Voss rules with Sam Sullivan, Wood Whistle

Grand National, Murray latest feathers in his cap

Horse Racing

April 21, 2002|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

Tom Voss remains The Boss.

For the second consecutive weekend, the state's premier steeplechase trainer swept the major races on a Maryland card, including the 100th running of the $30,000 Grand National at Butler yesterday with the dependable Sam Sullivan.

Voss completed the day by sending out Wood Whistle to a similarly dominant victory in the $15,000 Benjamin H. Murray Memorial, the second race at three miles over 19 timber fences.

Blair Waterman rode both horses, giving her three wins in the Manor and the Grand National and setting her up for a possible mount in the Maryland Hunt Cup Saturday at Glyndon.

Voss was hesitant about committing Sam Sullivan to the $65,000 Hunt Cup, the crown jewel of Maryland steeplechasing.

"We'll have to do some soul searching," he said after the gray gelding won comfortably over six rivals. "We'll think about it seriously now. He certainly went around these fences pretty well.

"But the Hunt Cup is another big step. You're never really sure until they do it."

Now 8-for-11 over timber, Sam Sullivan tuned up for this year's Grand National by finishing third behind stablemate Welter Weight last spring. When Sam Sullivan got his chance to be the star, he was ready.

He was nursed along by Waterman for about 16 fences yesterday, content to lay behind the pace set by Young Dubliner and Make Me A Champ, who finished second and third, respectively.

The 2000 Hunt Cup winner, Swayo, was fourth as the three nearest to Sam Sullivan staged a near-blanket finish for the place.

"Actually, both races were about the same," said Waterman. "I wanted to be where I was [in mid-pack] because both horses have a pretty good kick. I knew I had a turn of foot left."

Over ground rated "heavy" because of recent rain, Sam Sullivan finished in 6:01 2/5, more than 10 seconds off the Grand National record. The race was run under cloudy skies and the afternoon included occasional spritzes of rain.

"The race here doesn't really begin until the turn for home," Voss said. "There's still about three-quarters of a mile left. You just want to be no more than 10 lengths back at that point. Sam got up there pretty quick and just kept on galloping."

A favorite in Voss' 38-horse training stable because of his sunny disposition and obedient ways, Sam Sullivan is owned by Voss' wife, Mimi.

"Blair rode him well. That's what you want see, careful jumping," he said. "On a [humid] day like this, even the fittest horse is going to get tired."

The secondary feature was practically a replay, with Waterman keeping Wood Whistle fourth or fifth most of the way before launching the big finish that put away a solid rival in Matchless.

"He really surprised me," Waterman said of Wood Whistle, owned by the Phoenix Stable. "I never thought of him as a 3-mile horse. But Sam Sullivan was more tired than he was at the end."

Three horses fell in the secondary feature and two riders suffered apparent shoulder injuries.

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