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 Looking Back

This month in mid-atlantic thoroughbred history! For Looking Back archives click here.

Only a field of four lined up for the Maryland Hunt Cup, minus defending champion Landing Party, who was scratched the morning of the race. The result was a shocker. The Hannum family’s hunter Morning Mac, who only the week before had run in his first National Steeplechase and Hunt Association sanctioned race (the secondary feature of the Grand National in Butler), leaped the final two fences strongly and galloped home a 21⁄2-length winner over *Knockbawn. Buzz Hannum was in the irons, wearing the blue and orange silks of his mother, Mrs. John B. “Nancy” Hannum of Unionville, Pa. 

A blaze-faced 8-year-old chestnut son of legendary Hunt Cup runner Cormac, Morning Mac was described by his owner as “the nicest horse in the world to hunt. He’s easy-going, with a snaffle mouth. My huntsman has hunted hounds with him, the whipper-in has ridden him a great deal, and I’ve taken the field many times on him. He became fit in the hunting field, slog­ging through the mud and snow all winter.”

  • The John R.S. Fisher-trained Landing Party rolled through the spring with wins at My Lady’s Manor and the Grand National, but exited the latter race one week before the Hunt Cup with filling in both front legs, attributed to soggy course conditions. Said Fisher: “As you know, I would do almost anything to win the Hunt Cup, but the odds of severe injury were far too great to jeopardize him in this race.” Fisher did have a Hunt Cup starter in George Weymouth’s timber champion Island Stream, who refused the fifth fence and was eventually pulled up.

  • Alfred Smith’s Tuscalee, the 1966 champion steeplechaser retired in the summer of 1969 when injured at Delaware Park, returned to the races in an attempt to break Elkridge’s 30-year record of 32 jump victories. “Mr. Smith and I talked about it, and decided Tuscalee deserves a chance at trying for it,” said trainer J. Leiter Aitcheson. “He loves to run, and he does better when he’s in training.”

    Guided by his regular rider, the trainer’s son Joe Aitcheson, 10-year-old Tuscalee recorded his first win of 1970 – jump win number 29 – in the Broadview brush race on the Virginia Gold Cup card.

    Tuscalee tied Elkridge’s mark by year’s end and added five more to retire with 37 wins over jumps, a record which still stands. Both horses are in the National Racing Hall of Fame.

  • David “Sonny” Werblin’s champion 2-year-old Silent Screen, the first Kentucky Derby starter for 61-year-old Maryland trainer J. Bowes Bond, had been the focus of the media Derby week. Totally overlooked was a diminutive grandson of Bold Ruler named Dust Commander. Purchased for $6,500 as a yearling by owner Robert Lehmann, the chestnut colt trained by Don Combs powered away for the win (Silent Screen was fifth). Two of Dust Commander’s four wins from 14 starts at 2 came at Delaware Park. In his start before the Derby he upset the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland. Remarkably, he was the first Derby winner to have seven-time leading sire Bold Ruler in his pedigree.

  • Television and radio personality, big band leader and songwriter Ted Steele and his wife Jean moved to Maryland to be closer to their small stable of runners, trained at Pimlico by Hyman “Hap” Ravich. Steele, who left New York and took a job with WBAL radio as a morning disc jockey, had bought his first racehorse two years earlier. The best horse in their stable was Top Trojan, a $5,000 claim from trainer Buddy Jacobson.

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