Irv Naylor’s Askim took the lead between the last two fences, and then withstood a final rally from Coal Dust to win the 112th running of the Maryland Hunt Cup timber stakes April 26.
Trained by Ann Stewart and ridden by her son, Charlie Fenwick III, Askim scored by a length in 8:53 1/5 for the 4 miles and 22 fences.
Coal Dust, with James Slater aboard, finished second, with Mr. Liberator, under Billy Meister, ending up third. All seven starters finished the race after two of the main contenders, Private Attack and Bug River, were scratched early in the day.
Bred in New Zealand, Askim, a 12-year-old gelding by Lord Balina out of the Centaine mare Centermaid, came into the race off a second in the Grand National a week earlier, and delivered a signature performance in the most important timber race on the National Steeplechase Association schedule. First run in 1894, the Maryland Hunt Cup has called the same Worthington Valley course home since 1922 and features the stiffest fences on the NSA circuit.
Fenwick also completed a family quest of sorts, winning for the first time in five rides and joining a long parade of relatives to have won the historic race. His father, Charlie Fenwick Jr., won five times as a jockey. His mother has now won four times as a trainer. Cousins Stewart Strawbridge (2007) and Sanna Hendriks (1991 and 1993) have also ridden to victory over the course.
“Some of my earliest memories of childhood are right here,” said Fenwick. “To win it really means something to me. It was tight enough (in the stretch) where I was certainly worried. If I got caught, it was going to be a tough beat, but what a great feeling.”
Fenwick grew up in steeplechasing, but also rode on the flat as a teenager and was one of the leading apprentices on the Maryland circuit. Now holding down a job in commercial real estate, he rides jump races as an amateur.
“This was always a goal growing up, then the Kentucky Derby was a goal, but then we came back to this,” he said. “My cousin won it last year, and it was a real thrill to watch that. I love this race.”
NSA timber champion in 2006, when he won the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup, Askim missed all of last season with an injury, but was pointed to the this year’s Maryland Hunt Cup.