Few steeplechase trophy presentations require the help of the Virginia governor. But today's inaugural six-race card at the new 500-acre Great Meadow course was the exception.
Gov. Charles Robb was called in before a crowd of 8,450 to hand over the "King of Spain" International Gold Cup, a 54-year-old trophy given for this year's best performance in the 3 1/2-mile timber race feature.
The trophy went to the owners of Double Sparkle -- Thomas Ashbridge III of Boyce, Va., whose 7-year-old bay gelding guided by D.M. (Speedy) Smithwick waited until the last of 19 fences before darting to the front of a five-horse field to win in 6:25 1/5 seconds.
"He likes to have a horse to run after," Smithwick told owner Ashbridge in the winner's circle.
"I thought he was getting a little far out of it earlier in the race, but he came out of it," said Smithwick, explaining his mount's trailing the pack over the last five fences. "He handled the fences very well. He's just a super horse."
Cantcottage, a prerace favorite and a three-time Maryland Hunt Cup winner with Joy Carrier riding, finished four lengths behind for a second, followed by Jeff Teter and Fiddler's Dam, another five lengths for third.
Old Question, who ran last for most of the race, finished fourth after Arch Revolt, the leader over the 16th through 18th fences, tired and dropped to the back.
Great Meadow, with nearly six miles of underground drainage, cost $450,000 and took nearly two years to build. The land was purchased by newspaper publisher Arthur Arundel, who is donating the property to the Meadow Outdoor Foundation.