The big bay gives Charlie Fenwick III his first win in the prestigious race.
Charlie Fenwick III carried an invisible weight to the start of the Maryland Hunt Cup—the weight of family legacy. His father, Charlie Fenwick Jr., won the race five times as a jockey and three times as a trainer. His mother, Ann D. Stewart, had won the race twice before as a trainer. “Some of my earliest memories of childhood were right here, walking the course with my father,” said Fenwick III.
And now Fenwick III can finally add a trophy of his own to the shelf. He piloted Irvin S. Naylor’s Askim to win a stretch duel by a length over James Slater and Coal Dust on April 26 in Glyndon, Md., in the 112th running of the 4-mile race.
“I really enjoy riding for Mom and Dad,” Fenwick said. “It was a lot of fun to jump the third and the 13th and have everyone cheer because everyone actually got over it. It was such a good race. Usually half of them make it around and half of them don’t.”
This was the first year since 1961 that all the starters finished the race. At post time, the field was down to seven horses. The 2008 Grand National winner and favorite Private Attack and the two-time Maryland Hunt Cup winner Bug River both scratched. Trainer Regina Welsh said that Bug River, a two-time Maryland Hunt Cup winner, will now be retired.
William “Billy” Meister, a three-time winner of the Maryland Hunt Cup, was easily the most veteran jockey in the race, having ridden the course for almost three decades. A trainer too, Meister chose to ride Daniel Baker’s Mr Liberator from his timber string. Blake Curry rode Frank Martin’s Lear Charm—who was second in the 2007 Maryland Hunt Cup—for trainer Chip Miller.
This made Rosbrian Farm’s Rosbrian, who was on his fifth trip around the course, the veteran mount. But this time he had new jockey Jake Chalfin in the irons.
Patrick Worrall—who won the 1992 Maryland Hunt Cup on Von Csadek when Worrall was just 16—decided he wanted another go at the prize and picked up a ride on Laurence F. Oster’s Make Your Own, while Irishman Shane Burke rounded out the field on Lindsay D. Dryden’s Foiled Again.
The most challenging of all the timber races in America, the Maryland Hunt Cup has 22 fences, the majority of which range from 3’9″ to 4’11”.
Getting Ahead Of The Pack
From the start, Rosbrian forged his way to the front, jumping the best he has in any of his showings. As the field successfully negotiated Fence 3 and Fence 13 (both 4’9″) the crowds cheered raucously. Even the largest of the obstacles, the uphill 4’11” Fence 16, did not take any prisoners this time around.
Fenwick III was wary of his nemesis, the water jump.
“I feel like the water jump might have cost me two Hunt Cups, and my mother would have killed me if I took the lead at the water jump and then blew it,” Fenwick III said. “I think Coal Dust did not jump the water jump well and lost some lengths over that fence, which was to my advantage.”
By Fence 18, the field was still bunched together, and none of the horses seemed to be waning. Fenwick III had weeded his way toward the front by Fence 20 and was holding steady coming into his least favorite fence on the course, the water at Fence 21. Fenwick III, who has been round the course several times with varying success, was unceremoniously dumped at that fence in 2005 by two-time Maryland Hunt Cup winner Swayo.
Fenwick III didn’t waste any time after the fence and urged Askim up the hill to the last, followed by a wall of horses. The pair sailed the last and Askim dug in, speeding away with Coal Dust just a length behind. But it wasn’t to be Slater’s Hunt Cup, and he had to settle for second. Mr Liberator and Meister were not far behind at third and Rosbrian was able to hold on for fourth-place money.
Making The Right Choice
Trained by Stewart, Askim has been around the timber circuit for many years. The 12-year-old New Zealand-bred won the 2006 Grand National (Md.) with Fenwick and then won the 2006 Pennsylvania Hunt Cup with Slater up. The grandson of Australia’s late champion sire Centaine, Askim was the 2006 National Steeplechase Association timber horse of the year. His win with Fenwick gives Stewart her third win as a trainer in a decade.
“He’s one of my best hunters,” Stewart said after the race. “Every time we go out hunting the goal is here. Every time I walk him the goal is here. Everything I do with him it’s about the Maryland Hunt Cup.”
After Askim’s win at the 2006 Grand National, Stewart knew she had to test him at 4 miles before ever attempting the Maryland Hunt Cup. He was a badly beaten third and last in the 2006 Virginia Gold Cup, so she pointed him to the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup that fall. His win there redeemed him, but also took its
toll. He sat out 2007 with an injury, but he prepped for the Maryland Hunt Cup with a second place in the 2008 Grand National.
This year, Fenwick had to make a choice between riding for his mother on Askim or for his father on Make Your Own, but his mother said Askim was ready for the big game.
Make Your Own finished fifth with Worrall aboard.
This was second-placed Coal Dust’s first successful trip around the Maryland Hunt Cup—last year he and jockey Woods Winants parted ways. It was Slater’s second trip around the course too—in 2006 the Englishman and Sham Aciss bobbled awkwardly before the third mile, effectively ending their run, but the thrill of the race never left him.
“I got up after that and said, ‘I want to go again,’ ” Slater said. “I would have gotten back up on the same horse on the same day and ridden it again, that’s how much I loved it. So it was kind of my ambition to get back here.”
In March, Coal Dust’s regular jockey, Blair Waterman Wyatt, had a baby, so Slater was hopeful he might get the call from trainer Tom Voss.
“Two years ago I rode Coal Dust after Blair got hurt,” Slater said. “Ever since then I loved the horse, and I wanted to get back on him, but Mr. Voss has so many good riders around his barn, and the horse does not come out that many times, so I was not sure if I ever would get the chance again.”
Slater was familiar with Askim’s close and was hoping they would not meet in the stretch.
“I knew Charlie’s horse is a bit faster than mine,” Slater said. “I just wanted to drag him out so he wouldn’t get there. I was surprised how my horse picked up and kept on going after the water jump.”
Slater admitted he had a few sticky fences, especially when he obliterated Fence 12. “At the sixth fence I sat up for another stride and he took off,” Slater said. “Then we got in a little wrong at the 12th, you can see the hole he left in it. He got over it, but I can’t believe he didn’t go down. When he’s right, he’s fantastic; when he’s wrong, he’s good at it.”
Sarah L. Greenhalgh