There wasn't much of a gamble left after J. B. Secor took Pat's Gamble to the top at the third jump and the 9-year-old gelding went on to win the 52d running of the Virginia Gold Cup by 12 lengths over Master's Degree today.
In third place, another neck off the pace at the finish of the four-mile timber steeplechase was Bel Espirit II.
Capital Carlo: Semington, last year's winner; Score Sheet and Abracadabra survived the 22 jumps over the rain soaked course to finish in that order.
Idol Fellow and Aruhappy both tell at the fourth fence. The late scratches of Manco Capac II, Barros Negros, Sabinus and Battle Jester reduced the field to nine.
The time of 9:08.3 bettered Semington's time of 9:17 last year but was far off Annual Meeting's 8:27.3 posted in 1971, the best time of recent years.
"He's best out front," said Secor, the youthful veteran from Monkton, Md., who was winning his first Gold Cup. "I tried to race him at first but he was a little rank so I let him take over early. He settled in then . . . it was a calm ride."
It was the third time in the last five years that a Maryland horse has won the Gold Cup, Portobello II winning in 1973 and Semington last year. It was also the fourth time that Maryland riders have captured the big gold bowl in that span - Gil Flautt on Portobello in 1973; Paddy Neilson with Chapel Street, and Charlie Fenwich on Semington.
"The biggest scare I had all day was when my came at us up the stretch," added Secor. His brother, Steve, was the rider of Bel Esprit II.
Pat's Gamble, owned by Mrs. H. L. Burkheimer, trained by her husband and ridden in all of its timber campaigning by Secor, is a dark brown Patoero jumper. He won a major chase at Fair Hill last year and, according to Secor, "gave Maryland Hunt Cup winner Ben Nevis II his closest battle of the spring at Butler."
A crowd kept down because of the steady rain but still estimated by officials at over 10,000 saw a steady stream of horses make passes at Pat's Gamble over the four miles.
But only one. Abracadabra, managed to pull even as they went over the 12th fence. Master's Degree was a constant threat but the Middleburg Bowl winner couldn't match Pat's Gamble speed up the long run to the wire.