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Jockey Eric Poretz and 8-year-old Senior Senator attack the first of 22 timbers to a wire-to-wire victory during the 122nd running of the 2018 Maryland Hunt Cup.
Jockey Eric Poretz and 8-year-old Senior Senator attack the first of 22 timbers to a wire-to-wire victory during the 122nd running of the 2018 Maryland Hunt Cup. (Karl Merton Ferron / Baltimore Sun)

Senior Senator is on the cusp of history and looms as a heavy favorite to win Saturday’s $100,000 Maryland Hunt Cup and retire the challenge cup with his third victory in one of America’s most storied and testing horse races.

The Maryland Hunt Cup trophy is given to an owner who has a horse or horses win the race three times. Senior Senator’s owner Irvin L. “Skip” Crawford can take permanent ownership of the annual trophy if Senior Senator wins for a third time.

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The most recent horse to complete the Hunt Cup triple was Joy Valentine’s Cancottage in 1983.

The 123rd edition of the Hunt Cup in Glyndon attracted a field of 12; several of Senior Senator’s opponents tested him last Saturday and were overwhelmed by a brilliant performance by the 9-year-old Domestic Dispute gelding trained by Joe Davies.

Ridden by Eric Poretz, Senior Senator retired the Grand National Challenge Cup on Saturday with his third victory in the Maryland Timber Triple Crown’s middle jewel, and the effort had to be regarded as one of his best.

He took command at the second-to-last fence and danced away from his opposition to win by 30½ lengths.

Senior Senator won the Hunt Cup in 2016, suffered a neck fracture in the 2017 race and came back from surgery to win last year’s Hunt Cup by 5 lengths. Poretz will be in the saddle again on Saturday for the Hunt Cup’s 4 miles.

Davies, who has become the dominant Hunt Cup trainer of his generation, will be shooting for his fourth straight victory in America’s best-known timber race. He will saddle Gerry Brewster’s Derwins Prospector, the 2017 winner, who will be ridden by Annie Yeager.

Also coming out of Davies’ barn in Monkton are Armata Stables’ Vintage Vinnie, who faded and finished second in the Grand National’s Benjamin H. Murray Memorial timber allowance; Sportsmans Hall’s Hill Tie, fifth in the Grand National; and Our Town, sixth in a My Lady’s Manor maiden timber April 13.

Senior Senator repeats as Grand National steeplechase winner

Kathy Neilson will saddle Armata’s Joshua G., who ran a big race to finish second to Senior Senator in last year’s Hunt Cup and was second in the Grand National last Saturday. Eddie Keating again will ride the 13-year-old.

Bruton Street-US’s Drift Society finished third in the 2018 Hunt Cup and was fourth in this year’s Grand National. Leading trainer Jack Fisher tapped Hadden Frost to ride.

Peter and Sarah Jay’s Prime Prospector won a hard-fought edition of the John D. Schapiro Memorial timber allowance at My Lady’s Manor, and jockey Paul O’Neill received a return call from trainer Todd Wyatt.

Mystic Strike, ridden by Mark Beecher, took the win in the feature race Saturday of My Lady's Manor steeplechase in Monkton, the first of the Maryland Steeplechase Triple Crown.

Here is the field for the 123rd Maryland Hunt Cup in post-position order:

Hill Tie. 2010 b. g., Dance With Ravens—Ready for Love, by Not For Love. Owner: Sportsmans Hall. Trainer: Joseph G. Davies. Jockey: Brett Owings. Breeders: Corbett Farm and John B. Secor (Md.) 2019 record: 1-0-0-0, $2,000. 2018 record: 3-1-1-0, $17,700. 2017 record: 1-0-0-1, $1,500. Finished distant fifth in Grand National. Finished sixth in 2018 Virginia Gold Cup. Won his maiden victory in Grand National’s 2018 Benjamin H. Murray Memorial amateur timber allowance after second in John Rush Streett maiden timber at My Lady’s Manor.

Senior Senator. 2010 b. g., Domestic Dispute—Queen Kennelot, by Awesome Again. Owner: Irvin L. Crawford II. Trainer: Joseph Davies. Jockey: Eric Poretz. Breeder: Charles C. D. McGill (Pa.) 2019 record: 1-1-0-0, $30,000. 2018 record: 2-2-0-0, $90,000. 2017 record: 2-1-0-0, $18,000. Won the 2019 Grand National by 30 lengths and retired the trophy with his third win in that race. Won his second Maryland Hunt Cup victory in 2018 after coming back from neck surgery. Won 2018 Grand National for second consecutive year. Fell at third fence of 2017 Maryland Hunt Cup. Won 2016 Maryland Hunt Cup after setting most of the pace.

Drift Society (Ire). 2008 b. g., Jackson’s Drift—Tansey Yearwood (Ire), by Moscow Society. Owner: Bruton Street-US. Trainer: Jack Fisher. Jockey: Hadden Frost. Breeder: Eleanor Bennett (Ire). 2019 record: 1-0-0-0, $2,500. 2018 record: 2-0-0-1, $11,500. 2017 record: 2-0-3-0, $23,400. Finished well-beaten fourth in 2019 Grand National. Finished distant third in 2018 Maryland Hunt Cup after second by three-quarters of a length in 2017 Hunt Cup. Finished fourth in 2018 My Lady’s Manor. Won 2016 John D. Schapiro amateur apprentice allowance at My Lady’s Manor, then finished third in Maryland Hunt Cup.

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Gas Can Eddie. 2007 ch. g., Maria’s Mon—Donnan’s Holly, by Dixieland Band. Owner: Mrs. William D. Class Jr. Trainer: William Meister. Jockey: John Brophy. Breeder: Bohemia Stable (Md.) 2019 record: 1-0-0-0, $0. 2018 record: 2-0-0-0, $0. 2017 record: 2-0-0-0, $450. Fell late in 2018 Grand National and lost rider at 12th fence of Maryland Hunt Cup. Finished distant sixth in 2017 Willowdale maiden after bolting in division of John Rush Streett Memorial maiden timber race at 2017 My Lady’s Manor.

Joshua G. 2006 ch. g., Run Softly—Search for Reality, by Regal Search. Owner: Armata Stables. Trainer: Kathy Neilson. Jockey: Eddie Keating. Breeder: Jason L. Cole (Pa.) 2019 record: 1-0-1-0, $9,000. 2018 record: 2-0-1-0, $20,000. 2017 record: 2-0-0-0, $1,050. Finished distant second in 2019 Grand National. Finished second, beaten five lengths, in 2018 Maryland Hunt Cup after fifth in Grand National. Fell at sixth fence of 2017 Maryland Hunt Cup, then was last of six in Willowdale Steeplechase. Finished fourth in 2016 Grand National, then fell in Maryland Hunt Cup and finished third in Willowdale amateur allowance timber.

Sovereign Fund. 2006 dk. b. or br. g., Giant’s Causeway—Colonial Play, by Pleasant Colony. Owner: Upland Partners. Trainer: Todd McKenna. Jockey: Open. Breeder: Robert S. Evans (Ky.) 2019 record: 1-0-0-0, $0. 2018 record: 2-0-0-0, $1,500. 2017 record: No starts. Lost jockey in 2019 Grand National. In first start since 2015, finished sixth in 2018 Grand National before fall at Maryland Hunt Cup’s 20th fence. Finished fourth in 2015 Pennsylvania Hunt Cup for second straight year. Finished second in 2015 Willowdale Steeplechase after win in Grand National’s Benjamin H. Murray Memorial timber allowance race.

Our Town. 2009 gr. or ro. g., Purim—Eurosceptic, by Cozzene. Owners: Laura Delozier, Gerry Brewster, George Tydings, and Richard F. Blue Jr. Trainer: Joseph Davies. Jockey: McLane Hendriks. Breeder: F. Bruce Miller (Pa.) 2019 record: 1-0-0-0, $600. 2018 record: No starts. 2017 record: 3-0-0-0, $600. Finished sixth in 2019 John Rush Streett maiden timber at My Lady’s Manor. Unseated jockey early in 2017 Maryland Hunt Cup after seventh in Grand National’s Benjamin H. Murray Memorial amateur allowance timber race. Pulled up in 2016 Virginia Gold Cup after finishing third and placed second in 2016 Murray.

Prime Prospector. 2008 b. g., Seeking the Gold—Remember Love, by A.P. Indy. Owner: Peter A. and Sarah M. Jay. Trainer: Todd Wyatt. Jockey: Paul O’Neill. Breeder: Woodford Thoroughbreds (Ky.) 2019 record: 1-1-0-0, $6,000. 2018 record: 1-0-0-0, $0. 2017 record: 3-1-0-0, $10,750. Scored hard-fought victory in 2019 John D. Schapiro Memorial at My Lady’s Manor. Lost rider at 14th fence in 2018 Maryland Hunt Cup. Won a 2017 Willowdale timber allowance after fourth-place finishes at My Lady’s Manor and Grand National. Finished third in 2016 International Gold Cup.

Derwins Prospector. 2008 ch. g., Van Nistelrooy—Stringtown Sally, by Crafty Prospector. Owner: Gerry L. Brewster. Trainer: Joseph Davies. Jockey: Annie Yeager. Breeders: Patricia Lagden and Devi Hall (Ky.). 2019 record: 1-0-0-0, $0. 2018 record: 2-0-0-0, $0. Finished fifth in 2019 My Lady’s Manor. Fell late in the 2018 Grand National before fall at 18th fence in Maryland Hunt Cup. Won the 2017 Maryland Hunt Cup by three-quarters of a length in a stirring stretch battle. Finished fifth in the 2017 Grand National. Finished sixth in 2016 Grand National, then lost rider in Maryland Hunt Cup.

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Jeffery G. 2007 ch. g., Awad—Search for Reality, by Regal Search. Owner-trainer: Jason L. Cole. Jockey: Forrest Kelly. Breeder: Jason L. Cole (Pa.). 2019 record: 1-0-0-0, $1,000. 2018 record: 3-0-0-0, $2,100. 2017 record: No starts. Finished fourth in 2019 John Rush Streett maiden timber. Finished fourth in maiden timber races at 2018 Genesee Valley and Pennsylvania Hunt Cup meets. In comeback race after missing the 2017 season, finished fifth in a division of the John Rush Streett maiden timber.

Battle Aray. 2008 b. g., Johar—Stormy Monday, by Storm Cat. Owner: Merriefield Farm. Trainer: William S. Meister. Jockey: John Brophy. Breeder: Two Hearts Farm (Ky.) 2019 record: 1-0-0-0, $0. 2018 record: No starts. 2017 record: 1-0-0-0, $0. Pulled up in Grand National’s 2019 Benjamin H. Murray timber allowance. Missed the 2018 season after being pulled up in his only 2017 start, in the Murray. In return to the races after missing 2015 season, won 2016 Genesee Valley maiden timber race, then was fifth in Pennsylvania Hunt Cup timber allowance.

Vintage Vinnie (Ire). 2009 b. g., Vinnie Roe (Ire)—Bobby’s Jet, by Bob’s Return. Owner: Armata Stables. Trainer: Joseph G. Davies. Jockey: Open. Breeder: Carmel Hennessy (Ire). 2019 record: 1-0-1-0, $3,600. 2018 record: 1-0-1-0, $2,700. 2017 NSA record: No starts. Finished second in Grand National’s 2019 Benjamin H. Murray timber allowance after leading at last. In first U.S. start, finished second in division of 2018 John Rush Streett Memorial at My Lady’s Manor. Winner of an Aintree steeplechase by 22 lengths in June 2017, he subsequently was unplaced in the Galway Plate Steeplechase.

Maryland Hunt Cup

When: Saturday, with gates opening at 11 a.m.

Where: Worthington Farms, 2700 Tufton Ave., Reisterstown

Last year’s winner: Senior Senator, ridden by Eric Poretz, captured his second Hunt Cup, with Joshua G second and Drift Society third.

Race card: The Hunt Cup is scheduled for 4 p.m. That is the day’s only race and spectators must arrive by 3 p.m.

Tickets: Tickets are only sold in advance and are $40 for general parking and $100 for patron parking (near the paddock). They are available online at marylandhuntcup.com/purchase-tickets. For more information email info@marylandhuntcup.com. Purchase by Mail by sending a check to Maryland Hunt Cup, P.O. Box 2342, Westminster MD 21158. Please note the type of pass you are ordering on your check. All checks must be received by April 20. Passes will not be mailed until after April 15.

Tickets also are available at select retail locations, including Butler Liquors, The Filling Station, The Wine Merchant, Finch Services John Deere, the Peppered Pig, John Brown’s Coffee Shop, Maryland Saddlery and Veloccino Bike and Coffee.

More information: marylandhuntcup.com

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