal (Billy Meister, rider), Reputed Dancer and Kevino, who trailed in last with owner-rider Irvin Naylor.

Fisher describes Revelstoke as "a family horse." The gelding is owned by his mother, Dolly Fisher, and is fox-hunted in Pennsylvania by his brother, Rush, during the winter. Rush Fisher rode the horse in his two winning Hunt Cup preps in the Howard County Cup and at Oatlands, Va., although he was disqualified for cutting a flag in the Virginia race.

The first thing Fisher said when he dismounted was, "Great schooling job, Rush."



No., Horse, Rider

1. Revelstoke*, Jack Fisher

2. Florida Law, J. D. Gillet

3. Sea Speed, John Bosley

* Also ran: Shining Beacon (Sanna Neilson), Hello Hal (Billy Meister), Reputed Dancer (Brian Moran), Kevino (Irvin Naylor).

Fell: (4th jump) Body Music (Bruce Fenwick).

Pulled up: (13th jump) Free Throw (Brooks Durkee).

* Time: 8:37 2/5.

* Revelstoke is a bay gelding, 9 years old, by Smarten out of Perahim, by Green Dancer.

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