By Joe Clancy,

(L) PROFESSOR MAXWELL (Douglas Lees Photo)
For a day with only one race, the Maryland Hunt Cup packs more drama than a week of Law and Order episodes. Run for the 117th time Saturday, the timber classic delivered again.

In his third try at the race, Jacqueline Ohrstrom’s Professor Maxwell ran and jumped near the front throughout, emerged with a clear lead from a near-melee at the 21st fence and made it stand up to win by 5 lengths over Sand Box Rules with Guts For Garters third. Virginian Richard Valentine trains the winner, a 14-year-old son of Buckhar bred in Pennsylvania by Hall of Fame trainer Janet Elliot.

The race – and its true plot twist – was about four fences. Four fences jumped without stirrups by the winner and jockey Mark Beecher. An awkward touchdown at the ninth fence sent Beecher out of his irons but still aboard. The Irishman called on a lifetime of riding show jumpers, sat tall and still and navigated – around a turn, over the 10th, 11th, 12th and yes even the mighty 13th – without stirrups. By 14, Beecher was back in the irons and order was restored. His horse kept jumping, gave up the lead to Battle Op over the 17th and 18th, reclaimed it going to the 20th and crossed Tufton Avenue (where he nearly fell last year) with an advantage. 

At the tricky, trappy, 21st – the smallest fence on the course – Prospectors Strike balked and lost jockey Justin Batoff. Professor Maxwell didn’t jump it smoothly, but landed running and flew the last and headed to the win – Valentine’s second, Beecher’s first and the first for the Ohrstrom family in decades of trying.

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