Scary start, strong finish for `Welter'

Gelding catches `Action' in Grand National win

Horse Racing

April 23, 2000|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

The beginning was a tad scary, but everything worked out well in the end for Welter Weight again yesterday.

Armata Stables' consistent gelding tuned up for defense of his Maryland Hunt Cup title by rallying over the final half-mile to run down Emerald Action and win the 98th running of the Grand National Steeplechase under threatening skies at Butler.

"If all is OK, he goes next week," said victorious trainer Tom Voss. "It looks like its going to be a short field at the Hunt Cup."

Welter Weight won by 1 3/8 lengths over Emerald Action (runner-up in the 1999 Hunt Cup), completing three miles and 18 jumps in a slow 6 minutes, 30 seconds. The time was affected greatly by the yielding ground.

Now 11-for-22 over timber fences, Welter Weight has been out of the top three finishers only twice. Under jockey Mike Elmore, who was aboard yesterday, he has six wins and five seconds.

But Elmore and his mount had to avoid some potentially serious difficulty to even get under way. Two horses had hit the first fence and "the rail was rotating like a helicopter blade [in midair]," said Elmore. "It was scary looking with all the nails. Fortunately, we jumped it in the middle. I've never had that happen before."

The incident confused Welter Weight for a time, but Elmore said his horse "chipped in" by the fourth obstacle and they settled well off the pace set by Emerald Action, with Jack Fisher aboard. "I hit him once to make him think better," said Elmore.

Meanwhile, the competition began falling out. Maipo, second to Welter Weight at the Elkridge-Harford race, lost rider Charles Fenwick III at the fourth. "He didn't go all the way down and I probably could have stayed on," said Fenwick while sporting contusions and abrasions on his face.

And Joe Gillet pulled up Floating Interest shortly afterward. With two having scratched before the race, that left Welter Weight with only three rivals.

Elmore was content to have him chase, unlike last year's Grand National when Welter Weight went to the front and held off the competition. It wasn't long before Emerald Action was the lone hurdle as the Elmore-Welter Weight team took advantage of their rivals going wide to get inside position on the jumps.

"Jack started running away coming home, but we played it cooled and jumped higher," Elmore said. "Fortunately, we were able to come up inside again and then after the last fence. Welter Weight is just a super horse."

Elmore will be in the saddle again next week at Glyndon for the Hunt Cup.

Voss' concerns about the going were legitimate, but Welter Weight handled it.

"We weren't sure about the ground, so we didn't want him in front, just moving easy," he said. "The course was spotty. There wasn't a lot of Pimlico in it."

Move Up Stables Swayo, with Gillet up, won the co-feature, the $15,000 Benjamin Murray Memorial, over Deceptive Stroke in 6: 27.

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