Fisher back in saddle for Hunt Cup

Aboard Kanawha, trainer seeks win in crowded field

Horse Racing

April 26, 2003|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

Ten days ago, when the entries for the Grand National Steeplechase were revealed, trainer Jack Fisher sent a ripple of laughter through the jump racing community when he named Sean Clancy as the jockey on his mounts.

Clancy was one of the most successful in the sport during his heyday, but he had been retired for several years.

That was Fisher's way of keeping secret his intention to ride and jump the horses himself.

"I stopped myself for a couple of years and I still really don't want to ride," Fisher said. "I entered Sean so people didn't call me up and ride me about riding."

Nonetheless, the man who has vaulted to an early lead in the National Steeplechase Association trainer standings will be in the saddle again today when Maryland's richest and most prestigious timber race, the 107th Maryland Hunt Cup, is run at Glyndon beginning at 4 p.m.

Fisher has entered Kanawha, a talented gelding who finished fifth at the Grand National, in a competitive 13-horse field that might produce one of the most crowded Hunt Cups ever.

"Win, lose or draw, I think this is it for me," said Fisher of his riding career. "Kanawha is a nice horse and I did not find a rider I could be confident with. So I said why not give him a shot to win [the Grand National and the Hunt Cup]?"

From one of the state's most prominent steeplechase families, Fisher has had relatives from his mother's and father's sides prevail in the grueling four-mile test over 22 fences. He was the winning jockey in 1994 aboard Revelstoke.

He sees the 1-2 finishers at the Grand National, Narrow River and Wood Whistle, as the ones to beat and also leans toward Swayo because "personally, I like horses that have been around the course before. Experience means a lot.

"I think there are only three riders who have completed this course and 10 are green. I'm not so sure that will make it exciting."

Only one entry, Stage Radiance, did not compete on the Grand National program last week and he was fourth two weeks ago at My Lady's Manor.

Young Dubliner, the ageless 14-year-old, is the defending champion and a horse suited for extra distance. Tom Voss-trained Wood Whistle encountered tough luck last year when he was cut off by Maipo at the third fence and fell.

The extra mile and fences that are nearly five feet high make the Hunt Cup a peerless challenge, one in which "you've got to have a lot of luck," said Fisher.

"I'd feel happier about our chances if we had a front-end horse. With all these horses out there, there are going to be a lot of people who want to get out there fast."

At the Grand National, eight horses were in position to win coming across the final fence. A repeat is possible, but not probable considering the four-mile test of stamina.

Fisher has had a hot start "for no particular reason. I'm doing the same stuff with the same horses I had before. I think they've been placed well, but it's probably just a cycle."

If he does indeed retire from the saddle, the trip on Kanawha will be a memorable one no matter where they finish.

Md. Hunt Cup

When: Today; post time, 4 p.m.; gates open 1 p.m.

Where: Falls Road and Tufton Avenue.

Directions: From Baltimore, take I-83 north, which becomes Falls Road. Go approximately six miles to Tufton Avenue and take a left. Course is about a mile after turn.

Tickets: Must have been purchased in advance. None will be sold at the gate at $35 per vehicle.

Restrictions: No dogs allowed on the course.

Steeplechase

Today

The Maryland Hunt Cup

Purse $65,000, abt 4 mi over timber.

PP Horse Jockey Trainer

1. Bruno Castelli C. Lyons C. Lyons

2. Wood Whistle B. Waterman T. Voss

3. Bowman's Crossing G. Winants R. Valentine

4. Ivorgorian M. Lampton D. Smithwick

5. Young Dubliner C. Fenwick III K. Neilson

6. Taking Advantage J. Bosley A. Murphy

7. Stage Radiance M. Cooney L. Neilson III

8. Holzmann A. Hambleton L. Boucher

9. Narrow River A. Robertson Mrs. G. Rbtsn

10. Swayo C. Gracie A. Stewart

11. Ocean Liner B. Cocks B. Cocks

12. Lil Starvin Marvin W. Meister W. Meister

13. Kanawha J. Fisher J. Fisher

All carry 165 pounds.

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