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Senior Senator repeats as Grand National steeplechase champion

The Baltimore Sun

Senior Senator scored his second straight 1 1/2-length steeplechase victory in the Grand National on Saturday, capturing the second leg of the Maryland timber triple crown.

Raven’s Choice, the 2015 Hunt Cup winner, was a valiant second after finishing third in last year’s Grand National. Last year’s Hunt Cup winner, Derwins Prospector, was in the hunt late but lost his jockey before the final fence.

Saturday’s $50,000 Grand National in Butler attracted the best of long-distance timber racing, with the three Maryland Hunt Cup winners lining up at the start of the 3 1/4-mile race.

On a picture-perfect day, amateur jockey Eric Poretz took Irvin L. “Skip” Crawford’s Senior Senator, the 2016 Hunt Cup winner, to the lead early in the Grand National and opened a 4-length advantage on Raven’s Choice, ridden by Brett Owings. Poretz took his foot off the gas past the midpoint and was briefly passed by Raven’s Choice and Derwins Prospector.

Derwins Prospector parted ways with French amateur jockey Gozangue Cottreau in the late stages, and Senior Senator surged past Raven’s Choice to claim his second straight victory. Monstaleur was third, 2 3/4 lengths behind Raven’s Choice, and Old Timer — who finished second last year — placed fourth.

Senior Senator ran the distance in 6 minutes, 5 seconds on firm turf.

The Grand National is a prime stepping stone to the $100,000 Hunt Cup, which will be run next Saturday in Glyndon. Trained by Joseph G. Davies, Senior Senator was regarded as a favorite to repeat in last year’s Hunt Cup after his Grand National score but fell with Poretz at the third fence.

Davies and Poretz swept all three races on the Grand National program. They combined for a three-quarter-length victory by Sportsmans Hall's Hill Tie in the Benjamin H. Murray Memorial, an allowance race over the post-and-rail fences, and a 2 1/2-length win by Frank A. Bonsal Jr.'s Stand Down in the Western Run Plate, which was limited to apprentice jockeys. All three races were restricted to amateur jockeys.

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