Young jumper tests `Legacy'

5-year-old Albert's Crossing heads field in today's featured steeplechase race at Shawan Downs

September 24, 2005|By Wendy E. Lane | Wendy E. Lane,Special to The Sun

In a sport where experience counts, Albert's Crossing may be somewhat lacking. But in pure jumping talent, the precocious 5-year-old gelding may have the edge today in the featured race of the Legacy Chase at Shawan Downs.

Like the Legacy Chase, in its fifth year, Albert's Crossing is a relative youngster. While most timber racing horses don't start racing until they're 6 year olds, Albert's Crossing started at 4, and this year has a stakes win and $30,000 in purse money to his credit.

"That's what's so amazing," said jockey Jody Petty of the dark bay owned by Irvin S. Naylor. "He's very young. His second start over timber, he won. He's one of the most clever jumpers I've ever ridden.

"He's just a freak for jumping. He looks like a million dollars over every fence."

Today's seven-race program in Hunt Valley opens the fall steeplechase season and boasts the added attractions of a country fair and equine demonstrations.

"It is definitely maturing," said race director Charles Fenwick Jr. of the event. "We have had a record year for corporate sponsorships. From those sorts of measures, it is coming into its own."

The one-day festival features non-betting races, highlighted by the $20,000 Legacy Chase, 2 1/2 miles over national fences, and the $25,000 Ski Roundtop Trophy. The 3 1/8 -mile timber stakes is expected to showcase a field of six, including Albert's Crossing.

"It's remarkable how athletic he is," said his trainer, Sanna Hendriks, who leads the National Steeplechase Association trainer standings with 18 victories this year. "He looks like a cat to me."

Albert's Crossing will be challenged by Sky And Sea, who won the Benjamin H. Murray Memorial allowance timber in Butler in April, and Hall Of Angels, coming off a strong second-place finish at Radnor, Pa., in May.

"Albert's Crossing is the best horse in the race," said Billy Meister, trainer and rider of Sky And Sea.

The race will be a test of conditioning for the horses after a dry summer in which the hardened ground has caused some trainers to ease off intense training.

"Obviously the ground has been a challenge for us this summer," Hendriks said. "It makes it difficult to train, so we're a little concerned with his fitness level."

In fact, the weather conditions prompted race officials to shorten the timber course from 3 3/4 miles to 3 1/8 so that most of the distance would be over irrigated, softer terrain, reducing the risk of injury for horses and riders. The course has been watered almost continuously this week, said Fenwick.

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