Welter Weight shows Grand National punch

Timber win augurs well for chances in Hunt Cup

Buck Jakes fades to third

April 18, 1999|By Joe Clancy Jr. | Joe Clancy Jr.,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Call Welter Weight the Utah Jazz of steeplechase racing. Despite running what would have been winning races in other years, he's been second in back-to-back Maryland Hunt Cups behind superb efforts from Buck Jakes (1997) and Florida Law (1998). At least Michael Jordan left him alone.

Just like the 1999 NBA season may finally be the year for Karl Malone and company, Welter Weight served notice he was ready for the Hunt Cup with a convincing win in yesterday's $30,000 Grand National timber stakes in Butler.

The final prep for the $50,000 Hunt Cup (April 24 in Glyndon), the three-mile Grand National brought together Welter Weight, Buck Jakes, Florida Law and five others in a final tuneup.

Owned by the Armata Stable of Perry Bolton and Ben Griswold IV, Welter Weight assumed command at the Grand National's midway point and then poured it on.

He opened a clear lead six fences from home, withstood a brief challenge from Buck Jakes and Nem Blong Hem at the second-to-last fence and won by two lengths under jockey Mike Elmore.

Nem Blong Hem (Brian Moran) was a surprising second, with favorite Buck Jakes (Anne Moran) third. Florida Law (Patrick Smithwick) was fifth in the race for amateur jockeys. Time for the race was 6: 10 2/5.

Aggressive jumping keyed Welter Weight's win.

"He was seeing his fences from what seemed like a mile away," said Elmore, "and was completely tuned in all day. I kept looking around to expect somebody to come up to us."

Buck Jakes, a two-time Hunt Cup winner and three-time Grand National victor, dropped well off the pace early, but closed ground to be within striking distance late before flattening out in the stretch.

"The race was very fast after the first mile, so we were a long way out of it," said Moran. "We made up a lot of ground, but Welter Weight didn't come back to us."

The result was nearly opposite that of last year, when Buck Jakes led over the final fences and Welter Weight closed late to finish second.

"He's quite a fast horse and I've never really been worried about that," said Tom Voss, the trainer of both Welter Weight and Florida Law. "Before, he's gotten out of the race early and then had to do a lot of catching up. I could see he was accelerating into his fences today and was more of a racehorse."

So what does it all mean for the Hunt Cup, the true goal of almost every starter yesterday?

"That's the million-dollar question," said Elmore. "He's felt better to me from race to race this year than he ever has, so I'll consider it a good sign."

The Grand National had two falls, involving Emerald Action and Mondawmin. Emerald Action's jockey, Irv Naylor, was injured at the second-to-last fence and flown to the University of Maryland's Shock Trauma Center by helicopter. A hospital spokesman said Naylor, 63, of York, Pa., was in stable condition.

Kinross Farm's Stopped Silence took the day's co-feature, the $15,000 Benjamin H. Murray Memorial, for trainer-jockey Neil Morris. The 9-year-old raced near the pace for the entire three miles and surged to the front before the last fence and won by two lengths in 6: 07 2/5. Swayo (Joe Gillet) was second, with Solo Lord (Michael Hoffman) third.

1st race $30,000 Grand National timber stakes, 3 miles.

1. Welter Weight (Elmore); 2. Nem Blong Hem (B. Moran); 3. Buck Jakes (A. Moran); 4. Fayette Park (Fisher); 5. Florida Law (Smithwick); 6. Jingoistic (Lyons).

Fell: Emerald Action (Naylor); Mondawmin (Brutscher). Winning owner: Armata Stable. Winning trainer: Tom Voss. Margin: 2. Time: 6: 10 2/5.

2nd race $15,000 Benjamin Murray Memorial allowance timber, 3 miles.

1. Stopped Silence (Morris); 2. Swayo (Gillet); 3. Solo Lord (Hoffman); 4. Newport (Fisher); 5. Flood Relief (Meister); 6. Bronze Angle (Smithwick); Fell: Nordica (Hannum).

Lost rider: Dark Den (B. Moran). Pulled up: Extra Edition (Brutscher). Winning owner: Kinross Farm. Winning trainer: Neil Morris.

Margin: 2. Time: 6: 07 2/5.

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