FAIR HILL — FAIR HILL -- Before she goes to school in the mornings, 17-year-old Danielle Brewster stops by trainer Charlie Fenwick's barn in Butler and hops on the old jumper, Lefroy.
Those early morning rides paid off at the Fair Hill Races yesterday when the Baltimore County teen-ager won her first sanctioned steeplechase race, upsetting heavily favored Sassello by two lengths in the $7,500 feature at 2 1/4 miles over hurdles.
As an apprentice, Brewster rides with a 10-pound weight allowance and that certainly figured in yesterday's victory. Lefroy carried 20 fewer pounds than Sassello, who rallied from off the pace but couldn't catch the winner.
Brewster, a senior at St. Paul's School in Brooklandville, took the lead from pacesetter Norlick three fences from home. "I was just hoping my horse wouldn't get tired," Brewster said.
Fenwick, the aged gelding's trainer, said he keeps Lefroy turned out in a field with a run-in shed all year long. "I don't think this horse has been in a stall for two years," Fenwick said. "He only gets ridden when Danielle stops by to get on him or when we need an old veteran to go along and school with the young horses."
Lefroy is owned by Virginia racing commissioner Arthur Arundel.
Brewster comes by her riding talent naturally. Both her father, former U.S. Sen. Daniel Brewster, and her brother, Gerry Brewster, have ridden in numerous steeplechases.
Both Jack Fisher, the trainer of Sassello, and Jonathan Sheppard were blanked on yesterday's card. The two horsemen lead the nation in steeplechase victories, with Sheppard holding a seven-win advantage.
Sheppard also trains a large stable of flat runners and starts Augustin Stable's Alice Springs in the $1 million Breeders' Cup Mile at Churchill Downs on Saturday.
The Augustin outfit of George Strawbridge, Jr. sent out two winners on yesterday's Fair Hill card, including a five-length victory by Bright Offer in the $5,000 timber co-feature. Bruce Miller, who trains the horse, said the son of Maryland stallion Lord Gaylord never raced on the flat.
"He was too big. He stands 17.2 hands and only saw the hunt field before we decided to race him over timber," Miller said.
In addition to Fenwick, two other Baltimore-area trainers, Tom Voss and Larry Smith, won steeplechase races.
Voss' victory with Lone Mountain in the fifth race was bittersweet. The horse's entry mate, Onement, snapped his right foreleg after landing two fences from home and was destroyed.
Fair Hill director of racing Gregg Morris said he was pleased with the track's first attempt at Sunday racing.
"This is the largest turnout we've had for our fall meet in years," Morris said. "Of course, we wanted the later date because we figured the ground would be softer than on our old fall date on Labor Day. That backfired because it has been so dry this fall. But other than Onement's fatal injury, we haven't experienced too much difficulty with the hard ground."
There were numerous other spills, especially in the maiden hurdle event, but no horses or riders were reported to be seriously injured.
NOTE: Fisher, who rides as well as trains, is sitting out a 15-day suspension for his controversial ride on Tarsky in the Oct. 22 New Jersey Hunt Cup. During the stretch run, Fisher repeatedly impeded Sanna Neilson on Vast Master, at one point riding so close he stuck his elbow in front of her. Another one of Fisher's horses, South of Java, went on to win the $25,000 race with Vast Master finishing second. Although Tarsky was disqualified, South of Java was not, prompting an appeal by Vast Master's owner, Peter Thompson of Easton. The appeal will be heard in the next couple of weeks.