Voss likes odds of ending Hunt Cup wait Monkton trainer has 2 of 5 horses in field

April 27, 1996|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

For many years, trainer Tom Voss has been regarded as a master at preparing horses to run on grass.

He has a penchant for getting a horse sharp after a long layoff and has been particularly successful at converting flat runners to jumpers and vice versa.

"I've just been lucky that way," said the Monkton resident. "It takes a certain kind of horse with speed to do it."

But Voss has never won the biggest prize in state steeplechasing, the Maryland Hunt Cup, and now his best chance may have arrived.

In the 100th edition of the classic today, two Voss-trained entries, Welter Weight and Florida Law, could repeat their 1-2 finish in last week's Grand National, the final tuneup for the Hunt Cup.

Maryland's toughest timber race -- four miles over 22 high fences -- has drawn only five entries, including defending champion Buck Jakes, so Voss has 40 percent of the field in his charge.

"This is a great disappointment," race secretary Charles C. Fenwick said of the short field. "It may be close to 30 years since there has been that few in the race. It's unfortunate."

The number has shriveled because two-time timber horse of the year Saluter is being pointed for the Virginia Gold Cup next week and Southwoods, who upset Saluter at My Lady's Manor, is injured.

And Irv Naylor decided not to run Tarsky, who finished a disappointing fourth in the Grand National while "showing little spark."

That leaves Buck Jakes, who shaved three seconds off the course record while edging Florida Law last year, and the Voss duo as the headliners.

Armata Stables' Welter Weight comes into the race off a narrow victory over Florida Law, the roan gelding who was closing quickly in the Grand National.

And the hot rider, Joe Gillet, the coast-to-coast commuter, will again be aboard Welter Weight in his breakthrough spring. Gillet has won the first two legs of Maryland's steeplechase "Triple Crown" after 17 years of futility.

But the more interesting half of the entry may be Florida Law, a solid timber horse who seems to have a knack for just missing.

"When I bought him, he had won a couple of cheap claimers at Aqueduct," Voss said. "Since he's been jumping, he's won a couple of point-to-points but no sanctioned races. He always seems to be second or third."

Florida Law has been the runner-up in the last two Hunt Cups.

Voss knows he'll have to beat Buck Jakes, who was beaten in the Grand National last year, then captured the Cup.

"This is a whole different game this week," he said. "You have an extra mile and the fences are so much bigger [almost five feet]. You need a lot of luck in this race."

It has been a milestone year in Maryland -- for Gillet, for Southwoods and for Welter Weight. Perhaps this is the trend that will carry Voss and Florida Law to "firsts" as well.

Hunt Cup

What: $40,000 steeplechase race.

When: Today, 4 p.m.

Where: Worthington Farms off Tufton Avenue in Glyndon.


Horse ................... Rider ................ Trainer

Welter Weight ........... J. Gillet ............ T. Voss

Florida Law ............. J. Bosley ............ T. Voss

Buck Jakes .............. A. Moran ............. C. Fenwick

Dynasty ............ W. Meister ........... C.J. Meister

Hello Hal ............... W. Meister ........... W. Meister

Pub Date: 4/27/96

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