As he awaited the result of the $100,000 Maryland Hunt Cup to be made official on Saturday afternoon, jockey Eric Poretz chatted amiably with friends and well-wishers. He still wore his safety helmet, and atop it were two spotless pairs of riding goggles.
Those pristine race goggles told the story of the 122nd Maryland Hunt Cup; Poretz had no need for them. As the field broke on the sprawling Glyndon course, he decided that Irvin “Skip” Crawford’s Senior Senator should be on the lead. Jumping well, Senior Senator sailed over the Hunt Cup’s towering fences and was never headed as he won America’s most storied timber race for the second time in three years.
Senior Senator, winner of the Grand National a week earlier, atoned for an early fall in last year’s Hunt Cup and delivered a third straight Hunt Cup victory for trainer Joe Davies, who won last year with Derwins Prospector.
Crawford said the path to the Hunt Cup is two steps: A start at the Grand National in nearby Butler and then a shot at Hunt Cup glory a week later.
With confidence flowing from the Grand National win, Poretz was relaxed in the hour preceding the afternoon’s only race, and he put Senior Senator on a confident front-running path from the drop of the starter’s flag. “He does well on the front,” Poretz said, and the rider sensed that Senior Senator would be most comfortable there.
Moving down the back straight the first time, Senior Senator led by as many as six lengths, with Armata Stables’ Joshua G. and 2017 runner-up Drift Society in his wake in a field of nine.
Joshua G., ridden by Eddie Keating, came at Senior Senator with a late move in the stretch, but Senior Senator had an answer for it and won by five lengths. “When Joshua G. came to him, he was just waiting,” Poretz, 22, said. “I pushed him on, and he responded.”
Bruton Street-US’s Drift Society, the only other finisher, cantered easily to the finish line to claim third money. Derwins Prospector fell on the second run down the Hunt Cup’s back straight.
Senior Senator ran the Hunt Cup’s four miles in 9:20 2/5 on turf made soft by a daylong rain on Friday.
With the $60,000 first-place purse from the Hunt Cup and $30,000 from his win in the $50,000 Grand National, Senior Senator moved into a tie as the year’s top earner through April. Also at $90,000 is Stonelea Stables’ Balance the Budget, winner of the Carolina Cup’s $150,000 Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup (Gr. 1) on March 31.
Poretz is tied for second on the wins list behind leader Jack Doyle, who has seven wins. In his six 2018 starts, Poretz has five wins and a second. He is third on the jockeys’ earnings list at $122,700.