Ironfist holds off Saluter in Manor

Resolute front-runner wins second straight race


April 16, 2000|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

Three weeks ago, Ironfist was a maiden over timber. Now, he owns the Manor.

With a determined effort against solid competition, Harry Filbert's gelding staved off a late charge by the venerable Saluter yesterday to win the 90th running of the $17,500 My Lady's Manor steeplechase in a drizzle in Monkton.

It was the second consecutive victory for the Tom Voss trainee, who captured an allowance event on the Carolina Cup card in Camden, S.C., on April 1.

The margin was less than a length over Saluter, who mounted a closing rally on the outside and nearly caught the 7-year-old Ironfist, who likes to run on the front end. The time for the three miles and 16 jumps was a relatively leisurely 6: 03.

"They don't come any better than this," said winning rider Roger Horgan. "He was absolutely breathtaking the whole way. It's very hard work doing this from out in front."

Saluter, the four-time American timber champion, made him work for it. Saluter led through the first half mile, settled in during the middle portion of the race and then came flying at the finish.

"I didn't think he'd run this well," trainer-rider Jack Fisher said of the horse with the most career wins in the sport. "It was great competition, so I wanted him up close early because he usually gets too far out of it now.

"Then, I wanted him to roll down that final hill and make the rest of them run."

Horgan said he didn't look back, but caught a glimpse of "those dreaded green and pink colors" Saluter carries. "But my horse sensed him coming and kicked in some more. I don't think we won by much more than a neck."

Nem Blong Hem was third, followed by Floating Interest in a race without a mishap. Two-time Maryland Hunt Cup champion Buck Jakes was pulled up by jockey Charles Fenwick III, who said "he just didn't run."

Ironfist had been less than ordinary in the last two years before a transformation took place.

"All of a sudden, he turned around about a month ago," said Voss from Atlanta, where he was campaigning other members of his stable. " I have no explanation for what he's doing. I've had hundreds of horses and never one who turned around like him."

Ironfist was a tad slow getting started after scraping the second fence, but replaced Saluter at the front by the fourth. He fought off challenges from Virginia-based standout Company Eight, defending Manor champ Proud Dawg and, finally, from Saluter.

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