GLYNDON, Md.--Senior Senator, ridden by his regular jockey, Eric Poretz, led virtually every step of the way in the $100,000 Maryland Hunt Cup on April 28 to out-finish Joshua G by five lengths, and he ran the entire race with his ears pricked.
You occasionally see a racehorse that is winning by open lengths and is being eased by his jockey begin to prick his ears near the finish line, but to see one run an entire race with his ears pricked is pretty amazing.
His trainer Joe Davies says he loves to run and jump, and from his attitude in the Hunt Cup, that certainly seems true.
He loves to jump so much that he regularly jumps out of his paddock, not to get away but just to jump, says Davies, who, just a week after the Hunt Cup was in France with his son Teddy and Tommy Fenwick for a Pony Steeplechase, bringing along the younger generation that will be the backboneof the Hunt Cup in a few years.
And what is even more remarkable is that Senior Senator recovered from a severe injury suffered in a fall at the third fence at the Hunt Cup last year, and he came back an even better horse and still loving to run and jump.
Senior Senator had won the Grand National the week before, but Davies said after the race he wasn't sure whether he'd run Irvin S. Crawford's 8-year-old gelding in the Hunt Cup.
"I WAS NERVOUS about running him in the Hunt Cup," said Davies of the horse they call SS. "But he did so well after the Grand National that he didn't give us any reason not to run him."
"He cracked a couple of vertebrae in his fall at the third last year," said Davies. "He had a plate put in, but it was experimental."
Dean Richardson of New Bolton Center in Unionville, Pa., who had tried to save Barbaro, is the veterinarian who saved Senior Senator.
"Senior Senator was in a stall for six months, being hand grazed," said Davies. "He was a good patient. After about three months, he began walking on an exerciser. During that time, his feet grew out. His feet grew a whole shoe size. For the first time, he has good feet."
"Larry Smith had taken him to the paddock at the Grand National, and he asked if he could take him to the paddock at the Hunt Cup," said Davies. "Larry is 6'5". and SS likes him. This was the first time he was saddled in the paddock at the Hunt Cup. He was terrific. He's more mature now."
"I was nervous about him jumping the third fence," Davies said. " last year, he had been in traffic, so this year we decided to let him get off in front."
Poretz said he thought he was going to stand off too far at the third last year so asked him to put in another stride, but he decided this year to let SS decide where to leave the ground.
"Once he jumped the third with his ears pricked, I felt better," said Davies."He measured each fence. Then I was worried again when Joshua G came to him."
But as Armata Stable's Joshua G, trained by Kathy Neilson and ridden by Eddie Keating, began to challenge SS at the final two fences, Poretz for the first time asked him for a bit more run, and SS just pulled away.
Bruton Street-US' Drift Society, trained by Jack Fisher and ridden by Hadden Frost, moved up to be in contention at the 15th fence but ,when it was clear he couldn't catch the leaders and that he was the only other horse still in the race, he was eased and trotted down the stretch to finish third.
Old Timer, trained by Richard Valentine and ridden by McLane Hendriks, was the first to go in the nine horse field, falling at the 5' third fence, where Hendriks injured his shoulder, the only jockey in the race to suffer an injury.
Gas Can Eddie, trained by Billy Meister and ridden by Bryan Cullinane, lost his rider at the 12th, and Prime Prospector, trained by Todd Wyatt and ridden by Brett Owings, lost his rider at the 14th.
Derwins Prospector, winner of last year's Hunt Cup, trained by Davies and ridden by Gonzaque Cottreau, fell at the 18th, Wildcatter, trained by Elizabeth Voss and ridden by Major Harry Wallace, tired and stopped at the 20th fence, where Sovereign Fund, trained by Stephanie Dowling and ridden by Chris Gracie, fell.
"SS cooled out in 10 minutes," said Davies. "He came back happy. He ran with his ears pricked. He just loves it."
"We had considered running him in the Gold Cup instead of the Hunt Cup," said Davies. "But the Gold Cup is very claustrophobic, and he'd loved the Hunt Cup two years ago. He's a horse for the country."
"He is only an 8-year-old, he was the youngest horse in the race by two years," said Davies. "Jack Fisher said he was going to start a "go fund me" to send him out of the country."
"I CAN'T SAY enough about Eric, about his humbleness after winning those two big races," said Davie. "He's worked so hard. He's a terrific example of what a good amateur should be. He gets upset if I even try to give him $10 for gas money. He does it for theloveof the sport."
"He gave the horse a poetic ride," said Davies. "He's the most generous riders. He loves this horse. SS can be exuberant, but Eric just says let him be, he's fine. He does this fly-leaping buck that has gotten Eric off a couple of times, but Eric still says let him be."
"Aston Williams and my wife picked this horse out," said Davies. "I'm just along for the ride."
"We've hunted him onceor twice, and he was pretty exuberant, but we're hoping to hunt him this year."
Davies said that Cottreau, who has been riding Derwins Prospector for him, arranged the trip for Teddy, 14, and Tommy Fenwick to compete in a pony steeplechase in Angers, France.
The boys were given two ponies to ride in the cross-country steeplechase, and everyone stayed with Cottreau's family.
"They were great," said Davies of the boys in the race which had seven starters.. Tommy was third. Teddy's pony was a little slow and finished in behind, but it was a great experience."