Darren Nagle had a lot of horse under him as he finished in first place in the Cheshire Bowl. Professor Maxwell and Nagle are pointed toward the Maryland Hunt Cup, for which the Cheshire Bowl has been a prep since 1946. Photo by Marcella Peyre-Ferry
There are three races in the Delaware Valley Point To Point Association season starting with Mr. Stewart’s Cheshire Foxhounds Point to Point, held March 25 in Unionville, PA. It was followed by the Brandywine Hills Point to Point on April 1, and concluded with the Fair Hill Races April 22.
The 67th running of the Cheshire Point to Point included four timber races as well as two pony races and a flat race, with the feature being the open timber race for the Cheshire Bowl. The history of the race goes back to the first running in 1946.
“It was 1946, after the war, my mother and Plunket Stewart, started these races just because it was fun,” Jock Hannum, race chairman and son of long time MFH Nancy Penn Smith Hannum said. “Mom pretty much ran it all by herself. There wasn’t a lot of sponsorship in the old days. It was just three races - a ladies race, a heavyweight race and the open race for the Cheshire Bowl. The Cheshire Bowl was a race people pointed to because the big prize in timber racing is to win the Maryland Hunt Cup and the Cheshire Bowl was the kind of course and the kind of fences that would help to get a horse ready.”
The Cheshire Bowl is still being used as a prep for the Maryland Hunt Cup, at least for winner Professor Maxwell, owned by Mrs. George Ohrstrom, trained by Richard Valentine and ridden by Darren Nagle.
The race started slow with the field well bunched. “It’s a point to point, the ground maybe isn’t as nice as you’d like it. Everybody did the sensible thing and went nice and steady, and we gradually picked it up as we went along,” Nagle said after the race. “Thankfully for me I had loads of horse under me. Richard has done a great job with him; he’s a nice horse.”
Plans call for Nagle to ride Professor Maxwell in the Maryland Hunt Cup, and Nagle thinks he has a good chance. “He feels pretty ready. Hopefully we’ll get there in one piece,” he said. “He’d have probably run better if it was quicker at the start. He’s an old horse, he knows what he’s doing, he looks after his rider. Touch wood he’s been an awesome jumper. Probably bigger fences will be better for him.”
The smallest field of starters at Cheshire was for the Ladies Race, where just three horses were entered. The winner was Amy Mullen on her horse Indian Creek Queen, followed by Katherine Neilson on Stewart Strawbridge’s Western Fling, and Casey Pinkard on Won Wild Bird.
This was the first timber race for the 19-year-old Mullen from Fair Hill, MD. She hunts with Cheshire and had run in a flat race at Warrington a week before trying her first timber course. “It went really well. I was a little worried about the ground and my horse’s fitness because I’ve never done this and neither had she, but she toted me all around the whole course,” she said after the trophy presentation. “We started fox hunting this winter. She was training great.”
In the Heavyweight Race at Cheshire, it was Conrad Somers on his 7-year-old gelding, Undignified who led throughout the race to win the Arthur I. Meigs trophy. Somers and his wife Muffin both hunt with Cheshire, and were on familiar ground.
Undignified won approximately $168,000 on the flat. It was Brook Somers who was suggested the horse to her parents. “She fell in love with the horse. When he was done with his flat career she said we had to have him,” Muffin Somers said. For the past two years, Undignified has been a foxhunter. “He hasn’t really raced so we weren’t sure how he would do in a timber race. He’s very tough to hold so Conrad had a tough time with him.”
Somers and Undignifed came back to the winner’s circle a week later when they finished first in the Heavyweight Race at Brandywine Hills Point to Point, in a time of 5:37.7 followed by Donald Cochran on Armed Brat and Voler Bar Nuit, with James Slater on board.
Another winner racing over the timber course at Cheshire was Brooks Durkee riding Foxy Stable’s Guts For Garters (trained by Sanna Hendriks) in the Novice Race. When the flag dropped at the start none of the horses took off right away. “Nobody would go and the horse can be very funny in front. He always has to have a lead and nobody would go so finally Chip (Miller) and I went out head to head which helped,” Durkee said. “But once he was out there he was all race horse, all business, he was keen.”
Miller was riding Dynaway, owned by Armata Stables and trained by Todd Wyatt. He set the pace for the majority of the race with Dynaway but pulled up before turning into the final line of fences. Durkee had been battling with Brian Korrell on Leffinwell Lion for second place through much of the race and now the two fought for the lead down the stretch with Durkee finally pulling ahead over the last two fences.
“I gave him breathers - when we went to climb the hill to head for home he took the bit,” Durkee said. “We flew the last, that’s how you make or break a race. Credit to Brian Korrell’s horse, he ran a good race.”
Guts for Garters is a nine-year old from Ireland where he ran in over 20 chases. “He got here in September and went right to the hunt field. That’s what did it, jumping all the Cheshire fences.” Durkee said. “I don’t ride much anymore but if Sanna asks me to get on a horse for the Strawbridges I know it’s a good thing. Those names and colors give me a lot of confidence.”
The following week, the Novice Race at Brandywine, run at the Myrick Conservation Center near West Chester, drew just four horses to the start. Irvin S. Naylor’s Window of Hope was disqualified, and James Slater fell from Idol Maker leaving William Meister to win in a time of 6:04.5 on Any Key, owned by Happenstance, followed by Naylor’s second entry, Faction, under Fritz Boniface.
The Open Race at Brandywine was won by Incomplete, owned by Robert Kinsley and ridden by Joey Elliot in a time of 6:00.1. The only horse to run in Open races at both Cheshire and Brandywine was Haddix, owned by Armata Stables and ridden by Ivan Dowling. Haddix ran near the top at Cheshire, finishing third, but only finished sixth of seven runners at Brandywine.
In the Pony Races, the small pony winner at Cheshire was Time Flies, owned by Hunting Ground Farm and ridden by Ross Mace, with Katie Hindt of Elkton, MD, on One Stinky Pony finishing in second. The next week at Brandywine, the two switched places in the small pony race, with Hindt finishing on top and Mace running second in the ten pony field.
Hindt was also the winning rider in the large pony race at Cheshire on Patti Remedio’s One Silly Filly, but was scratched from the Large Pony Race at Brandywine. Brandywine’s large pony race winner was Audrey Buchanan on Super Sally after the disqualification of Julie Nafe on Lauren Schock’s Mookie Monster.
The pony races were very well filled this year, including multiple entries from Philadelphia-based Work to Ride. Director Leslie Hiner brought all 20 students from the program to Cheshire. While they were not the fastest entries across the finish line, they youngsters were excited to have the chance to race cross country, and then stay to enjoy watching the timber races. “They love it. We brought a bunch of kids today who are new to the program so this is their first time doing this,” Hiner said. The youngsters were even more excited when Work to Ride entry Strawberry placed third in the large pony race at Brandywine.
Brandywine did not offer a flat race, but at Cheshire, there were so many entries for the 1-1/8 miles on the turf that the race was split into two divisions.
The first division with eight horses starting was won by Robert Walsh on David A Ross Racing Stable’s Baletti in a time of 1:56.
In the second division it was Paddy Young on Grace Alley (owned by Debra Kachel) who crossed the line first in the eight horse field, followed by Robert Walsh on Three Piece Band in second and Darren Nagle on Blood Moon running third.