The Maryland Hunt Cup record was shattered yesterday, but Tom Voss, the state's dominant steeplechase trainer, was not in the winner's circle afterward.
Voss missed in his effort to sweep Maryland's big three as Irish-bred Young Dubliner led wire to wire in the grueling four-mile test and finished a comfortable winner in 8 minutes, 25 3/5 seconds over a firm course at Glyndon.
That shaved an even five seconds from the record set by Buck Jakes in 1995.
Meanwhile, Voss chose Wood Whistle to run and scratched Sam Sullivan, the victor in the Grand National last weekend. He said he believes he made the correct decision, although Wood Whistle ran into a predicament at the third fence and fell on a downed Maipo.
"It was the right choice, probably," said Voss. "There wasn't any pressure to run either of them. We were just unlucky. The other horse [Maipo] refused the fence and threw the girl [Polly Gundry] over it first. We were where we should have been. Maipo started going sideways and we landed right on top of him."
That left only four horses still running after the pre-race scratches of Matchless and Lil Starvin Marvin, in addition to Sam Sullivan.
Nobody was going to catch Young Dubliner on this day. The 2000 Hunt Cup champion, Swayo, managed to make it a two-horse duel as they approached the final fence, but Young Dubliner had plenty of steam left and pulled away to the finish under Brian Moran.
An Irish jockey for an Irish horse, Moran steered Young Dubliner to a second in the Grand National, went back to Ireland and returned Friday night. He went over the course yesterday morning.
"He jumped super. I was only a passenger," said Moran, who is from Limerick, the same area in which Young Dubliner was born. "I let him pick his own way. I think the horse likes it out there."
Moran said there is "no margin for error or mistake" on the Hunt Cup course. "If you make one, you're going to be eating grass."
Young Dubliner is trained by Katherine Nielson, a member of a noteworthy steeplechasing family.
"This horse is really nice with a heart of gold and he deserves this," said Nielson. "He's 13 years old and he tries hard every single time he goes out. I had a glimmer he could do this last year when he cleared those six-foot brush-type fences at the Virginia Cup."
Young Dubliner likes to take the lead, where he "is relaxed and bold," she added. "When Swayo came up beside him, I was a little concerned. If a horse goes by him, his interest is not as strong. But he had more left in him."
Most of the $65,000 purse went to Wilmington-based owner William C. Lickle, whose horses twice before failed to complete the Hunt Cup course.
He tried to sell Young Dubliner two years ago, but had no takers.
"Kathy had a lot of faith in him," said Lickle. "I think one mistake a lot of people make in this is trying to shorten up into the fence. We let him fly."
Jockeys Gundry and Blair Waterman (Wood Whistle) were taken to local hospitals, but Dr. Mark Wheeler, one of the attending physicians at the site, said neither suffered life-threatening injuries.
Gundry was experiencing pain in her back and Waterman had a concussion.
Horse ................................ Jockey
Young Dubliner ................. B. Moran
Swayo ............................... J. Gillet
Stone Buster .................... G. Winants
Time: 8:25 3/5 (course record).
Scratched: Matchless, Lil Starvin Marvin, Sam Sullivan.
Fell: Maipo, Wood Whistle.