There was a prestigious steeplechase race to be run Saturday at Butler before Across The Sky turned it into a one-horse party.
The Holbrook Hollow Farm gelding dominated the 108th running of The Grand National as few others have, leading virtually all the way to easily claim the victory on a cool and windy afternoon.
Across The Sky ran the approximately 3 1/4 miles in 6:05 2/5 seconds, an impressive time over ground softened by overnight rainfall, and he did it while virtually unchallenged under jockey K. Fritz Boniface. The record for the course is a mere 14 seconds faster.
It was the first of two straight triumphs on the program for trainer Jack Fisher, always a contender for the National Steeplechase Association title.
Fisher was at the Middleburg (Va.) meet Saturday winning the timber race there as well.
Jockey Charlie Fenwick III and Incomplete tried to give Across The Sky competition as they approached the final two fences, but it cost him a fall at the final obstacle and almost certainly a runner-up finish.
"The horse up front [Across The Sky] was going so well, I didn't have much choice," said Fenwick. "I hoped maybe he'd make a mistake or something, but it didn't happen. We scraped the last fence."
Boniface made his job on Across The Sky sound easy although, of course, it wasn't.
"He gets out there strong and wants to do his own thing," he said. "I was fighting him a little trying to slow him down, but he just galloped on. I knew I was a little ahead late in the race, but I still had a good bit of horse left, so I was confident,"
The win was redemption for the pair, which suffered a fall in last year's Grand National.
"He's never lost a race when the jockey stayed on," owner Paul Wooden said with a chuckle. "He doesn't like to be behind and Fritz is a good fit for him because he can settle him down."
Wooden confirmed that Across The Sky will go in next Saturday's $75,000 Maryland Hunt Cup, the climax to the spring season.