Le Sauteur sped over a 2 1/2-mile brush course, moving past early leader Fabulous Time to capture the $7,500 Noel Laing Steeplechase Handicap by 10 lengths at the historic 50th running of the Montpelier Races today.
Ridden by Bernie Houghton, 21, of Unionville, Pa., and trained by the rider's brother, Robert, the 5-year-old chestnut gelding was held off the early pace set by Fabulous Time, who was ridden by William Martin of Belmont Park, N.Y.
Houghton let his mount go to the front after the seventh of 10 jumps over the brush hedges. Nine horses ran the course, part of which was once the home of James and Dolley Madison and recently the subject of a family court battle between the heirs of Marion du Pont Scott's $80 million estate.
"We wanted to to be right off the pace a little," said rider Houghton. "He's kind of a front runner." But Houghton did not let his mount drop too far behind Fabulous Time, which would have made the come-from-behind victory nearly impossible.
Le Sauteur was timed at 4:35, the clocking for last year's winner and today's second-place finisher, Heart of the Desert. The New Zealand-bred 9-year-old bay gelding was again ridden by Toinette Phillips, one of Houghton's Unionville neighbors. Fabulous Time, owned by Mrs. Ogden Phipps, was third before an estimated crowd of more than 12,000.