Appeared in the May 2020 issue of Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred.
Star timber horse Senior Senator, who missed a chance to win a fourth Maryland Hunt Cup when the 2020 race was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, died of colic at the University of Pennsylvania’s New Bolton Center veterinary hospital April 15. The Pennsylvania-bred was 10 years old.
“It’s the end of an era,” said trainer Joe Davies. “We were so lucky so many times he rose up from the ashes or what seemed like the ashes that we can’t be anything but grateful.”
Bred by Marylander Charles McGill and owned by Marylanders Skip and Vicki Crawford, Senior Senator won seven National Steeplechase Association timber races (including the Grand National and Hunt Cup three times each) and earned $280,800. His race record includes six point-to-point wins, and a winless, seven-start flat career. The son of Domestic Dispute and the Awesome Again mare Queen Kennelot earned $289,756.
Davies and his wife Blythe, who was attracted by the horse’s stride while watching races on her computer, claimed Senior Senator for $7,500 at Penn National in 2013. They were hoping for a timber horse. They got a star, and a project. With trainer Flint Stites, Senior Senator gained a reputation as a rogue – bucking off jockeys in the post parade before races and making life difficult for exercise riders in the morning.
The bay gelding stayed true to himself and needed constant management, but gradually took to farm life and the stiff tests of Maryland timber racing. Senior Senator made his timber debut at New York’s Genesee Valley meet in 2014, and finished second. He won the next month at the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup and in 2015 placed in the My Lady’s Manor and Grand National timber stakes to signal a potential for big things.
Ridden throughout by Eric Poretz, Senior Senator arrived for real in 2016. He won on the Grand National card, but was disqualified for interference while racing erratically. A week later, he upset the more experienced Guts For Garters (Ire) in the Hunt Cup. Senior Senator won the Grand National in 2017, but fell in the Hunt Cup. Surgery fixed a broken bone in his neck, and he returned to win the Grand National and Hunt Cup each twice more – in 2018 and 2019. They would be his final starts. Joe Davies called the 2016 Hunt Cup a favorite memory for its improbability, but just as quickly mentioned the 2018 Hunt Cup for the same reason. The trainer and his family will miss more than a racehorse, however.
“Just the everyday,” he said about what he’ll miss. “He was the first horse we saw every day and every night. We could see him from our bedroom, the kitchen. There wasn’t a day for seven years where we didn’t see him other than a couple nights he went to New Bolton. We’ve been through a lot with him.”
With this year’s Maryland timber meets and early point-to-points canceled, Senior Senator was going to miss 2020 but plans called for a 2021 campaign and an attempt at an unprecedented fourth Hunt Cup. Nine horses have won the race, first run in 1894, three times.