Saluter surpassed champion Dosdi with his 21st career timber victory Saturday, winning the four-mile Virginia Hunt Cup in Montpelier Station. The Montpelier Hunt Races marked the end of the Virginia Steeplechase Association's fall season.

Trainer-jockey Jack Fisher guided the 10-year-old bay gelding owned by Ann Stern of Richmond to a seven-length win over the field of six, which included his nemesis Gold Quoit (Matt McCarron) and English-trained newcomer Bavario (Michael Traurig), who is owned by Arthur Arundel of Great Meadow.

Saluter toyed with the pace and uncharacteristically ran on the front end until the final turn, when he opened his lead to a good 10 lengths and jumped the last by himself to finish in 8 minutes 5 4/5 seconds, well ahead of second-place Bavario.

It was Saluter's first time running at Montpelier since a win there in 1995.

"He does as he pleases here," said Fisher, of Monkton, Md. "They were going so slow [in the Virginia Hunt Cup]. He was happier on the front end."

Gold Quoit finished third Saturday, but for the season, Kinross Farm took the leading owner title, with 62 points to Stern's 48. The stable also had the leading trainer, as Neil Morris racked up 62 points; Dorothy Smithwick was second with 26. Woods Winants (23 points) edged Morris by two points for the leading rider award.

In the leading hurdle horse standings, Stern picked up the award with Haveplanwilltravel, Clorevia Farm's Patrician Power was second (and first in the VSA Claiming Series), and Bruce Smart's Devil's Reach was third. Clovelly Farm's Sharp Tomahawk was tied for first in the VSA Highweight Flat with Kinross Farm's Company Eight.

The leading timber horse? None other than Saluter (followed by Gold Quoit and Kinross Farm's Jakob's Pal). And after toppling another big record Saturday, Stern's horse has just one more to go: The 37 career steeplechase wins of Tuscalee, a hurdler ridden by Hall-of-Famer Joe Aitcheson and Jerry Fishback in the 1960s and '70s.

But Saluter has the winter off, so the record will have to wait--and so will his fan club, as it is more than eager to find out whether the horse has been nominated for a second Eclipse Award.

Fisher said Saluter's success has come gradually and as a total surprise.

"I didn't even like him the first time he ran," he said. Not "until his first win [in 1993] did I think about him. I only bought him for $2,500."

Steeplechasing Notes: Colvin "Gregg" Ryan was back in the irons at Montpelier after a fall during the summer in a race at Saratoga Springs sidelined him all autumn. He placed third and fourth in two races at Montpelier. . . . Great losses: Stakes winner Double Darn was destroyed humanely after injuries he received from a fall at Fairfax Hunt Races Sept. 25 did not heal properly. Three-time Maryland Hunt Cup champ Cancottage also was euthanized from infirmities of old age. He was 29. And lastly, 1997 Virginia point-to-point timber horse champion Military Pride was destroyed after breaking his leg in a paddock accident in October.

CAPTION: With Jack Fisher aboard, Saluter sets the pace Saturday over the four-mile course in Montpelier Station, winning in 8 minutes 5 4/5 seconds, ahead of Gold Quoit and jockey Matt McCarron, center, and Keep It a Secret, ridden by Roger Horgan.