The 75th running of the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup Races, Sun., Nov. 1 in Unionville, was more notable for the number of horses that did not finish than for the victory by Paddy Young on Magelen O. Bryant's Erin Go Bragh. Out of the eight horses that started the race, just three were in the pack by the time they had jumped twenty of the 22 timber fences on the four mile course, and Erin Go Bragh was the only one to make it to the finish line.
Heavy rains in the days before the races made for slow going, but the course was not sloppy. There were rider falls early on by George Hundt on Music To My Ears, Russell Haynes on Shady Valley and Will Haynes on Won Wild Bird. As the race wore on, Carl Rafter on Inca Magic and James Slater on Twill Do pulled up as three horses distanced themselves from the others. Irish Prince, Patriot's Path and Erin Go Bragh ran together, keeping to an easy pace, but by the time they made it to the final fences the horses were tiring.
Jody Petty had led much of the race with Augustin Stables' Irish Prince, but fell at the next to last fence. Darren Nagle on Irvin Naylor's Patriot's Path and Erin Go Bragh were close together when Patriot's Path tumbled over the final jump, going head first into the ground, throwing Nagle clear.
Erin Go Bragh cantered on to the wire alone, finishing in a time of 10:01:4/5, the second slowest time in race records.
While everyone waited for the results to be declared official, the crowd focused their attention on Patriot's Path, who lay where he had fallen, and was quickly blocked from the spectators' view by a screen while the equine ambulance pulled up. After some time had passed, Patriot's Path got up and was able to walk off the course to the cheers of the race fans lining the stretch.
"Patriot's Path either tried for a big one and slipped or put in a short one but he flipped and fell head first over the jump," owner Irv Naylor said. "They thought his neck was broken, and someone was sitting on his head. After some time he threw the guy in the air, jumped up and he seems to be fine. The only injury was a hematoma on left knee. He's retired for the year, out in his pasture eating grass." Patriot's Path topped the NSA timber horse of the year standings and Naylor stands at the top of the owner, money won – timber standings for 2009.
There were two other timber races on the card with the Hunt Cup. The first was the $5,000 Lewis C. Ledyard foxhunters race for amateur riders, which was won by Mary Fleming Finlay's veteran steeplechaser Dr. Ramsey, ridden by Diana Gillam.
Dr. Ramsey was at the front of the pack for most of the race, staying away from the trouble caused by three rider falls along the way in the three-mile course. The pace was relatively slow, with the race finishing in 7:43:2/5. "I couldn't believe I didn't get pressed. I didn't have to have my foot on the gas all the way," Gillam said after the race.
Gillam had planned to be in front as the best place to stay out of trouble. "That always seems to be the case in these amateur races," she said. Gillam was particularly happy to have the win here as the season draws to a close, since the 16 year old may be nearing retirement. "He's a very special boy," she said.
Another amateur rider won the $15,000 Arthur O. Choate Jr., Memorial timber race. K. Fritz Boniface on Arcadia Stable's Delta Park took the victory in an eleven-horse field by 7 ½ lengths over Paddy Young on Rainbows For Luck, in a time of 7:03.
Boniface, riding for trainer Jack Fisher, kept Delta Park off the lead for most of the race, saving the horse for later on and a strong finish. "He was on the bridle the whole time. He's so fast he makes up so much ground," Boniface said. "Sometimes he can be really nice to ride, sometimes he can be a pain. The whole time he was on the bridle. He never feels like he's getting tired."
At 20 years old, Boniface is not looking to be a professional jockey. "I'm going to stick to amateur. I want to ride in the Maryland Hunt Cup some day," he said. "The money doesn't matter. I just really love doing it."
The day finished out with eleven horses running in the Athenian Idol flat race. The winner by a length in a time of 4:30 was Brittany Trimble riding Pierrot Lunaire, owned by Calvin Houghland and trained by F. Bruce Miller.
Junior riders also get their chance to ride in their own PA Pony Hunt Cup. Six ponies set out in the field master following Jody Petty on retired Eclipse Award winner McDynamo before they were turned loose to race for the wire.
The first to cross the finish line was Lisa Perri on her large pony, Bold Initiative, while Courtney Dankanich was the top finisher on a medium pony with Becky and Lisa Dang's Frosty.
Fourteen-year-old Lisa attends Unionville High School where she plays on the basketball team. She will be out for the season with upcoming ankle surgery, but that did not stop her from racing. She had only owned Bold Initiative six weeks before riding him to a win. "I was actually looking for a horse to race," she explained how she found the pony for sale on the Internet. "He's a puppy dog on the ground, but when you get on him, he's ready to go. I like a horse that's a challenge."
Pony Hunt Cup
In the Horse division of the PA Pony Hunt Cup, the Winner was 14-year-old Mary Motion of Middleburg, VA on her Thoroughbred, Orpington. "The race was interesting. I decided to stay in the back at first," she said. When she saw other riders were having jumping trouble, Mary took her horse to the front to avoid trouble and stayed there to the end.
Some of the trouble came from Taylor Made Romeo, ridden by Lindsey Capps. When her horse ran out on one of the earlier jumps, two others followed her. They did not go back to retake the fence and were off course, but Lindsey circled to complete the jump before catching up to the field, and finished well enough to win the non-thoroughbred section.
"He's never jumped a brush before," Lindsey, a 15-year-old student at nearby Downingtown West High School, said. She likes the field master's format for Taylor Made Romeo. "It was nice because there's always going to be a horse in front of me."