Estremadura ran dozens of miles and jumped hundreds of fences in a career which placed the 10-year-old Virginia bred gelding at the top of point-to-point steeplechasing, but he never had won the Eustis Cup.
Today he did. . . and died.
"It could happen to anyone, you, me or the horse," said veterinarian Dr. J.R.F Fisher of Unionville, Pa., himself twice a winner of the Maryland Hunt Cup and a double winner here today at the 13th Oatlands point-to-point meeting.
"I would guess that it was a ruptured aorta. . . a horse that collapses that suddenly. . . it is unusually the case. It is not a question of condition or fitness. . . it could have happened hunting this fall or in a barn. . . it was lucky it didn't happen over a jump. . . stress. . . stress is certainly a factor."
There was certainly stress today in Oatland's featured four-mile classic. It was not until the final uphill drive to the finish that owner-rider Mike duPont went inside and burst through the four closely bunched jumpers to gain the lead and pull out to a fourlength victory over Enquentro.Score Sheet was third and Manco Capac II fourth. Prince Dee Dee pulled up halfway through the race.
"With a horse like that and a trainer like that (Ridgely White) how can you lose?" asked duPont as he received the Eustis Cup, unaware that at just about that moment Estremadura had collapsed on the way back to the barn.
"He clipped a few of the small ones but jumped well over the big ones," added duPont, who had ridden the Gustav gelding in all of its races, including such big ones as the TimesMirror Cup here last year which clinched the Timber Horse of the Year award for the Middleburg-based jumper.