Senior Senator, who retired the Maryland Hunt Cup trophy last year for owner Irvin “Skip” Crawford with his third victory, died Wednesday, April 15, as a result of colic.
“He was special. We relished every minute we had with him,” said Joseph G. Davies, who trained Senior Senator to the three Hunt Cup wins—in 2016, 2018, and 2019—and three consecutive victories in the Grand National through last year. “We were so fortunate to have him.”
An extraordinary talent, Senior Senator was a true Hunt Cup horse and demonstrated his magnificent abilities last April when he nearly fell at a road crossing in the final mile of the four-mile race but came back to take the lead at the last fence and won by four lengths under Eric Poretz.
“He never ran a bad race. He always tried; he always showed up,” Davies said. He had one fall, at the towering third fence in 2017, that resulted in a fractured neck. But Senior Senator came back after surgery to win his second Hunt Cup by five lengths after leading every step of the way the following year.
“He was always a hypersensitive horse in every way,” Davies said. He always was unpredictable, too. “He jumped from field to field. He’d try to get away on the road,” Davies said. But when Senior Senator put on the bridle and the starter’s flag dropped, he had no peer in the current generation of horses who specialize in big timber.
His tendency to colic was always a matter of concern for Davies and his staff. “He came back from the broken neck, but we knew he was so susceptible to colic,” the trainer said. Being in training appeared to reduce his tendency to colic. “Every time we’d stop on him, he’d colic,” Davies said.
Even with the 2020 Hunt Cup canceled as a result of the new coronavirus pandemic, Davies kept Senior Senator in light work. He galloped on Tuesday without any issue.
On Wednesday morning, “he was acting colicky,” Davies said. His veterinarian arrived at Davies’ Monkton, Md., farm within 20 minutes, and Senior Senator was transported to the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary School’s New Bolton Center in Kennett Square, Pa., for surgery. The New Bolton surgeons discovered that the 10-year-old had sustained an irreparable rupture.
Because of his tendency to colic, “we never counted on anything, but we had many wonderful years with him,” Davies said. “You never expect to catch lightning in a bottle, but we did.”