Coal Dust, 'Attack' Heading To Hunt

Defending Champ Loses By A Neck In Stretch Run

April 19, 2009|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,Special to The Baltimore Sun

Coal Dust and Private Attack both punched their ticket to next Saturday's Hunt Cup during the 107th Grand National Steeplechase at Butler.

In a stirring stretch duel, Coal Dust beat the defending champion by a neck Saturday as an overflow crowd watched under ideal jumping conditions.

It's ironic that, barring injury or illness, Private Attack will make Maryland's most prestigious and lucrative timber race next weekend after finishing a game second. Last year, he dominated the Grand National, but then experienced a metabolic issue before the Hunt Cup and never made the race.

Coal Dust's trainer, Tom Voss, was at the meet in Middleburg, Va., on Saturday - part of a crowded steeplechase agenda - but rider Blair Wyatt (nee Waterman) filled in nicely after Voss left few instructions. "I know the horse really well," the jockey said. "He doesn't say a lot."

She bided her time during the three-mile grind, running the majority of the way near the back end before driving hard over the final few furlongs. She needed every stride because Private Attack, with 59-year-old Billy Santoro aboard, pressed the issue to the finish line.

"I was trying to slowly pick my way. Billy Meister [on pacesetter Mr Liberator] got away from me a little bit, so I didn't want to stay too far back," Wyatt explained after Coal Dust, an immensely talented horse who had yet to fulfill his potential, scored a major victory. "I wanted to save some ground around the turns and use him in the jumps."

"He's had some issue with getting hurt sometimes," said Wyatt, who added that "Private Attack was a major concern, but I worry about them all."

Santoro was happy with the effort of Private Attack and might finally get his shot at the Hunt Cup before being forced out of the saddle at age 60.

"I was really quite pleased," he said. "He's had a lighter schedule this year, and if he comes out of this OK, we hope to go to the Hunt Cup."

The program had exciting finishes as all three major races were decided by photos.

In the secondary feature, the $15,000 Benjamin H. Murray Memorial, Patriot's Path prevailed under Blake Curry, barely nosing out Fort Henry and Molly Forlano, and in the finale, the $7,500 Western Run Plate II, Santoro was edged again while riding Haddix.

1st

The Grand National

$30,000, ABT 3 MI. OVER TIMBER.

Horse...Jockey

Coal Dust...B. Wyatt

Private Attack...W. Santoro

Western Fling...J. Griswold

Time: 6:22. Scratched: Across The Sky, Twill Do, Vinnie Boy

2nd

The Benjamin H. Murray

$15,000, ABT 3 MI. OVER TIMBER.

Patriot's Path...B. Curry

King Lear...S. Stettinius

Twill Do...W. Meister

Time: 6:27 1/5. Scratched: Prospectors Strike, And The Eagle Flys, Volle Nolle, Coal Dust, Bon Caddo, Make Your Own.

3rd

The Western Run Plate II

$7,500, ABT 3 MI. OVER TIMBER.

Bon Caddo...P. Worrall

Haddix...W. Santoro

Little Dewey Know...J. Stierhoff

Time: 7:54. Scratched: Michel Marieschi

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