The story was of a record pace, one so blistering that no horse had much left for the final sprint to the wire.
And the story was of Louis "Paddy" Neilson III, a legendary rider trying to win the Grand National Steeplechase in a fifth decade.
Irvin S. Naylor's Tarsky withstood the pace and carried Neilson to his historic victory yesterday, winning the 93rd edition of the three-mile event over 18 fences in a scorching 5:51.
Tarsky, third the previous weekend at My Lady's Manor, defeated defending champion Buck Jakes by slightly more than a length and finished 7 4/5 seconds faster than the previous record, set by Ben Nevis II almost two decades earlier.
Neilson, who turned 53 Friday, said Tarsky was particularly swift in the straightaways "and got over all the fences.
"The difference in the stretch was that he wasn't stopping. The two gray horses [Buck Jakes and Florida Law, who finished third] were stopping. I never really had to hit him hard."
The 10-year-old gelding "just came up a little short" the week before, according to Naylor, who fell at the third-to-last fence while riding Tarsky's stablemate, Sortov.
Naylor added that Tarsky will not run in this weekend's Maryland Hunt Cup but that Sortov is "a possibility."
The race appeared to be setting up perfectly for Buck Jakes, whom trainer Charles Fenwick Jr. rode to his unprecedented 10th Grand National win last year before he retired as a rider.
Anne Moran piloted the gelding yesterday and kept him comfortably off the fast pace set by Florida Law and John Bosley.
Approaching the final jump, Buck Jakes had the lead and seemed in excellent position.
"It was a fast race. But once we got the lead, he just cocked his head and waited for horses," said Moran.
Fenwick said he didn't think Buck Jakes tired, but "he just began to sort of dwell. I thought maybe he got to the lead a little too quickly."
The 7-year-old grandson of Alydar is still a possible starter in the Hunt Cup.
One who will definitely go in the third leg of Maryland's steeplechase triple crown Saturday is Welter Weight, who was scratched from the Grand National yesterday in favor of the Benjamin H. Murray Steeplechase.
It proved a wise move by owner-trainer Joey Gillet, who steered Welter Weight to a convincing win over pace-setting Red And Gray in 6 minutes, 4/5 seconds.
The idea was to bolster the gelding's confidence after a second at My Lady's Manor and to give him some work over larger fences at the same time.
Neilson first won the Grand National in 1958 at age 16, riding Coke Hi for his father, Louis Neilson Jr. His other victories include Landing Party (1969), Burmac (1974) and The Guinea Man (1986).
"When we got to the last fence, I said 'If we get over this son of a gun, we can win,' " he said.
Tarsky was second at the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup last fall.
1st -- Grand National, $20,000, abt 3 mi.
Tarsky (L. Neilson)
Buck Jakes (A. Moran)
Florida Law (J. Bosley)
Winning trainer -- Jack Fisher; Winning owner -- Irvin Naylor.
2nd -- Ben. Murray Mem., $10,000, abt 3 mi.
Welter Weight (J. Gillet)
Red And Gray (W. Meister)
Gibson Island (D. Dryden)
Time: 6:00 4/5
Winning trainer -- Joey Gillett; Winning owner -- Armata Stables.
3rd -- John K. Shaw Mem., $1,000, abt 2 mi. flat
Bet On Rain (A. Moran)
Sean O'Casey (E. Cohn)
Apicius (D. Brewster)
Time: 3:29 4/5
Winning trainer -- Charles Fenwick Jr; Winning owner -- Arcadia Stable.