Driving down the side of Thornton Hill into the sixth fence of the Rappahannock point-to-point course, William Russell's Marat made one of the biggest jumps of his young timber career.
The jump put him in the lead for good in the 2 1/2-mile Ben Venue, practically clinched the timber horse-of-the-year honors and made him almost a sure bet to be invited to race in Saturday's Virginia Gold Cup. Marat won by 2 1/2 lengths over My Happy Way and also won rider-of-the-year honors for Russell and the trainer-of-the-year award for veteran Don Yovanovich.
"It was a good day . . . a good race," said Russell, a native of Ireland who lives in North Carolina and races in Virginia. "He's one fine jumper, a real jumper."
Marat, a dark brown Rigel II 9-year-old, finished in 4:49 1/5 -- 2 1/5 seconds better that veteran Quixotic ran in winning the open timber race earlier on the program.
My Happy Way, owned and ridden by John Beasley, finished the season as champion mare on the Virginia point-to-point circuit.
Woods Winants scored a double at the season-closing meeting, winning aboard Quixotic and on Tingles Image over hurdles.