Monday, March 25, 2013

First on the List... Green Spring Valley Point to Point

With Spring slowly throwing off Winter's grip, it is time once again for the start of the Point to Point season in Maryland. First up is the Green Spring Valley Point-to-Point.

I've been to the course a few times before, so I know what to expect from the race course. Last year I had a Subscriber Pass, which places you atop a hill above the finish line and encircled by the newly realigned course. Because of the topography, you can't quite see the finish from the Subscriber parking, but it's not a bad little walk downhill to the finish line, though not the sort of walk you'd want to make with too many picnic items and quite a hike back uphill to the car.

if you've been to the big races like Hunt Cup, Carolina Cup, Gold Cup or Foxfield, you'll find things a bit quieter here at the beginning of the season in Maryland. Quiet yes, but less exciting, never!

2012 Green Spring Valley Point-to-Point

This race, like those at Cheshire the next day, are chances for the horses to prepare themselves for the big three races, which are held the last three Saturdays in April. Every other race lines up on those three.

Green Spring is held at Shawan Downs, a large tract of land which was saved from development by the many members of the horse community and has been developed as an equestrian park, hosting a variety of events on its grounds. And regardless of what parking or tailgating option you choose, there are many excellent places from which you can watch the racing.

Like the Foxhall Farm Trophy two weeks before this race, this race occurs early in the season, so the weather can be cold, windy and wet. But if you love steeplechase, I can't think of any place I'd rather be that watching the races.

So be sure to dress for the weather. For me, that means a pair of wool socks and Wellies kept in my car the entire season just in case the ground requires something a bit warmer and drier than I had originally planned. I also dress in layers and make sure everything I'm wearing will still keep me warm even if I get wet. That means lots of wool and my well-worn waxed cotton from Barbour. I might smell like a wet sheep by the end of a rainy day, but at least I'll be warm!

Check out the Maryland Steeplechase Association website for more information:

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Sunday, March 3, 2013

Foxhall Farm Cup Team Chase, the Start of the Season...

In two weeks, the Maryland Timber Racing Season will begin with that quiet and quite unknown race, the Foxhall Farm Cup Team Chase. A very different race from what most racing enthusiasts are used to seeing, this race is perhaps best known for the mammoth team trophy which dwarfs most other racing trophies.

2011 Foxhall Farm Cup Team Chase Winning Team from the Green Spring Valley Hunt

This race began in 1920 over timber at the Monkton, Maryland home of renowned American sportsman, Foxhall P. Keene. His intent was to encourage participation in the sport. The race is run by teams of three, all regular followers of a recognized hunt, with strong representation from the Maryland and Pennsylvania Hunts. To honor the winning team, Keene commissioned a challenge cup which was to be held by the victorious hunt until the next renewal if the race. Made of sterling silver, it is one of the most impressive trophies in the sport.

I was unable to make the race last year, but look forward to once again attending this year. When I last attended two years ago, the race was held on a brisk sunny early Spring afternoon at the Green Spring Valley Hunt Club, current holders of the trophy. I can't think of a more perfect place to be on such a spring day, but this is certainly not a race for those more familiar with races as a social event. The "glamour crowd" tends to pass this event by and the tents and lush tailgate spreads are no where to be seen. There is no champagne. It's a very simple affair and I can't say that I miss any of that at all.

Retired Lawyer and former steeplechase jockey Turney McKnight explained the race best in a 2009 Washington Post article, "the Foxhall race is really more of a training ground." "The jockeys want to practice but not overexercise the steeds," McKnight further explained.

2011 Foxhall Farm Cup Team Chase

Many of the horses which run here will be seen competing in Maryland's triple crown of Steeplechase, My Lady's Manor, Grand National and Maryland Hunt Cup, as well as races further afield like Carolina Cup and Virginia Gold Cup.

So whether you position yourself at the start/finish area, or at one of the fences along the course, you will be treated to a chance to watch some beautiful horses in some beautiful hunt country.

In addition, the Green Spring Valley Hunt were wonderful hosts after the race.

While this might not be a race that gets much attention, it has definitely earned a place upon my calender and where I will be found on Sunday, March 17th, if the weather permits.

Check out the Maryland Steeplechase Association website for more information:

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