95th National anticipates grand field Rain could force out hard-luck Florida Law

April 18, 1997|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

The state's steeplechase racing heavyweights emerge tomorrow for the 95th annual Grand National at Butler, the final tuneup for next week's Maryland Hunt Cup.

Among the contenders in the $25,000 race over timber fences are defending Hunt Cup champion Hello Hal, runner-up Florida Law and perennial contenders Welter Weight and Buck Jakes.

The most intriguing of the group is the 11-year-old gelding Florida Law, part of a Tom Voss-trained entry (with 1996 Grand National winner Welter Weight) that will be extremely tough.

Florida Law was headed for an easy victory in the Hunt Cup last year when he balked at the final fence after clearing it. Hello Hal cruised by to win.

The previous year, Florida Law was beaten by a nose by Buck Jakes in the Hunt Cup.

"Something always seems to happen to him," said Voss. "He's a hard-luck horse."

The trainer hasn't decided whether to scratch Florida Law from the Grand National and run him in the $10,000 co-feature, the Benjamin H. Murray Memorial.

A lot will probably depend on weather conditions since the horse "hates soft ground," according to Voss. That's exactly what the course figures to be [soft] after recent rains.

Joey Gillet, in from California to capture My Lady's Manor with Delessio last week, will ride Florida Law. Delessio is training for the Virginia Gold Cup on Kentucky Derby day.

When Gillet moved out of Maryland, Armata Stables sent Welter Weight to Voss. Welter Weight won a point-to-point race last week and seems primed for defending at Butler.

"Welter Weight tolerates soft ground," said Voss.

Buck Jakes, who fell last year in the Hunt Cup, will be competing over his home course. He won the Grand National in 1994 with Charlie Fenwick Jr., making his final ride.

A three-race card starts at 3: 15 p.m. To reach the course, take Falls Road north and turn left on Butler Road.

The field:

& (All carry 165 pounds)

Horse ............. Jockey

a Welter Weight ... M. Elmore

Oficio ............ A. White

Pacific Spy ....... J. Bosley

b Red And Gray .... C. Meister III

Dusty Corners ..... J. Fisher

Fire Sale ......... M. Rouse

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

Buck Jakes ........ A. Moran

a Florida Law ..... J. Gillet

a -- Voss-trained entry. b -- W. Meister-trained entry.

Pub Date: 4/18/97

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