William Slater on Spicy won the leadline race for the second year in a row. Credit: Marcella Peyre-Ferry
The Brandywine Hills Point to Point in Chester County, PA, marked its 75th year of racing action on Sun. April 2, with a full day of nine races including a dramatic end to the Open Timber race.
A late winter snow storm in March forced the cancellation of the Cheshire Hunt Point to Point races, that had been scheduled a week earlier, but Brandywine’s race day had sunny skies and good footing.
The three mile, Open Timber Race for the Henry C. Baldwin Challenge Trophy drew four well known, experienced horses to the starting line. Last year’s winner, Grand Manan, owned by Donald Reuwer, finished first again in a time of 6:07, running well on the front under jockey Darren Nagle.
“I was sort of thinking it would go a little faster, but It’s all OK,” trainer William Meister said after the race. “Eighteen seconds faster than the next fastest race, so that was good enough. He got into what he needed to get into. It didn’t look like he was doing too much, but he’s that kind of horse.”
Meister had two other horses running in the Open Timber, Wingo Star, owned by Holbrook Hollow Farm, and William Class Jr.’s And The Eagle Flys.
Wingo Star, ridden by Keith Dalton, held the lead from time to time in the early going, but as they got down to the final fences Grand Manan was threatened by a fast closing Guts For Garter with Jody Petty aboard.
Guts for Garters, owned by Stewart Strawbridge and trained by Sana Neilson, made up ground on Grand Manan between the last two jumps. As they came to the last, the gap was about four lengths, and it looked like it could get closer as they raced down the short stretch to the finish.
Grand Manan jumped well, but Guts for Garters hit his forelegs on the top of the timber, flipping as he went over the fence, Both Petty and the horse rolled and quickly were back on their feet, but the horse was bleeding heavily from his upper left leg.
The race finished with Grand Manan, Wingo Star and And The Eagle Flys in that order while Guts For Garters walked into the New Bolton Center horse ambulance to receive treatment. It was later announced that the horse required stitches, but was otherwise OK.
Petty had just scored a win in the previous race where he piloted King’s Apollo, also owned by Strawbridge and trained by Neilson. The four-horse field for the novice race had three horses trained by Meister – Rocket Star Red, Tango Rhythm, and Captain Easy.
Captain Easy set the pace in the early going but on the second half of the course, Petty took King’s Apollo to the top and stayed there, opening up even more at the finish to win by a wide margin in a time of 6:22 to take home the Henry Latrobe Roosevelt Challenge Trophy. Captain Easy stayed up for second place followed by Tango Rhythm and Rocket Star Red in that order.
Meister was the busiest trainer of the day, bringing home a winner in the Joseph T Murtagh Memorial Heavyweight Timber. Gas Can Eddie, owned by Mrs. Willian Class, Jr., and ridden by Keith Dalton, ran a very competitive race. For most of the course, the horses were close with Irvin S. Naylor’s Ride Away staying close under rider Bethany Baumgardner. Finishing out the field were Donald Cochran’s Out Playing and Any Key, owned and trained by Meister.
“It went pretty well, he took them most pretty straight forward,” Dalton said after the race, “Billy just said, ‘jump him off the front and see how he goes’. He really jumped well.”
Three entries ran in the Lady Rider Timber, with Jennie Brannigan taking Joshua G to a win for Armata Stables and trainer Katherine Neilson. A talented eventing rider, Brannigan enjoyed the opportunity to race. ”It was really fun. I think I’m really lucky. I’m riding a nice horse, he gave me a good ride,” she said. “I don’t have much experience with it. It all seems fun and exciting to me.”
Foxhunter Timber The final timber race of the day was a two-horse contest in the Foxhunter Timber. Julie Nafe on owner/trainer Lauren Schock’s horse, McCrady’s took home the victory over Ashton Williams on Sumo Power, owned by Blythe Miller Davies and Charles Noell, and trained by Joseph Davies.
“This is actually my first foxhunters timber. I told her, I’m not out for a blazing pace, just a nice comfortable fox hunter round. Once we started to get comfortable, we just did our own thing together,” Nafe said. “It was perfect - perfect footing, the turf was great, the fences were fantastic. It was just a great time.”
Brandywine Hills Point to Point is held at the Brandywine Red Clay Alliance’s Myric Conservation Center, and sponsored by the Radnor Hunt. It is the oldest point to point in the Delaware Valley, and a great day for spectators. In addition to the racing, there was a parade of Radnor’s hounds and plenty of children’s activities, including stick horse races.
The leadline pony race is always a crowd favorite. William Slater on Spicy was the winner for the second year in a row.
New this year for young riders was a Junior Fieldmaster’s Chase, held an hour before the start of the regular race card. The field of four included a Thoroughbred, a non-Thoroughbred horse a large pony and medium pony, Percy, ridden by 13-year-old Parker Hendriks
Hendriks was the last under the wire in the Junior Fieldmaster’s chase, but he enjoyed the event. “I really did. My pony isn't fast but it’s a spectacular jumper,” he said. “It went very well. I had a really good time.”
Later, Hendriks had a winning ride in the large pony race on Lauren Schock’s Mookie Monster. “I just got a really good start, then I just let her go,” he said.
The small pony race was won by another one of Schock’s ponies, Chewy, ridden by Anna Farber.
In the medium ponies, the race went to Theo Sushko on EHM Stables’ Count Chocula, with Nina McKenna on Fionna in second.
“I stayed behind Fionna for most of the race, then right toward the end, when she wasn’t expecting it, I crept up next to her and got ahead,” Sushko said. At age 14, Sushko is getting close to moving into the horse divisions. “I’m bridging the gap with the little ponies - little horses. Next year I’ll probably be all horses. I’m already racing my horse a little bit. I want to stay in the ponies as long as I can.”