They held an Irish wake for steeplechasing last week, an exuberant celebration of the jumping game—of what it once was and what it could be. The sport seems moribund in the U.S., killed this month when Belmont Park and Aqueduct, the tracks that had supported it for 75 years, announced they no longer would. But on Saturday, in the piney woods of South Carolina, steeplechasing had its Indian summer. Some 15,000 people gathered for the $100,000 Colonial Cup, the second richest race of its kind in the world. On this crisp, sunny afternoon, the country's best jumpers hurtled the hedges after the big prize—and perhaps an ultimate chance for fame.
He had been a good horse, so good last year that his owner, Martha Jenney, had his name cut in diamonds. But Inkslinger, at four, seemed to have no dazzle and dash. He had won only one race, a $2,000 event, and had little to show for his other efforts but a pulled shoulder muscle. It was not surprising that in the Colonial Cup interest was focused elsewhere. The favorite in the field of 15 was Shadow Brook, winner of four stakes this season. There was support, too, for Soothsayer, owned by Mrs. Marion du Pont Scott, on whose Camden estate the race was being run, and for Top Bid, ridden by champion jockey Joe Aitcheson.
When the flag dropped at the start of the two-mile 6½-furlong race, Tingle Creek moved smartly to the front. Tommy Carberry, the jockey who had come from Ireland especially to ride Inkslinger, kept the bay gelding near the pace. Meanwhile, Soothsayer, Top Bid and Shadow Brook shuffled back and forth in the middle of the pack. At the 13th fence (there were 17) these three began their challenge. Tingle Creek was stopping. Soothsayer and Inkslinger passed him at the last hedge. the two horses fought desperately to the finish and Inkslinger won by a dwindling neck. As blonde Martha Jenney accepted the winner's trophy, her bracelet glittered; had she been asked right then, she might have claimed that Inkslinger was a girl's best friend.
Wustenchef (11) eventually would throw his jockey. but the other riders clung mounts through thick and thin. Above, top Bid, who won the race in 1970, plows along, up to his ears in hedge; Dream Magic sends sticks flying, while front-runner Tingle Creek jumps cleanly.
At three, the winner was diamond worthy. At four, he suddenly was good as gold.
After trailing Soothsayer over the final fence, Inkslinger (7) edged him in the stretch duel.
NEIL LEIFER AND JERRY COOKE