Two time Maryland Hunt Cup victor Twill Do (left), ridden by James Steirhoff, won the Open Timber race at the Brandywine Hill Point to Point.
The Pennsylvania point-to-point racing season got underway in Chester County with Mr. Stewart’s Cheshire Foxhounds Point-to-Point Races on Easter Sunday March 31 and The Brandywine Hill Point-to-Point Races the following week on April 7.
Cheshire’s races in Unionville were run under overcast skies that turned to rain before the day was out but it did not dampen the enthusiasm for the sport. The featured Open Timber Race for the Cheshire Bowl was won by Grinding Speed, owned by Michael Wharton, trained by Alicia Murphy and ridden by Mark Beecher.
“He’s such a good jumper and has such a good mind. He did his very first race over timber here last year and he had to go in the open race. I think he was fifth or sixth but he did it,” Murphy said.
Beecher was also pleased with the horse. “It was a big field, bigger than what we were hoping it would be because we just wanted a nice prep run for the sanctioned races,” he said. “He traveled his way into the race. He jumped his way in, we were happy with that.”
The Open Timber the following week at Brandywine Hills had a very different field of horses. This time the top finisher in a time of 6:13 was two time Maryland Hunt Cup winner Twill Do, owned by Lucy A. Goelet, trained by William S. Meister and ridden by James Stierhoff. “We were just trying to get a good schooling before Maryland,” Stierhoff said.
Meister had a close view of Twill Do all through the race as he was the jockey for another horse he trains, Mrs. William Class Jr’s, And the Eagle Flys. Meister led through much of the race and was still in it near the end, finishing third behind Mrs. G.L. Ohrstrom’s Professor Maxwell under Mark Beecher. “Mark and Billy and I were coming three across at the last, Billy said go for it,” Stierhoff said.
Cheshire and Brandywine Hills run slightly different cards, with Cheshire including a Ladies Race and a Flat Race.
In the Cheshire Flat Race, Crow’s Nest, owned by Ivy Dell Stud trained by Patrick Graham and ridden by Patrick Walsh was the winner out of nine starters in a time of 1:59:54.
The first horse across the finish line, placed last in the Lady’s Race at Cheshire. Kenneth Garcia’s Classy Rascal under rider Sarah Shaffer led through most of the race in spite of going off course several times. Though leaving the course cost Classy Rascal distance, the horse had enough speed to make up the extra ground and come back to the top. Irvin Naylor’s Kings Canyon was also off course, and Chip Miller’s entry Tara’s Warrior pulled up leaving Ogden Dunes to take the first place honors for owner/trainer/rider Becky Dang.
Dang managed a close win the following week at Brandywine in the Foxhunters Race, again beating Shaffer, who was on William Meister’s Lear Of The Cat. The two horse race looked like a walk over for Ogden Dunes who had a lead or twenty to forty lengths at times, but Shaffer fought back in the final section of the course, with the two horses jumping together at the final fence, and Ogden Dunes barely winning by a head in a time of 6:52:00.
The Foxhunters race at Cheshire was just slightly bigger with three horses in the field. Morning Star Stables’ Thermostat came out on top followed by Spectacular Squall and Be Great.
There were enough entries in the Novice Race at Cheshire that the race was split into two divisions. Seize Power won the first division of seven starters. Seize Power, owned by Dan and Pat Baker, was trained and ridden by William Meister who led the way throughout the course.
“He was a lot stronger than I expected. He jumped like an older horse,” Meister said. “I lost my stirrup at the second last, and just got it back at the last or they weren’t going to be near me.”
The second division went to Class Classic, owned by The Pod, trained by Remy Winants and ridden by Jody Petty. Petty explained that he had not planned to set the pace. “Nobody else broke with me. I let him set his own pace, he did it on his own. He jumped very well, settled on the front end well and was a very god boy. At the bottom of the hill I knew I had tons of horse left.”
The following week at Brandywine Hills, five novice horses went to the line with Farie Hill’s Port Morsbey coming out on top for trainer Richard Valentine and rider Robert Walsh. Port Morsbey had been third in his Novice race at Cheshire.
“We’re here for an education today and to get him ready for the hunt meets,” Walsh said after Brandywine Hills. “He learned a lot more today… It’s a different type of course, different fences. It was something new for him, it was good. There were some bigger fences here that he had to learn to back off some. He was a nice hurdle horse and they tend to jump a bit low and he’s learned a lot about being a timber horse.”
The Heavyweight Race at Cheshire went to Irvin S Naylor’s Almarmooq, trained by Katherine Neilson and ridden by Cormac Ferrell. Almarmooq was a high priced yearling that didn’t make it as a flat racer. “He showed a lack of enthusiasm when he was training on the flat,” said Neilson who first ran the horse over hurdles. “He’s a little reluctant to battle through with a lot of speed but he loves fox hunting, he loves timber.”
At Brandywine Hills, the Heavyweight winner was Idol Maker, owned by Baker/Copeland, trained by William Meister and ridden by Richard Rohan. “This was only his second time out. We were looking forward to seeing what he could do and he did great,” owner Dan Baker said.
Young riders get a chance to show their talents at the races too. At both Cheshire and Brandywine, the fastest small pony was Laffy Taffy, followed closely by Carousel Anna. Both ponies are owned by Susie Buchanan, with Laffy Taffy piloted to the win at Cheshire by Fenya Siepser, and then at Brandywine by Benjamin Siepser. Carousel Anna was ridden in both races by Chloe Hannum.
Prince Caspian was the winner in the Medium Pony races at each meet for rider Ella Brophy while Mookie Monster won both Large Pony races under owner Emma Meister.