Scuba Steve and Mark Beecher won the $15,000 Willowdale Steeplechase.
Steeplechasing is full of ups and downs in addition to the jumping. At the Willowdale Steeplechases, held on a cold and windy May 9 in Kennett Square, PA, you could go from the winners' circle to DNF in one race.
Irvin S. Naylor owned the winner of the Marshall W. Jenney Memorial Maiden Timber Race, but his second entry of the day, Kilbreena, couldn't get off the starting line in the Foxhunter's Chase.
Fieldview, trained for Naylor by Katherine McKenna, ran in the pack for the bulk of the three-mile race, which Jake Chalfin on East Coker led most of the way. Fieldview didn't make a strong move until the final turn, where he jumped fourth, then turned on the speed in the long stretch run to overtake James Stierhoff on Little Dewey Know, who held on for second place.
Fieldview, who had been winless in 5 starts last year, was ridden by Carl Rafter for the first time. "He never seemed to get together the running and the jumping. That's where Carl came in. He did a picture perfect ride," Naylor said after the race.
Naylor's second horse Kilbreena, trained by Brianne Slater and ridden by Darren Nagle, played up at the starting line, tossing Nagle before the flag went up, and then when he was remounted refusing to run at the start of the Foxhunter's Chase.
Out of seven entries in the program, Kilbreena was just one of three to come to the starter, so Anna Stable's Music to My Ears was running alone with Sanna Hendriks Thermostat. Music to My Ears cleared just three fences before losing his rider, George Hundt, Jr. That left Thermostat alone for an uneventful schooling trip over the remainder of the three-mile course.
It was also an up and down day for Jody Petty who won the Landhope Cup on Kingdon Gould, Jr.'s, Comanche Station, leading throughout the three mile timber race. Petty's luck turned the other way in the Marshall W. Jenney Memorial, where he was making a strong move to the front at the final fence on Cary Jackson's Mr. Pike. Two strides after landing from the final fence, the gray gelding tripped and fell, rolling and barely missing Petty, who was able to walk off the course leading the horse.
Small numbers in a race don't guarantee an easy ride. There were just six starters for the featured $15,000 Willowdale Steeplechase, a three and a half mile race over timber. The Other Me with Jake Chalfin fell out of sight of the crowd, and Darren Nagel pulled up Western Fling about a mile into the race, leaving just four horses running.
The ultimate winner, Perry Bolton's Scuba Steve with Mark Beecher up and Prospectors Strike (owned by Jeremy Bat off and ridden by Justin Batoff) were running together well ahead of Delta Park and Vinnie Boy when they turned to the last fence. Instead of heading into the last timber jump, Prospectors Strike drifted left toward a hurdle that was not part of the course, and crashed into the plastic wing, throwing Batoff, who lodged a claim of foul that was later rescinded.
Rose Tree Cup
The final race of the day was the Rose Tree Cup claiming hurdle, where Kinross Farm's With Bells On led almost all of the two and a half miles before tiring in the final going to finish third behind Roddy Mackenzie on Closertoyourheart and Jody Petty on Determind Stand.
In other racing action, Keystone Thoroughbred's Meet at Eleven won the Liam Magee Flat Race for rider trainer Todd McKenna over Bruce Fenwick's Foyle, ridden by K. Fritz Boniface.
Pony Races started the day, with the first ribbon going to ten year old Hope Thatcher, who rode Jasper (owned by Shelly Heckles) in the first small pony race. Hope also rode her large pony Eye Candy in the large pony race.
"I like them the same," Hope said. "Jasper is really fast and he gets really hyper a lot. (Eye Candy) is a big fat push button pony."
Another young winner was eleven-year-old Erin Swope on her large pony, Jordan. She had only had the pony two months, and this was her first win. "I knew she was pretty fast. She likes to run," said Erin, who also foxhunts. "When we're training, she knows she has to listen to me and fall in behind my father's horse."
On the spectator side of the course, Willowdale holds a tailgate competition, which was won for the second year in a row by Richard and Claire Harris of Furlong, PA. The theme for the competition this year was Equestrian Traditions, which was easy for the Harris's who are a part of the Huntingdon Valley Hunt, where Richard is the MFH. The couple comes to Willowdale each year for the Mother's Day races to celebrate the holiday with their daughter Tobi, who lives in the Unionville area with her husband Kevin and their son.
"We love doing this. It's fun," Claire Harris said. "We try to be as true to the theme as we can. They were looking for Equestrian Tradition, so we thought of a hunt breakfast."