101st Running Of Hunt Cup Has All Signs In Its Favor

Conditions, Competitors Point To A Banner Race

April 25, 1997|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

The fences are four to six inches higher. The distance is a mile longer. The $50,000 purse is the richest in timber racing. The field looks highly competitive.

The weather is expected to be perfect -- clear with a high of about 70 degrees -- and recent rains have softened ground that was extremely hard for last week's Grand National.

So, it adds up to a possible classic tomorrow when the 101st Maryland Hunt Cup is contested at Glyndon. Post time is 4 p.m.

At least four horses emerged from the Grand National weekend looking like solid contenders -- winner Buck Jakes, runner-up Welter Weight, third-place finisher Hello Hal (the defending Hunt Cup champion) and Florida Law, winner of the Benjamin Murray.

Add Jamaica Bay, a quality veteran back from a long layoff, and there is a possible thriller coming.

"But you never know," said Charles Fenwick Jr., trainer of Buck Jakes. "You work and train very hard to get a horse to this point and then it's a lottery."

The grueling test takes its toll. Buck Jakes and Welter Weight both had problems last year and fell out of the race. Florida Law had the Cup won, then balked after clearing the final fence, allowing Hello Hal to trot by to victory.

Massive Buck Jakes (17.2 hands) couldn't be any fitter. He was impressive in holding off Welter Weight last week under the strong handling of Anne Moran.

Fenwick purchased the big grey in 1992 after a decent career at flat tracks.

"He was up at Fair Hill and wasn't going so well, but it looked like he could do better," said Fenwick. "We thought at the time we [Arcadia Stable] paid a premium, but we thought if he could return to his flat form, we had a buy."

After a try at hurdles, Buck Jakes became a timber horse in the fall of 1993. When he won the Grand National in 1994 (Fenwick's final ride), he had arrived.

"We weren't sure he was mentally adept at the speed for hurdles. He was confused a bit," said Fenwick. "But when the pace slowed down, he was right there.

"He looks like a wide receiver who weighs 220 pounds and still runs a 4.3 in the 40 [yard dash]. And he has a terrific temperament."

Florida Law, the hard-luck king of the local action, also had a creditable flat-track career and one try over hurdles in the rain.

"He hated the soft ground and ran terrible," said trainer Tom Voss. "So, we turned him to timber and he's been running second ever since."

Welter Weight is an honest sort who is running well, but Voss wonders "if he can take two hard races in a row. But if a horse goes well in the Grand National, he has the right to try the Hunt Cup."

Last year, Welter Weight broke a stifle and pulled up after the 13th Hunt Cup fence.

Hello Hal is a smallish brown with a calm demeanor and a knack "for picking up the pieces," as Voss phrased it.

Trained in the traditional way (year-round hunting), Hello Hal ran and jumped well at the Grand National.

The Hunt Cup course with its 22 fences places a premium on stamina and smooth jumping.

"It's so much different than previous races, a higher level," said Voss. "The first couple of miles are easy, but during the last two, there is always a great big fence coming up on you. It takes a lot of leaps of faith to win."

Race at a glance

What: 101st Maryland Hunt Cup

When: Tomorrow, 4 p.m.

Where: Glyndon

Tickets: Must be purchased in advance. For information, call 410-833-4188.

Directions: I-83 north to Shawan Road west exit. Shawan Road turns into Tufton Avenue. The course is about four to five miles after the exit.

Hunt Cup field

(All carry 165 pounds)

Horse ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ...Rider

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

Reputed Dancer ... ... ... L. Neilson III

a-Florida Law ... ... ... ... .. J. Gillet

Nem Blong Hem ... ... ... ... ... C. Ryan

b-Sarkis ... ... ... ... .. C. Meister III

Jamaica Bay ... ... ... ... ... A. Finney

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

a-Welter Weight ... ... ... ... M. Elmore

b-Red And Gray ... ... .. .... . N. Morris

a -- Voss-trained entry.. ... ... ... ...

b -- W. Meister-trained entry... ... ....

Pub Date: 4/25/97

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