"He's the best, the very best timber horse I've ever ridden," said Randy Waterman, weighing out after riding Private Gary to a six-length victory over Chatex in the 42nd running of the prestigious Rokeby Bowl.

Strong words from a veteran rider who was winning his third consecutive Rokeby and who owned two-time national timber champion Champerty.

Private Gary, making his first start of the year in what is considered the toughest of Virginia's point-to-point races, led from the flag until the 17th fence when he gave up the lead momentarily to favored Land Landing.

The two horses went into the 18th jump, a stone wall, together but Land Landing "misjudged it and lost her momentum," according to her rider Don Yovanovich. " . . . And that was it."

A Piedmont Hounds crowd of close to 3,000 saw Chatex, with Simon Shaw riding a smart race, come up the stretch to catch Land Landing for the place spot by a length with MacKenzie River fourth, another length behind. Cinzano was a late scratch, passing up the Rokeby to defend his Middleburg Bowl title next week.

This was the fifth time that Dr. Joe Rogers' red and white silks appeared in the Rokeby winner's circle. Private Gary's time today of 7:13 was 10 seconds slower than Rogers' Baby Doe had run 3 1/2 miles and 21 jumps last year in her wire-to-wire victory.

Yovanovich, making a runaway of Virginia's riding championship, won the Oakley Plate on his own Chief P.O., who went into the lead for the Seven Corners Challenge Trophy by virtue of the victory.