Irvin “Skip” Crawford’s Senior Senator answered the challenge of the Grand National Challenge Cup on Saturday and retired the trophy for his owner with a dominating victory in the 117th running of the historic middle jewel of the Maryland Timber Triple Crown.
Ridden by 23-year-old amateur Eric Poretz, his regular jockey throughout his timber-racing career, Senior Senator retired the Challenge Cup with his third straight victory in the Butler timber classic. The stylish victory set him up for an assault on a third win in the Maryland Hunt Cup next Saturday in Glyndon.
The nine-year-old lost his last serious challenger at the last fence of the $50,000 Grand National when Black and Blue Stable’s Monstaleur stumbled on landing and trainer-jockey Forrest Kelly was unable to remain in the saddle. Armata Stables’ Joshua G., second in last year’s Hunt Cup, finished second, 30 lengths behind Senior Senator, in a field of 12.
Trained in nearby Monkton by Joe Davies, Senior Senator ran the Grand National’s 3¼ miles in 6:11 2/5 on turf rated as good.
Raven’s Choice, the 2015 Hunt Cup winner by disqualification for owner Ann Jackson and second to Senior Senator in last year’s Grand National, finished third, three-quarters of a length behind Joshua G. Drift Society was fourth.
Raven’s Choice set the pace for the Grand National’s first 2½ miles under Paul O’Neill before Drift Society, third in last year’s Hunt Cup, moved forward to challenge three fences out.
Senior Senator, always in striking position and ridden confidently by Poretz, took the lead two out and galloped home to an easy victory.
Ardrahan fell at the second-to-last fence while challenging for the lead and was euthanized after sustaining a fatal injury.
Senior Senator won the Maryland Hunt Cup in 2016 after being disqualified from a Grand National allowance-race victory, and he sustained a broken neck in the 2017 Hunt Cup when he fell at the tall third fence on the Glyndon course. After surgery, he returned to win last year’s Hunt Cup by five lengths.