The fog-shrouded Rappahannock County hills provided a perfect background today for the shootout between Roy (Tennessee) Graham and David Semmes for the Seven Corners Challenge Trophy, the point-to-point timber championship neither had ever won.
In front of a rain-soaked crowd of close to 4,500, they used horses instead of guns -- Graham the veteran Boca Bird, Semmes the newcomer No Answer.
Boca Bird was the winner, No Answer the loser by six lengths with Peter Winants Jr. on Bristol Glass edgng his father on First Jim for third and Francis Iglehart on Maryland Jim rounding out the field in the 2 1/2-mile timber race.
"He's a great old horse, you just can't say enough about him," said Graham, who has been chasing the title or almost 15 years. "He just took off down that hill and there was no catching him."
Boca Bird's victory gave him the spring title with 20 points, three more than prerace leader Cousin Wes, owned by Randy Rouse. Wes was idled because of suspensory problems.
"It couldn't have happened to a better person," said Rouse, an eight-time winner of the Seven Corners trophy, but who was watching from the sidelines for the third straight year.
No Answer, described as a "beautiful horse and a sure comer" by a veteran point-to-point trainer, closed out its first season with 16 points.
It was the eighth race this spring for Boca Bird, the aged bay gelding who won his first race in 1974. In the 10 race spring series last year, when he was runner-up to High Peak for the title, he ran in all nine races, an amazing record and the first time in the 20-year history of the Seven Corners competition that this had been done.
Today he led, or was close up, over all 15 of the fences with No Answer always in striking distance. It was in the downhill run to the 13th that Bird made his successful move and landed with a three-length lead that he held to the end.