Ironfist takes aim at 3rd straight win in My Lady's Manor

Short on conditioning, gelding may have trouble, especially vs. Matchless

April 13, 2002|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

A tradition more than a century old will be renewed today with nine horses scheduled to go postward in the first of Maryland's steeplechase Triple Crown series, the 92nd running of The My Lady's Manor in Harford County.

And, on paper, the $20,000 race figures to be ruled by an Ironfist again.

The 9-year-old gelding trained by the state's grand master at the jumps, Tom Voss, is favored to capture his third straight My Lady's cup over the 3-mile course that has been softened somewhat by recent rainfall but is still expected to be rather firm.

Now one of the leading names in Voss' barn after the death by lightning of Florida Law several years ago and the recent retirement of Welter Weight at age 14, Ironfist appears more vulnerable than usual after undergoing a tough winter.

"I'm not sure he's going to be as tight as he normally would be," said Voss, whose farm in Monkton is only a stone's throw from the Manor course. "He got a cornstalk stuck in his knee last winter, and it became infected, so he lost some time. We had a terrible time with him, and I didn't get to hunt him as much as I wanted to."

Ironfist - to be ridden by Roger Horgan - has been training only since the first of February and has not had a preparatory race. And he faces a competitive field that includes the talented Matchless, with one race already run, and the Virginia-based Company Eight, a quality jumper several years ago that has been away from the races.

"Matchless is a tough horse, the one to beat," said Voss.

Voss is getting Ironfist ready for the Virginia Gold Cup, part of his usual itinerary. Meanwhile, it seems Sam Sullivan will be the horse he points for the big one in the Triple Crown, the Maryland Hunt Cup April 27. That assignment would usually go to Welter Weight, the picture of consistency.

"He [Welter Weight] is 14 and I'm afraid to run him Saturday, because I might be tempted to go on with him," said Voss. "I thought of running him just one time, but I changed my mind. It's like losing one of your children with him."

Sam Sullivan won the feature race at the Elkridge-Harford point-to-point competition on Voss' farm and is being rested for the second leg, the Grand National at Butler next weekend.

Ironfist was not overly impressive when Voss took command of him. "I didn't really like him when I got him," said the trainer. "But he's turned into a very competitive horse."

He'll be shooting to become the first horse to win three straight Manors since Sam Son Of A Gun took four in a row (1980-1983). He has a front-running style that obliges the field to hope he wears down in the final half-mile, a possibility today because of his relative inactivity.

The three-race program will begin at 1:30 p.m. with the feature and will include the $10,000 John Rush Street Memorial for maidens with amateur riders and the $7,500 John D. Schapiro Memorial in honor of the onetime Laurel Park owner and longtime supporter of steeplechase events. That final race is a foxhunter's chase.

Gates will open at 11 a.m. for Harford County's largest annual sporting event. Proceeds will benefit the nearby Ladew Topiary Gardens.

At a glance

What:My Lady's Manor Steeplechase

When:1:30 p.m. today

Where:Pocock Road off Jarrettsville Pike

Directions:Take Exit 27B (Dulaney Valley Road) off Beltway. Road turns into Jarrettsville Pike. Go about 14 miles to Pocock Road and turn left.

Admission:General parking, $25, Family parking $35. Available at the gate.

Beneficiary:Ladew Topiary Gardens.

My Lady's Manor field

$20,000, about 3 miles over timber.

Horse....................Rider.........................Trainer

Narrow River A. Robertson Mrs. G.W. Robertson

Jr. Ironfist R. Horgan T. Voss

Company Eight C. Read N. Morris

a-Matchless J. Gillet J. Fisher

Stone Buster G. Winants L. Neilson III

a-Dr. Ramsey B. Waterman J. Fisher

Maipo P. Gundry C. Fenwick Jr.

Patrician Power G. Brutscher C. Miller

Silver Spoon C. Fenwick III A. Stewart

All carry 165 pounds. a-Jack Fisher trained entry.

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