Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Foxhall Farm Team Chase... When The Steeplechase Season Begins in Maryland...

In less than 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.

Taking place early in the season, it is regularly postponed a week, as it was this year, or even cancelled by late arriving snows, but look forward to once again attending this year. When I last attended, 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.

While attendance at the race is free, the Green Spring Valley Hunt were wonderful hosts after the race, with a donation request from non-participants.

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 22nd, if the weather and my busy Spring schedule permits.

Check out the Maryland Steeplechase Association website for more information:
http://www.marylandsteeplechaseassociation.com/race-meets/the-foxhall-farm-trophy-chase/