Swayo kicking up heels again at 14

Not ready for retirement, he tries for 3rd Cup win

Horse Racing

April 30, 2005|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

This time last spring, Swayo was primed to strive to become only the ninth horse ever to win the prestigious Maryland Hunt Cup three times.

But the day before the race, he developed colic and was scratched.

In his stead, Bug River triumphed and, as the year passed, it appeared Swayo had jumped his final fence. An ankle problem later bound him to his stall and the pasture seemed his destination.

"After he tied up, we retired him," said Susie McDonald of the Move Up Stable ownership. "We thought at his age [14] he'd given us so much. But after he got over the ankle, he was out one day looking around and he took off. We think he wants another chance. He sent us signals that he's ready."

The chance will come at 4 p.m. today in Glyndon when the aging gelding is scheduled to take on eight rivals over the four-mile, 22-fence Hunt Cup course that represents the toughest challenge on the state's steeplechase circuit. It will be the 109th renewal of the race.

A familiar cast of rivals is in the lineup, including defending champion Bug River, who was second in the Grand National last weekend, and Grand National victor Rosbrian. Of the nine, only Swayo has not competed this season in either the Grand National or My Lady's Manor, the other two legs in Maryland's big three.

"He [Swayo] hasn't done what he normally does," said McDonald. "We scratched him at the Grand National because the ground was too hard. But he's been ridden a lot this spring and been in two point-to-points."

In an unusual twist, Charles Fenwick III, the winning jockey in the Grand National with Rosbrian, will shift his tack to Swayo, trained by his mother, Ann Stewart.

"That was a one-and-off deal at the Grand National," said Fenwick. "[Irish jockey] Gordon Elliott ran into some problems getting here. That ride wasn't necessarily mine. Besides, I'm committed to my mother. I'm going to ride her horse like that one buffalo that jumped the tennis net."

Obviously, the horse is familiar with the Hunt Cup layout, but Fenwick has never finished the entire course on any of his mounts. "Swayo is as good as anyone to get me around there," he said. "And this time he's not going to get colic the night before the race."

There is always the unpredictablity factor over the demanding course with fences nearly five feet high.

"He looks better than ever. He's filled out," said McDonald. "You can just tell when they want to race. But if he doesn't do well, Charlie will pull him up."

Swayo's Hunt Cup victories came in 2000 and 2003. If he wins today, he will be the first three-time winner in 22 years.

Hunt Cup greats

Three-time winners of the Maryland Hunt Cup:

Horse Years

Princeton 1903, 1905, 1906

Garry Owen 1901, 1902, 1907

Blockade 1938, 1939, 1940

Winton 1942, 1946, 1947

Pine Pep 1949, 1950, 1952

Jay Trump 1963, 1964, 1966

Mountain Dew 1962, 1965, 1967

Cancottage 1980, 1981, 1983

Md. Hunt Cup entries

Today

Post time 4 p.m.

$65.000. The Maryland Hunt Cup, timber stakes, amateur riders, 4 mi.

a-Sky and Sea 165 Make Me A Champ 165 Swayo 165 Narrow River 165 Blackchesters 165 Bug River 165 aLil Starvin Marvin 165 Rosbrian 165 Bruno Castelli 165

a-William Meister-trained entry.

At a glance

What: Maryland Hunt Cup

When: Today, 4 p.m.

Where: Tufton Avenue, Glyndon

Directions: All patron and subscriber pass holders must access Tufton Avenue from the Greenspring Avenue (west) side. All general parking must enter Tufton from the Falls Road (east) side. No through traffic will be allowed on Tufton after 2 p.m. From Beltway, take either Greenspring Avenue west or Falls Road north, depending on the parking site.

Tickets: None available at the gate, but can be purchased on race morning at the Manor Tavern, Dogwood Tack, Valley Motors, The Wine Merchant and other locations.

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