Michele Marieschi Wins

Maryland Hunt Cup

She Prevails In Two-horse Finish By 4 1/2 Lengths After Fences Knock Out Others

April 26, 2009|By Mike Klingaman | Mike Klingaman,mike.klingaman@baltsun.com

Eight horses started the 113th Maryland Hunt Cup on Saturday. Two of them finished. One by one, the 22 menacing fences picked off mounts and jockeys, most of whom had ridden the race before.

In the end, though, it was a couple of Hunt Cup rookies who fought it out as Michele Marieschi, with George Hundt Jr. aboard, defeated Rosbrian by 4 1/2 lengths on an unseasonably hot afternoon in Glyndon.

The race was won in 10 minutes, 7 seconds, well off the record of 8:25 3/5 set by Young Dubliner in 2002.

Neither Hundt nor Clare MacMahon, who rode Rosbrian, had ever even seen the course. Yet there they were at the end, a couple of long shots battling it out in the first two-horse Hunt Cup finish since 1996.

"Can you believe that?" said Hundt, 45, of Malvern, Pa. "My mother is doing an Irish jig up in heaven right now."

A former bond trader, Hundt quit the white-collar world four years ago to compete in timber races. When not riding, he works as a stone mason.

He averted calamity at the first fence, which Michele Marieschi took clumsily, and knocked out the top rail at No. 14. But the 12-year-old British thoroughbred managed to keep her head when those around her were losing theirs.

The ninth fence claimed Askim, last year's winner. Co-favorite Private Attack went down at No. 12. And Mr. Liberator, who had led most of the race, took a spill at No. 15.

"That's the Hunt Cup for you. There's no rhyme or reason to it. This is a very tough thing to win," said Charlie Fenwick III, who rode Askim.

The four-leaf clover he placed in his boot beforehand failed to help, Fenwick said.

"Historically, only 43 percent of the starters finish this race," he said. "This course has zero margin for error."

A late scratch was Coal Dust, winner of last week's Grand National Steeplechase in Butler. On Friday, Coal Dust came up lame on his right front foot.

"What a bummer," owner Perry Bolton said.

The victory by Michele Marieschi means that the Hunt Cup goes to a Virginia trainer, Richard Valentine, for the first time since 1937.

All in all, Marylanders had little to cheer about. Runner-up Rosbrian is from Ireland; ditto MacMahon, 30, who hails from County Meath.

"I couldn't believe the number of falls," she said. "There were all of these loose horses running around me. All you can do is try to avoid them."

The $75,000 Hunt Cup marked MacMahon's second timber race in America, though Rosbrian had lost in this event five times before.

"The next-to-last fence did him in," MacMahon said. "He always jumps badly there. I think it's psychological. Maybe he sees the water as an optical illusion."

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