This article was reprinted from Fair Hill's publication Bugle.
FAIR HILL, Md.--Family and friends of Paddy Neilson donated nearly $700,000 to place his name permanently on the new Timber Course at Fair Hill, according to Fair Hill Foundation Vice Chair and Campaign Chair Jack S. Griswold.
“We are overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and affection for Paddy,” Griswold said. “His reputation as one of the truly greatest steeplechase riders and trainers of all time motivated many to participate in this effort, and we are deeply grateful for their support. He was a wonderful friend to all of us.
“We look forward to officially dedicating the Paddy Neilson Timber Course during the spring Fair Hill races in May 2021.”
Called by the Horse of Delaware Valley “arguably the finest timber race rider ever to sit on a horse,” Neilson passed away on Sept. 5, 2019 at the age of 77.
“His tremendous riding ability inspired a generation of riders to take up the sport, but Paddy was so much more than just a great rider,” the Horse of Delaware Valley said. “He’s been an owner. He’s been a trainer. He’s been a rider. He’s been a race director, course chair, meet booster.
“His influence on the sport extended to organizing point-to-points and a recognized hunt meet and inspiring, right up to his death, another generation of youngsters watching his ability and grace over fences as MFH and whipper-in or Mr. Stewart’s Cheshire Hounds.
“BEYOND THAT, Paddy was always there with a kind and/or encouraging word for any situation.” Jay Meister said, “Paddy Neilson didn’t always win, but he was always a winner. He was the Michael Jordan of our timber racing game. Paddy made our sport bigger and better while inspiring countless kids. We all wanted to grow up to be like him.”
“Paddy was a lovely man,” said Michael Dickinson. “I was a steeplechase jockey in England. I rode for 11 years and had 1,600 rides with 378 winners. “I thought I was all right until I hunted with Cheshire,” said Dickinson. “I watched Paddy cantering across a field. He looked for a stride, and then he and his horse just flew (the fence). If he’d been in a race, he would have gained two lengths. I said to myself, “Michael, you can’t even ride.”
Born in Glen Cove, N.Y. in 1942, Paddy was the son of the late Louis Neilson, Jr. and Katherine Pell Neilson. His grandfather Louis Neilson helped establish Long Island’s Rockaway Hunt Club in the 1870s with William Voss, another link to the modern jump racing game as great-grandfather of Hall of Fame trainer Tom Voss.
A graduate of Gilman School, Princeton University and the Wharton Business School, Paddy was a corporate bond broker for Alex. Brown & Sons in Philadelphia for years while foxhunting, galloping race horses and riding races on the side, the Horse of Delaware Valley reported after his death.
Paddy was renowned for winning races in four decades, including riding the daunting Maryland Hunt Cup race 21 times and winning it three times in three decades. A passionate foxhunter, he served as full-time honorary Whipper-in for the last 13 years, jumping his last fence in the line of duty just a couple weeks before his death.
Paddy chaired the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup Races for 17 years, and later the Plumstead Races for 11.
He was a founding member of the American Steeplechase Injured Jockeys’ Fund and served on the original committee that began the Winterthur Point-to-Point.
During the Vietnam era, he was a member of the First City Troop in Philadelphia, a division of the National Guard.
He is survived by his widow, Toinette, and daughters Kathy, Sanna, Liza, Daphne and Emily and grandchildren Skylar, Parker, Nina, Natalie, Max, Pell, Perry, Izzie, Burr, Neill and Beasie.
"Paddy Neilson played a major role in our lives," said Griswold. "At a young age, our educational paths took a parallel track and we both lived in Unionville, Pa., schooling steeplechase horses in the early mornings before driving to Philadelphia for class at Wharton School of Finance. We arranged our classes to start after 11 a.m. to allow sufficient time for our galloping duties at Burley Cocks’s stable in Unionville.
"We cut our teeth on the workaday world at Alex. Brown & Sons, and raced and hunted together for years. I can honestly say he was my best friend.
"It pleases me greatly to know Paddy’s name will live on forever at Fair Hill. My family and I can think of no one more deserving of this honor; as Jay Meister said, “He was the Michael Jordan of our timber racing game.”
"It is reassuring to know that Charlie Fenwick, Turney McKnight and Dixon Stroud will be designing the Paddy Neilson Timber Course; with their guidance, it will surely rank among the nation’s finest.
Please join us at Fair Hill any time to see our progress.
The turf track looks beautiful and the cross-country course is extraordinary.
In these challenging times, the Paddy Neilson Timber Course and the enhancements at Fair Hill give us great hope for the future. Thank you for all you are doing to help make these plans a reality, said Griswold.
DONORS in memory of Paddy include: Anne & Sean Clancy, Charles C. Fenwick, Jr., The Griswold Family, George and Annie Harris, Roy & Gretchen Jackson, Robert Johnston and S. Francesca Orsini, Mrs. Judith Donaldson Jefferis, Sharon M. Journey, Mr. and Mrs. H. Hunter Lott, III, Amanda & George Mahoney, H. Turney McKnight, Sumner T. McKnight Foundation, Katherine S. Neilson, Duncan Patterson, Eric & Ann Schott, W. B. Dixon Stroud.
The Fair Hill Foundation is pleased to offer donors naming opportunities in recognition of philanthropic gifts.
Fair Hill Foundation leaders will be pleased to work with individuals to identify additional or alternate opportunities.
$1,000,000 and up, Turf Course, Cross Country Course
$500,000 - $1,000,000, Timber Course (RESERVED )Main Arena on Infield
$250,000 - $500,000 Cross Country Course Design, Ancillary Infield Show Arena
$100,000 - $250,000 Main Arena Warm-up Ring, Racecourse Finish Line, New Scenic Ponds, Racecourse Track Crossing,Saddling Paddock, Paddock Pavilion, Horse Path
$50,000 - $100,000 Cross Country Course Features, Race Stables Stalls (119)
Less than $50,000, Multiple Opportunities Available
Other Ways to Support Fair Hill; Annual GivingGifts for annual operations will provide the Fair Hill Foundation with much-needed flexibility to address challenges as they arise.
Legacy Giving; By including the Fair Hill Foundation in your estate plan, you may be able to make a much larger gift than you might think possible while also enjoying a substantial tax deduction.
PADDY THE CADDY unites Motion and Sylvester
Who doesn’t love a great horse story?
And especially a horse story that documents a life journey bringing together some of the country’s finest at Fair Hill?
For those unfamiliar with the story, 13-year-old yhoroughbred, Paddy the Caddy was bred by Fair Hill Foundation board member, Frank McEntee, and David O’Reilly.
He was originally imported from Ireland to train under Graham Motion at Fair Hill Training Center, but Paddy’s career as a racehorse was short-lived.
McEntee then approached international Three-Day Event rider, Erin Sylvester, about transitioning him to an event horse as a potential mount for his daughter, who was training with her.
The move was a resounding success.
Paddy is now co-owned by Sylvester and McEntee, who has remained with the horse his entire career.
He is now competing at the 5* level with two CCI4* wins in his career including the 31st, and final, running of the CCI4*-L at the Dutta Corp./ Fair Hill International Three-Day Event last year.
“Paddy had great bloodlines and conformation, and David and I knew he had wonderful potential,” said McEntee. “In Graham and Erin, we couldn’t have found two better people to turn him into the champion he is today, and Fair Hill was the catalyst for his success.”
In August, Motion and the recently married Sylvester (now Kanara) met for the first time while assisting the Fair Hill Foundation by providing their commentary for a new video series about the equine improvements at Fair Hill.
The Fair Hill Foundation was happy to bring them together for this video project and thanks them for their support.
To view the first video in a series supporting The Campaign for Fair Hill visit our YouTube channel.Enjoying the Fair Hill Bugle?